University of Maryland: Don’t You Dare Criticize Islam

Book cover for American Sniper with sniper rifle on the cover

Current talk-show host and former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason says he is cutting off the University of Maryland, his alma mater, after it decided to cancel a screening of the movie “American Sniper.”

Starnes wrote that the school said it would postpone indefinitely an upcoming screening of the film after some Muslim students denounced it as “Islamophobic, racist, and nationalistic.”

He quoted a petition launched by the Muslim Students Association denouncing “American Sniper.” It declared that the film “only perpetuates the spread of Islamophobia and is offensive to many Muslims around the world for good reason.”

The movie “dehumanizes Muslim individuals, promotes the idea of senseless mass murder, and portrays negative and inaccurate stereotypes,” according to the MSA’s petition. [reported at 4/25/15]

It’s not about any particular movie. (I haven’t seen “American Sniper,” and don’t know that I will.) It’s about daring to question Islam. Islam, in the mindset of the academic establishment, has taken on politically correct status. Politically correct status means that you are above and outside being questioned. If you make a movie, a speech, or write a book stating or implying any criticism whatsoever of a group enjoying politically correct status — you’re censored.

The Muslim students and others upset about Muslims being portrayed as terrorizing mass murderers should not be blaming (and banning) movies like “American Sniper.” They should be blaming all the Muslims who systematically and internationally perpetuate acts of violence in the name of their religion.

For the life of me, I do not understand why Muslims get mad at people who criticize Islamic terrorists. Why don’t they get angry at the actual people who orchestrate violence in their religion’s name?

I’m a huge fan of Ayn Rand, as most of my regular readers know. While I would never claim to speak for her, her ideas in philosophy illuminate almost everything I think and know, not just in politics and culture, but much deeper, in psychology, ethics, epistemology (i.e., the theory of how we know).

If somebody started to blow up innocent civilians in the name of Ayn Rand, I would not primarily become angry at people who start talking about the “Ayn Rand-inspired” violence. I would save most of my criticism and condemnation for those who invoke the name of a person who actually opposed the initiation of force, absolutely on principle.

The same would apply if I were a fervent Christian. If people began to blow up civilians, or strap bombs to the backs of children in the name of Jesus, I would condemn the people who took a philosophy and went in the opposite direction of what its founder preached and encouraged.

If Islam is truly a religion of peace, brotherhood, love and supreme rationality — as I keep hearing — then why aren’t these Muslim Student Associations more enraged with the people who killed innocent civilians, most infamously on 9/11, but all the other times before and since? (I assume they believe they were innocent.) Why do they save all their rage for “American Sniper” for supposedly portraying Islam as a religion of violence and murder? Don’t the organizations and governments founded on Sharia Law and Muslim principles at least have something to do with Islam’s reputation for being murderous and intolerant?

Breyer Hillegas, president of the school’s College Republicans, told Fox News’ Starnes that he was furious about the cancellation.

“Universities are always trying to satisfy the political correctness police and worry about who they might offend — rather than standing up for principle and the First Amendment of the Constitution,” Hillegas said.

He said preventing “American Sniper” from being shown “promotes intolerance and stifles dialogue and debate — and goes directly against the atmosphere that the University of Maryland is supposed to support.”

Actually, the University of Maryland is a state-funded institution. Anyone who thinks state-funded institutions, who also receive millions of federal dollars, are supposed to be for everyone has obviously not been paying attention to the way state-funded institutions work. In the humanities and social science departments (political science, cultural studies, history, even psychology), publicly funded universities (most of them now) have been hotbeds of a particular point-of-view for decades. They used to proudly embrace Marxism, and while that might be somewhat passé in some circles, today’s celebration of Islam seems consistent with academia’s desire to tear down America’s original ideals of private property, individualism and individual rights.

In a truly private system of higher education, there would be no state or federal dollars. If a particular university wished to forbid criticism of Islam, or anything else for that matter, it would be the university’s private property right to do so. It would not be a violation of the First Amendment to forbid speech on your own campus, if that’s what you wanted.

The University of Maryland is not simply worried about offending “people.” Like all other publicly funded universities and institutions, it’s only worried about offending certain people or groups. For whatever reasons, Islam and Muslims have wound up on that list of protected groups you cannot and dare not criticize — ever. How the progressives and liberals who run the social science and humanities departments of virtually every publicly funded university in existence square violently and radically conservative Islam with the values of tolerance and rights for gays, transgendered, and equal rights for women, and all the rest, is — likewise — beyond the pale of reason or question. My own theory? Islam, as a movement, detests America and all things American; that’s good enough for them.

Hillegas is correct that such a mindset of anti-dissension is completely at odds with academic values of dialogue, debate and reason. But progressivism abandoned those ideas a long time ago, assuming progressives ever cared about free speech in the first place. If freedom mattered to progressives, they wouldn’t be dependent on federal and state funds to advance and entrench their ideas in place. Nor would they so routinely demand censorship and intellectual tolerance even as they freely (and with a sense of entitlement) accept federal and state dollars to stay in operation.

A society is only as healthy — or as sick — as its academic institutions. It’s not that people must blindly follow what politically correct and intolerant, one-sided “progressive” professors and student groups at these entrenched establishments of non-learning insist on teaching. But the average person does tend to defer to the academic and learned experts, and most of our higher-level officials come out of these settings.

It’s important for the vast majority of Americans outside of academia to understand that they’re neither sick, wrong nor crazy when they identify the immature and anti-intellectual attitudes coming out of academia for what they are.


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