Letter: Real meaning of free speech

The First Amendment does not absolve one from responsibility, class, and maturity in sensitive situations, especially those in leadership positions. I certainly have the “right” to stand outside the Quad with a poster that insults Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, and all other ways of life. I do not do so not because of any fear from reaction by Christians, Jews and Hindus, but because of respect towards billions of people and thousands of years of sacred human history and tradition.

Our wise founding fathers wrote this valuable amendment so that the most fundamental aspect of democracy be preserved so the common people have no fear in criticizing those in power, and in turn, protecting the people from tyranny. This amendment was not intended for a circus of people with low emotional intelligence saying whatever they please just because they can.

Being here for four years, this is just one of many anti-Muslim cartoons, editorials, and stories I have seen in The Daily Illini. Furthermore, I saw this one coming. I have seen one too many (not surprisingly male) editors and columnists eager to show off their journalism cojones when it comes to controversy, but then again, what would a student newspaper be without such rashness?

You have done no one any favors by publishing the cartoons. It’s not 1986, we all have Internet, and those who wished to see them already have. Second, you haven’t made any resume building history by being only one of the few U.S. papers to publish the cartoons, you’ve simply demonstrated that The Daily Illini is a student newspaper with low standards. Put this one on your resume and list it under severe lack of judgment.

Fear of a reaction? The editors of the other papers have no fear; American Muslims are not going to burn things and start rioting in the streets. These editors have enough class to know that simply talking about the much deeper issue is more productive, more educational, and more mature than to display the cartoons just because they can and send off blasphemy to millions of their American Muslim readers.

I do not wish any harm to you Acton; no real, God-loving Muslim does, I just wish you would grow up and some day exercise correct judgment when it is called for. Those drawings are deeply offensive to the thousand Muslim students and faculty on this campus. Was it common for The Daily Illini to publish KKK sponsored cartoons during the 50s just because it could? Sadly enough, I would not be surprised if it were true. I suggest looking up to Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune, who said in his editorial that there is a deeper issue at stake here, a schism between harsh European secularism and Islam. He also mentions that if a newspaper must offend a group, there must be a valid point to it, whereas these cartoons do nothing but provoke, which is why the Chicago Tribune, in all its wisdom, chose not to print the cartoons. Take note of that.

Moein Khawaja

Alum, 2005