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"Safe Space" vs. "Free Speech"
  #1  
Old 12-04-2015, 02:09 PM
Canarr Canarr is offline
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Default "Safe Space" vs. "Free Speech"

I've read quite a few articles on those subjects recently, mostly about colleges in the US - where establishing a "Safe Space" for minority students seems so important that it is necessary to prevent or remove anything that may threaten these "Safe Spaces". Anything that may be offensive.

Personally, I tend to err more on the side of "Free Speech". I believe that being subjected to opinions others than your own is good and necessary if you want to prevent movements, ideas... minds from going stale, stagnating, or even regressing. If all you ever hear talking are people who share your own views, there will be no developments, your ideas will not be critically evaluated, wrong viewpoints will not be altered or discarded in favor of better ones (compare: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_rationalism).

The reason for this post doesn't come from the US this time, but from the UK. What happened?

http://www.secularism.org.uk/news/20...ths-university

From what I could gather, the Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society (ASH) at Goldsmiths University invited a somewhat controversial speaker: Maryam Namazie, an ex-muslim and feminist, to speak about blasphemy and apostasy. Certainly sounds interesting.

The event was disrupted - non-violently, but loudly - by the Goldsmiths Islamic Society (ISOC) under the claim that the speaker was a renowned islamophobic, and her speech violated their "Safe Space".

From the article:

Stephen Evans, the National Secular Society's campaigns manager, commented: "It's becoming very clear that the concept of 'safe spaces' is being abused to the point where it is becoming a direct threat to freedom of speech. Some students may find criticism of their religion offensive, but in an open and free society that does not give them the right to close down such discussion and intimidate those expressing their views.

"We urge Goldsmiths to condemn the intolerance shown towards Maryam Namazie and make clear to its students they do not have the right not to be offended."


I find that an important point. You do not have the right not to be offended. That doesn't mean that anyone has the right to do something explicitly just to offend you, but neither does it mean that you should have the right to shut down events or similar just because you find it offensive.

Okay, so far, so annoying, but nothing special - as I said, there have been many issues like this one recently. What surprised me was the reaction of Goldsmiths Feminist Society:

http://goldfemsoc.tumblr.com/post/13...-in-solidarity

Goldsmiths Feminist Society stands in solidarity with Goldsmiths Islamic Society. We support them in condemning the actions of the Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society and agree that hosting known islamophobes at our university creates a climate of hatred.

We showed our support on our Facebook page by sharing ISOCís post with a message of solidarity. Our Facebook page is designed as a space for us to communicate with our members, and their safety is our first priority, under the policies set out by our Student Union. We reserve the right to remove comments and posts that violate these terms or contribute to the marginalisation of students.


Frankly, I don't get that. Others don't, either:

http://www.robertsharp.co.uk/2015/12...cing-of-women/

Is everybody who is critical of Islam immediately islamophobic? And is it okay to disrupt and silence their opinions? What about other opinions? Are heckling and other disruption tactics ever okay?

What do you think?
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  #2  
Old 12-04-2015, 04:52 PM
Shangri-laschild Shangri-laschild is offline
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What about the atheist students right to a safe space? I'd say this isn't even just safe space vs free speech so much as safe space of one group vs safe space of another group. Atheists have to deal with hate even if it's not always as much as other religions. I feel like this is a situation where unless it is hate speech or encouraging violence (because there is a huge difference between "you are wrong for believing that"/"everyone who believes that is an evil idiot"/"hurt anyone who believes that"), the rights of one group don't get to trump the rights of another group. Being safe from having hate directed at you is different than being safe from hearing something you don't like or agree with.
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  #3  
Old 12-04-2015, 05:54 PM
Rageaholic Rageaholic is offline
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Wow so many things wrong with this.

1. What the fuck is so special about Islam that makes it immune to criticism? We need to be critical of all beliefs, especially if they are have a shitty track record when it comes to human rights.

2. Why the fuck are feminists defending Islam? Again, they have a shitty track record with human rights, ESPECIALLY when it comes to the rights of women.

3. Most importantly, why are the Muslim students complaining about their safe space being violated, when that is exactly what they are doing to the ex muslims?

I'm post more on this later because this is so backwards.
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  #4  
Old 12-04-2015, 06:51 PM
Gravekeeper Gravekeeper is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Canarr View Post
Is everybody who is critical of Islam immediately islamophobic? And is it okay to disrupt and silence their opinions? What about other opinions? Are heckling and other disruption tactics ever okay?
In fairness, the speaker in question has likened Islam to Nazism and refers to Islam as a "global threat" and her organization makes no distinction between the majority of peaceful, sane Muslims and the extremists. Nor do they make any distinction between religious and cultural practices. Essentially blaming Islam as a whole for everything that occurs in Islamic countries.

