Sunday, 9 April 2017

Freedom comes, freedom goes

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Last week Professor Paul Moon penned an “open letter” rejecting the forceful silencing of dissenting or unpopular views on university campuses. He managed to get 27 prominent New Zealanders to sign the document and these included Sir Geoffrey Palmer, Sir Bob Jones, Dr Brian Edwards the late Sir Douglas Myers and even two unlikely bedfellows, Dame Tariana Turia and Don Brash. This glittering array of luminaries certainly gave the epistle clout and generated widespread interest.

Moon cited the case of the European Student Club at the University of Auckland which withdrew its application to affiliate with the University after criticism and fears that it was a thinly veiled white nationalist group, but the petition was also in response to Human Rights Commissioner Susan Devoy’s call for a review of “hate speech law” which the police are looking into as a specific crime.

The letter was timely, just last week Ayaan Hirsi Ali cancelled her New Zealand speaking tour due to “security concerns”. Ms Ali is a Somali-born champion of women’s rights who suffered genital mutilation, escaped an arranged marriage by seeking asylum in Holland, left Islam and became a Dutch MP. She is calling for Islamic reformation and said there is no principle that demeans, degrades and dehumanises women more than Sharia law.

Sharia law defender Linda Sarsour, a hijab-wearing Muslim who was one of the organisers of the Women’s March after Trump’s inauguration, said she wished she could take away Ms Hirsi Ali’s vagina.

Free speech is now being denied in universities world-wide particularly if the speaker is of a right-wing persuasion or is anti-Islamist. The University of California at Berkeley was the site for student protests in 1964 calling for free speech at its campus and demanding the university hierarchy lift a ban on political activities. And yet a couple of months ago the same university witnessed violent and destructive protests to prevent a flamboyantly gay British-born pro-Trump conservative Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking; in fact he fled the campus not long after arriving, fearing for his life.

As a result his book Dangerous immediately climbed the best seller list having been all but ignored prior to the well-publicised riot.

I watched his YouTube diatribes in an effort to comprehend why he is so controversial. I have to concede that he is incredibly articulate, but is discourteous to feminists and highly critical of Islam and the left.

An example of his rhetoric: “You guys have been lying about Republicans, calling them racist, sexist, homophobic and all manner of other ludicrous allegations for thirty years and you deserve some of it back once in a while. Given the fact that you run academia, you run the media and you run with the entertainment industry, if the worst you have to deal with is some British fag calling you a butch dyke, deal with it.”

Mr Trump’s disputed travel ban may have encouraged what can only be described as an unholy alliance between the feminist left and Islam. The unease is growing, but surprisingly so too are the audiences for the likes of Mr Yiannopoulos.

“My definition of a free society is a society where it is safe to be unpopular.” - Adlai Stevenson


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