Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Muslim censorship effort targets NYU Objectivists

A group called the "Muslim Action Committee" has launched an internet campaign to prevent the New York University Objectivist Club from showing the cartoons behind the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy at the panel discussion it is hosting tonight. Apparently, this group’s efforts have succeeded as the Objectivist Club’s event has been closed to the general public and limited to an audience of no more than 150 students.

Accordingly, I have written the following letter to John Sexton [john.sexton@nyu.edu], the president of NYU:

Dear President Sexton:

I am deeply dismayed by the New York University's decision to close a student organization’s discussion of the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy to the general public and severely limit the number of students who may attend the event.

Realize what is taking place at a prestigious American intellectual institution under your watch. A university is a realm of ideas, yet the ideas examining the philosophic foundation of free speech rights as they relate to an important international controversy are being squelched in order to appease the sensitivities of those who disagree with the material being discussed. Rather than defend free speech, the university is attacking the very principles that allow it to exist and taking a position that severely curtails its ability to fulfill its mission.

One wonders what comes next. Will certain art be forbidden, because it offends the sensibilities of its critics? Will unpopular political views be taken off the table as well?

On the eve of the war in Iraq, I took part in a contentious debate over US policy with a peace studies professor at George Mason University, and there, GMU President Alan Merten personally thanked me, saying that such a debate "is the reason we have universities." Yet NYU's seeming position is to hold that the opposite as true, and that proponents of controversial ideas should check their minds at the door.

I call upon you to correct the mistakes that your university is making in falling to defend free speech rights. If not, I will simply do everything within my power to highlight your failure to act as the cowardly failure it would be.

Sincerely,

Nicholas Provenzo
Chairman
The Center for the Advancement of Capitalism
Update: The "Muslim Action Committee" allows public comments on their website, so I urge you to let them know what you think of their attempt to squelch free speech.

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