So this is a tad more serious then an offended special snowflake story and I can see why some people would be pissed if someone invited such a speaker onto a campus.

Plus this story is from the UK. The rest of the western world doesn't share the American cultural ideal of unrestricted free speech regardless of content.
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  #5  
Old 12-04-2015, 06:53 PM
Kheldarson Kheldarson is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Canarr View Post

What do you think?
I think that "safe spaces" should exist. You should be able to know that there are places where you can be yourself and express your opinion without the fear of being bullied, threatened, hurt, or killed. At the same time, a safe space does not invalidate free speech. A safe space does not mean that your opinions or beliefs cannot be challenged, just that you cannot be intimidated for having your opinion.

This demonstration is a misuse of the term and ideal of a "safe space".

Quote:
Originally Posted by Shangri-laschild View Post
I feel like this is a situation where unless it is hate speech or encouraging violence (because there is a huge difference between "you are wrong for believing that"/"everyone who believes that is an evil idiot"/"hurt anyone who believes that"), the rights of one group don't get to trump the rights of another group. Being safe from having hate directed at you is different than being safe from hearing something you don't like or agree with.
This is a good way of putting it

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rageaholic View Post
2. Why the fuck are feminists defending Islam? Again, they have a shitty track record with human rights, ESPECIALLY when it comes to the rights of women.
This is where it's important to differentiate Islam from Sharia law. Islam itself preaches greater rights and respect for women than Christianity does. However, the application we're most familiar with is from the Middle East which combines Islamic teachings with pre-Islamic practices and traditions. That's where it gets murky.

So it makes sense for feminists to defend the local variation of Islam (which is mostly separate from Sharia).

Quote:
3. Most importantly, why are the Muslim students complaining about their safe space being violated, when that is exactly what they are doing to the ex muslims?
This is the bigger issue and hypocrisy really. I could grant them the right to protest, but being deliberately disruptive, abusive, and bullying means that their intent wasn't to protect their safe space but to silence another.
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Old 12-04-2015, 08:37 PM
BlaqueKatt BlaqueKatt is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kheldarson View Post
This is where it's important to differentiate Islam from Sharia law.
also the difference between islam and islamists, anytime a religion is in the position of government there's usually a ton of *creative* interpretations that are harmful to most everyone that isn't in the ruling class of government.
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  #7  
Old 12-05-2015, 04:38 PM
s_stabeler s_stabeler is offline
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It's worth defining exactly what free speech IS. My own interpretation is that you can state your opinion, however, where you are trying to change someone else's opinion, there are limits. (basically, free speech doesn't cover making threats to people, and nor does it cover people who are deliberately trying to cause offence. (by deliberately trying to cause offence, I mean something like the Westboro Baptist Church when they protest at soldier's funerals. That, I don't think should be covered under freedom of speech)
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  #8  
Old 12-05-2015, 06:58 PM
Gravekeeper Gravekeeper is offline
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Right, I've watched event and here's the play by play:

( As a sidenote, the speaker uploaded the video of this presentation to Youtube calling all of the students involved here "Islamist Thugs". Yeah. )

A few minutes into the talk she makes a comment directly at ISOC ( The Islamic student group ). A guy in the front row objects and says she's insulting the whole group. This is the the proverbial first stone.

The next disruption comes when she says "Islamism is a global political death machine" and that Bangladeshi bloggers have been killed or put on an "International death list". The international death list comment makes another guy in the front sort of shake his head and chuckle.

She challenges him about his reaction to which he replies that "international death list" is silly. She remarks "You would think it was funny".

After that the next upset comes when she starts talking about Sharia law courts in Briton and having to submit "under the boot" of Islam. She then blames this on "Post modern leftists". Which causes a couple people in the front row to chuckle again. One of them says "Safe space" jokingly after she refers to Sharia law, etc as "Our fascists".

This leads to the tipping point and frankly a lot of it is on the organizers themselves to:

One of the event organizers tells them to stop interrupting. He then pulls out his phone and starts taking pictures of the students in the front row. They get upset asking why he's filming them. One of them protests saying this is a safe space so why is he taking their pictures.

Several students get up and leave in protest after seeing the guy filming. The students in the front row continue to argue with the guy. One of the student organizers tells them to "Shut the fuck up". This causes an uproar. One student stands up and complains about being told to shut the fuck up. Another student stands up and marches right over to the guy that stood up and starts in on him. A couple people ( who were upset at being filmed ) tell her to sit down. She starts yelling at them. Some other students start yapping and arguing with them. Chaos ensues.

The student that stood up turns and asks the speaker something. She reacts like he's a terrorist. Takes a step back tells him he's "Violating her safe space". He looks momentarily stunned then laughs.

Everything is a shitstorm. The event organizers are standing up and arguing with the students that stood up. Someone puts their hands on someone. Yelling ensues. The guy that was filming ( Who looks to be a professor maybe ) starts yelling for basically half the front row to "Get out!". The organizers have lost all control of the event at this point.

