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April 10, 2007

SFSU Drops Blasphemy Charges Against Students

A college? Investigating students, with possible expulsion if found guitly, for the medieval crime of blasphemy?

What kind of rightwing insanity is this? Who are these Dark Ages witch-hunters and medieval inquistors trying to expell students for blaspheming against Jesus Christ? Why isn't the media all over this rightwing extremist outrage? Did I just wake up in Salem, Massachusetts circa 1700?

Oh... I see. Because the alleged "blasphemy" was committed against the Muslim god, Allah.

The College Republicans at San Francisco State University recently found themselves under investigation for the offenses of flag desecration and blasphemy. While the disciplinary proceedings ended late last month with a decision not to punish the student group, the investigation itself points to a troubling trend.

The alleged blasphemy was directed at Islam, and the desecrated flag contained no stars or stripes. At a small anti-terrorism rally in October 2006, several members of the College Republicans stomped on pieces of paper they had painted to look like flags of the radical Islamic organizations Hezbollah and Hamas, copying the designs from images on the Internet. A few days later, a Muslim student filed a complaint, on the grounds that the Arabic script on the Hezbollah and Hamas flags contained the word "Allah." The university pressed charges, accusing the blasphemers of "incivility" and creating "a hostile environment."

In the end, the Student Organization Hearing Panel unanimously ruled that the students should be cleared of all charges. Yet as the pro-free-expression Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which repeatedly urged SFSU president Robert Corrigan to drop the case, has pointed out, this was hardly a glorious triumph for free speech. The students were dragged through an investigation for engaging in political expression at a public university. As UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh pointed out on his blog, "If SFSU responded to an allegation that some group had insulted the President, or opposed the war, or criticized Christianity, by putting them through an extended investigation and a hearing, I take it we'd be quite troubled even if ultimately SFSU exonerated the students."

Supposedly we don't have a state religion. Such a thing is forbidden by the Constitution. But increasingly, we do have a de facto state religion -- Islam.

Because when state-funded, quasi-governmental institutions protect one religion and punish those who insult it, but allow any other religion to be mocked, reviled, and even blasphemed against, what else would you call that?

How would a true official state religion be handled any differently? We'd see the exact same treatment -- the official religion would be protected by legal and quasi-legal measures, whereas other religions would be treated as inferior and therefore proper subjects for mockery and blasphemy.

Dhimmitude -- catch the fever.


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posted by Ace at 04:13 PM

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