Free Speech, Moral Relativism, And New Rules-Some Old Links

Full piece here.

‘I had been invited down to a literary event, the Lewes Speakers Festival, to talk about my recently published memoir of life as a prison doctor, The Knife Went In. I was to be the penultimate speaker, followed by a controversial conservative journalist, Katie Hopkins, who was to talk about her own recently published memoir, Rude.

The event ended in violence.’

On this site, see: Pushing Against Moral Relativism & The Academic Fashions Of Modern Life-Some Links…Repost: Via A Reader-Peter Thiel On The Logic Of Multiculturalism

Addition: Full interview here.

“Nigel: Has relativism had its day as an influential philosophical position?

Simon: No – and I don’t think it should ever die. The danger is that it gets replaced by some kind of complacent dogmatism, which is at least equally unhealthy. The Greek sceptics thought that confronting a plurality of perspectives is the beginning of wisdom, and I think they were right. It is certainly the beginning of historiography and anthropology, and if we think, for instance, of the Copernican revolution, of self-conscious science. The trick is to benefit from an imaginative awareness of diversity, without falling into a kind of “anything goes” wishy-washy nihilism or scepticism….”

It looks like we’ve been dealing with such a problem for a long time, in one form or another.

Niall Ferguson notes something important about networks of patronage in the academy;

It’s worth revisiting how Ferguson’s wife, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, using the products of Western thought, has pretty much been excluded from polite society in challenging Islamists because such challenges violate the tenets of the current replacements for religion (the Left-liberals and out-and-out Marxists in the academy):

‘Yesterday Brandeis University decided to withdraw an honorary degree they were to confer upon me next month during their Commencement exercises. I wish to dissociate myself from the university’s statement, which implies that I was in any way consulted about this decision. On the contrary, I was completely shocked when President Frederick Lawrence called me — just a few hours before issuing a public statement — to say that such a decision had been made.’

Tunku Varadarajan Reviews Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s ‘Nomad’ At The Daily Beast

Christopher Hitchens At Slate: Yale SurrendersYale concluded that the risk of violence and the potential consequences that stemmed from their decision to publish a scholarly work about the Mohammed cartoons (reprinting those cartoons) was not worth the risk.

The Intellectual Cowardice Of The Crowd-Charles Murray At Middlebury College 

Free Speech And All That-John Derbyshire Will Not Be Appearing At Williams College

Repost At The Request Of A Reader-Revisting Larry Summers: What Did He Say Again?

Hirsi Ali seems to have found the embrace of the West out of both tribal localism and its customs, Islam, and the short-sightedness of multiculturalism.  Notice non-Muslims are not the ones threatening her with death: Tunku Varadarajan Reviews Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s ‘Nomad’ At The Daily BeastRepost-Ayan Hirsi Ali At The CSM: ‘Swiss Ban On Minarets Was A Vote ForTolerance And Inclusion’

Repost-From Volokh: ‘”South Park” Creators Warned (Threatened) Over Mohammed’

Full post here.

Let’s not forget how badly some folks have acted in the Middle-East and in the West:

‘The posting on Revolutionmuslim.com says: “We have to warn Matt and Trey that what they are doing is stupid and they will probably wind up like Theo Van Gogh for airing this show. This is not a threat, but a warning of the reality of what will likely happen to them.’

No, I wouldn’t take that as a threat at all…

Update:  Did Comedy Central censor the potentially offensive parts…as a result of the ‘threats’?  What is insidious about a terroristic threat is how much it works.  Also, how much (if there is a causal connection) of the decision might be fear of legal action, loss of revenue, pc related?

Comedy Central, by most accounts, doesn’t want to re-air the episode.

Related On This Site:   From Kenanmalik.com: ‘Introduction: How Salman Rushdie Changed My Life’

Is Islam incompatibile with freedom as we define it here in the West, or is this a false choice?:  From YouTube: Roger Scruton On Religious Freedom, Islam & Atheism

Ayan Hirsi Ali has used the ideals of the West (especially women’s rights) to potentially confront Islam; which has served her politically as well:  Repost-Ayan Hirsi Ali At The CSM: ‘Swiss Ban On Minarets Was A Vote For Tolerance And Inclusion’ Certainly, excessive relativism can create ghettoes of un-integrated Muslims in European society, and turn out more violence and threats of violence.

