(Urbana/Champaign, IL, 2/12/06) – The promises of the first amendment are a critical foundation to our great nation. However, free speech is not a license for irresponsible journalism. While the Daily Illini’s reprinting of the Danish Cartoons within its February 9th editorial section may not have violated our laws, the decision did violate human decency. The cartoons would have been just as offensive had they been disrespectful towards any other religion or race. However, the fact that comparable anti-Semitic sentiments and other forms of racist expression are socially unacceptable is an indication that Islamophobia is rampant in our community. This is not an issue of free speech, but rather a failure to recognize hate speech.
While the cartoons were said to be reprinted in the spirit of open dialogue, the featuring of hate speech promotes just the opposite. Muslims have since received hate mail and barriers have thus been raised further. The organizations working in solidarity with the local Muslim community hope to counter this course of events with a number of peaceful initiatives in the following weeks. These events seek not only to educate the media and the public about Prophet Muhammad, but also about the respect and dignity people of all faiths grant their religious leaders. Cartoons mimicking Moses, Jesus, Buddha or any other religious figure are just as unacceptable as cartoons that mock the prophet of Islam. These peaceful events also serve as a mechanism to unite people of all faiths to stand together in solidarity. Rather than burn embassies or protest violently, all peoples should stand firmly with one another and peacefully condemn all forms of hate.
Essentially, our message is this: It is unacceptable to use free speech as a platform for Islamophobia. Such an action is inconceivably offensive and only furthers hatred and misunderstanding. The Muslim community and others offended by the printing of the cartoons are not asking for censorship, but for respect. We ask the community, including the DI staff members, to join us in our series of peaceful, educational events in the name of achieving a more free, educated, and responsible common citizenship.
Muslim Students Association and the Council on American Islamic Relations-UIUC
Contact: Reem Rahman CAIR-UIUC (217) 493-0912; Shaz Kaiseruddin MSA (312) 479-1155