Friday, 13 March 2015

Muslim Scholar on Racist Students at University of Oklahoma

Some university students in America, at the University of Oklahoma, were videotaped chanting extremely racist and hurtful comments directed at black people. The chant used one of the most negative slurs that was historically used by whites to describe African Americans ('ni**er'), and talked about lynching African Americans (over 4000 African Americas were lynched by vigilante mobs in the 1800-1900s).

Understandably, there was a huge outcry at this: the students who led the chant were expelled; their fraternity was shut down; and all of America is extremely appalled at this blatant abuse of speech. And I completely agree with this decision and sentiment.

However, what is lost on most people is the complete irony of the reality of 'free speech'. No one, and I mean NO ONE, is defending these students (and neither should they be defended!), claiming that they have the right of 'free speech'. No one is protesting on the streets FOR the students and asking that they should be reinstated. No one (not even Fox News!) is showing any type of public support for these racists. No one is arguing that these white kids were brave heroes risking their life and limb to defend the 'right of free speech'.

So why is it, then, that people do not see the clear social double standards when it comes to defending 'free speech'? Islamophobic and hurtful cartoons against our Prophet (SAW) offend us even more than any ethnic slur would offend us. As I have argued over and over again, the problem is that Western society fails to understand that it is NOT defending ultimate free speech. Rather, it has selectively chosen what 'free speech' to defend and even idolize, and what 'free speech' to ostracize and make socially taboo.

It's not freedom of speech when you intentionally and maliciously want to hurt and insult other people. I would ideally want a sensible law in place that would take such realities into account, but understand that in America, with the First Amendment, there will be no such law. But keep in mind that the social repercussions that racists face are at times actually more powerful than a minor fine or trivial jail sentence.

One would hope that one day, insha Allah, maliciously insulting another religion's symbols and icons would carry the same social stigma, or even worse.

Taken from Dr Yasir Qadhi's FB

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