Another professor enters the room, wrangles Mr Get Out and calms him down. Students sit back down. Student organizer keeps talking with front row students trying to get them to be quiet for the whole event and they'll "Have a discussion at the end". This doesn't go over well and the arguing continues.

The speaker basically just starts yelling her speech over everyone ( she doesn't actually talk to the room so much as at them on a side note. Her entire presentation has been her reading from a stack of papers in her hand ). Professor #2 pulls out two of the students from the front row that are still talking to the student organizer. I assume to have a chat in the hall. They quietly return to their seats after a bit.

The room is basically half empty now from students walking out. This is NOT a large event by any means on a side note. Its just a little classroom talk. There was only maybe 30 students in attendance at the beginning ( which wasn't to fill the room ) and only around 20 or so left at this point.

The event continues with only minor quibbles for a goodly while. Then she shows a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad. The room gets a tad awkward. Eventually a student in the front row leans forward and quietly flicks off the projector. Professor #2 escorts him out.

The speaker uses him as an example while he's still in the room. Which seems to have been her ploy all along. As displaying the cartoon wasn't actually relevant to anything she was talking about. It seemed like it was put up just to hope for a reaction she could tie into her next talking point.

After that its about an hour of question time which has a number of little flare ups between her and the students, and between students themselves. But she takes a lot of quite valid criticism and or flak from the female students in the room during this. Especially over how she continually conflates all Muslims with Islamism. Its actually a Christian student though that really takes her to task for it ( and gets a round of applause ).

She avoids responding to any of the criticism though by changing the topic and making a strawman argument in a manner so deft you'd think she was running for the GOP nomination. >.>

But yeah, in a nutshell:

- Atheist/Secular society invites a known controversial Islamaphobe whose actual valid arguments are lost in her offensive manner of presentation and personal bias.
- ISOC ( The Islamic student group ) asks them to reconsider the event because of the speaker's less savoury and disrespectful opinions.
- Atheist/Secular group refuses.
- The event goes exactly as everyone involved knew it would go.
- Event organizers lose control of it a number of times.
- Successful troll is successful.
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  #9  
Old 12-06-2015, 05:02 PM
Sleepwalker Sleepwalker is offline
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About half the muslim population is female, so there's quite a lot of intersection with feminism. People that demonize, marginalize, or otherwise discriminate against muslims are discriminating against muslim women as well. Religion is almost universally terrible for women, but feminism that excludes the religious would be a very small movement indeed.
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  #10  
Old 12-07-2015, 01:02 PM
Canarr Canarr is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gravekeeper View Post
But yeah, in a nutshell:

- Atheist/Secular society invites a known controversial Islamaphobe whose actual valid arguments are lost in her offensive manner of presentation and personal bias.
- ISOC ( The Islamic student group ) asks them to reconsider the event because of the speaker's less savoury and disrespectful opinions.
- Atheist/Secular group refuses.
- The event goes exactly as everyone involved knew it would go.
- Event organizers lose control of it a number of times.
- Successful troll is successful.
Thank you for going through this and making your summary. I'll admit that the "Islamist Thug" comment raised a few warning flags for me, as well; but I couldn't find a more balanced report on the event. Considering the numbers that you gave, that shouldn't be a surprise, I guess.

In any case, that does put a very different perspective on things. From the first article, it sounded like a group of people came to the event with the express purpose of disturbing it, without actually participating in the event itself. From GK's summary, it sounds less like a premeditated interruption or harassment campaign, than rather people who'd been watching the event taking offense at the presentation.

While I find abhorrent the idea of trying to silence speakers or events whose position you don't agree with, I can certainly sympathize with people expressing their displeasure at having their group (in this case, their faith) wrongly represented.

In that context, the reaction of the feminist group makes more sense to me. Although I think they could've reduced the confusion by giving a few more concrete reasons for their decision - the way GK lists them in his summary.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gravekeeper View Post
The event continues with only minor quibbles for a goodly while. Then she shows a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad. The room gets a tad awkward. Eventually a student in the front row leans forward and quietly flicks off the projector. Professor #2 escorts him out.

The speaker uses him as an example while he's still in the room. Which seems to have been her ploy all along. As displaying the cartoon wasn't actually relevant to anything she was talking about. It seemed like it was put up just to hope for a reaction she could tie into her next talking point.
This kind of goes towards the point I was trying to make in my OP: while you don't have the right to not be offended, others don't (or shouldn't) have the right to do something with the explicit purpose of offending you.

Basically: sure, I have the right to express my opinions, but do I really need to be an asshole about it? If I want to critically discuss Islam, do I absolutely need to have a caricature of Mohammed in that discussion? Or is that only in there to piss someone off?
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