Now to look at each one in more detail, though not calmly.
Protests from “influential Muslim clerics” in India have prompted the organizers of a literary festival in Jaipur to take Salman Rushdie’s name off the list of speakers. He was scheduled to speak at three events during the five day festival.
The BBC explains in the way it invariably does.
Mr Rushdie sparked anger in the Muslim world with his book The Satanic Verses, which many regard as blasphemous.
No he didn’t. Mr Rushdie wrote a novel. Some people chose to become enraged about the novel and its author. He did not “spark” anything, nor did he do anything wrong. Many regard many things as blasphemous. If we take them seriously then they win.
The Times Of India newspaper reported that the government of Rajasthan state – where Jaipur is located – had persuaded the organisers to “ask Mr Rushdie… to call off his visit”.
Bullies 1, literature 0.
Last week, the Darul Uloom Deoband seminary’s vice-chancellor, Maulana Abul Qasim Nomani, called on the government to block Mr Rushdie’s visit by “cancelling his visa” as he “had annoyed the religious sentiments of Muslims in the past”.
“In case of no response from the government, the Darul Uloom Deoband will take appropriate action,” Mr Nomani said.
Bullies 1, literature 0, government 0, secularism 0, freedom of expression 0.
Saikat Biswas says
Color me surprised. India was the first country to officially impose a ban on the publication of ‘The Satanic Verses’ in 1988. The decision found unanimous support from the ruling Congress Party led by Rajiv Gandhi. Years later, the same Congress-led government prevailed upon Taslima Nasreen to remove supposedly ‘offensive’ passages in her memoirs as a pre-condition to her being granted asylum. To this day, Congress politicians and their acolytes in the intelligentsia tout those decisions as a necessary move to restore ‘communal harmony’ as well as a triumph of their own twisted brand of secularism.
Ophelia Benson says
And then they did such a bad job of arranging for Taslima Nasreen to live in safety anywhere that she left India altogether.
Saikat Biswas says
That’s right Ophelia. A few writers and public intellectuals timidly came through for Taslima during her humiliating ordeal. Worst, none of them failed to remind Taslima of moderating her views. What a pathetic bunch of invertebrates.
And the thing is, I don’t mind members of a community speaking out and objecting if an invited guest at an event is antithetical to the community’s values, provided they’re doing it for a good reason. This is, of course, not one of those good reasons. Free speech is not a guarantee of someone else’s forum, and when everyone is free to say anything (as they should be!) respectable people and institutions need to act as a filter for bullshit, and not endorse bullshit by giving it a forum.
The trouble is, though, how do we come up with a fully intellectually coherent set of guidelines for what is “reasonable enforcement of quality in our discourse as an independent institution” or “not giving a platform for those who actively harm, denigrate, or seek to disenfranchise others” VERSUS “just plain bullying those who disagree into silence” or “insisting someone not be heard because they don’t like my imaginary friend”??
For instance, here are some of what I consider Good Reasons to keep a speaker of a list:
1) The kerfuffle over Rick Warren speaking at the inauguration considering his homophobic views.
2) As PZ just mentioned, the cold shoulder the Global Atheist Convention gave to the creationists who wanted to be included.
3) Skeptics objecting to CFI Michigan promoting a talk by an evo-psych practitioner who engages in extraordinarily poor methodology.
4) Objecting to anti-vaxxers advertising or being invited to skeptical events.
I guess it could come down to some level of whether or not the person is known for criticizing ideas versus attacking people, whether or not the person is opposing marginalized persons or the privileged, whether or not the person is objecting to ideas or practices that cause definable or observable harm, whether or not the speaker or zir opponents have engaged in intellectual dishonesty, etc.
Or maybe, like pornography, silencing is easier to recognize than to define?