See Also:  If you thought the cartoons were bad, more on the Fitna movie here.  Libertarians stand firm on this issue:  Repost-A Canadian Libertarian Making Noise: Ezra Levant

Christopher Hitchens At Slate: Yale SurrendersYale concluded that the risk of violence and the potential consequences that stemmed from their decision to publish a scholarly work about the Mohammed cartoons (reprinting those cartoons) was not worth the risk.

Eich & Ayan Hirsi Ali-Kenan Malik At Pandaemonium: ‘Conforming, Not Transforming’

Full piece here.

After the outrage and faux outrage (so hard to tell these days) eventually cools down, and Brandon Eich, fired from Mozilla, boxes-up his belongings from work:  After Ayan Hirsi Ali likely nods and clicks ‘End Call’, a blander, more conformist society remains.

Malik, as a British Muslim, is still looking for a more classical liberalism instead of the standard Leftist fare:

‘There is a difference between creating a society in which we have genuinely reduced or removed certain forms of hatreds and demanding that people shut up because they have to conform to other people’s expectations of what is acceptable. To demand that something is unsayable is not to make it unsaid, still less unthought. It is merely to create a world in which social conversation becomes greyer and more timid, in which people are less willing to say anything distinctive or outrageous, in which in Jon Lovett’s words, ‘fewer and fewer people talk more and more about less and less’…’

The thoughts we so often think, often-times true, many times not, often with at least some truth in them, remain that much less likely to be brought-out and tested, challenged, joined in common cause, scoffed-at, ignored, laughed-at, endorsed, dismissed, etc.

Ayan Hirsi Ali responds to having an honorary degree from Brandeis…not bestowed, as it turns out:

‘What did surprise me was the behavior of Brandeis. Having spent many months planning for me to speak to its students at Commencement, the university yesterday announced that it could not “overlook certain of my past statements,” which it had not previously been aware of. Yet my critics have long specialized in selective quotation – lines from interviews taken out of context – designed to misrepresent me and my work. It is scarcely credible that Brandeis did not know this when they initially offered me the degree. ‘

Malik disagrees with Hirsi Ali on many issues, but doesn’t want her to simply to shut up:

‘I know Hirsi Ali and I admire her courage. I also trenchantly disagree with many of her views. She has, for instance, opposed Muslim immigration to Europe, supported the Swiss ban on the building of minarets and declared that ‘we are at war with Islam’. Such views I find deeply objectionable. But equally objectionable is the insistence that her anti-Islamic and pro-Israel views are of themselves reasons to deny her an academic award.’

On a related note, here’s a debate from Intelligence Squared with Ayan Hirsi Ali on one side, arguing that Islam is the problem (the same absolutism in Islam that will not tolerate questioning of its tenets, its many violent passages, and its unreformed worldview which has a prescription for pretty much all aspects of the culture and public square). A member of the opposing side suggests that Muslim alienation in British life, combined with a European influenced fascist inspired-Islamism is the problem, not Islam itself (yes, it’s colonialist Europe’s fault).

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And Hitchens, no fan of religion, still makes for compelling and interesting listening on speech:

See his piece: Yale Surrenders

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And also one more video from here at home:  Comedian Patrice O’Neal defends the aim of comedians simply aiming to be funny and saying some of those things we all think out loud:

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Related On This Site: Lay-Off Eich, Man–From The Washington Examiner: ‘Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich Forced To Resign For Supporting Traditional Marriage Laws’

Ayan Hirsi Ali in The NY Times: Lee Harris’s ‘The Suicide Of Reason’ Theodore Dalrymple Still Attacking Multi-Culturalism In Britain From YouTube: Roger Scruton On Religious Freedom, Islam & Atheism…From The Middle East Quarterly Via A & L Daily: Europe’s Shifting Immigration Dynamic

Free speech and Muslimst From Kenanmalik.com: ‘Introduction: How Salman Rushdie Changed My Life’… Via YouTube: ‘Christopher Hitchens Vs. Ahmed Younis On CNN (2005)’…  Mohammad Cartoonist Lars Vilks HeadbuttedDuring Lecture’From The OC Jewish Experience: ‘UC Irvine Muslim Student Union Suspended’From Volokh: ‘”South Park” Creators Warned (Threatened) Over Mohammed’… More From Spiegel Online After The Westergaard Attacks Via A & L Daily: ‘The West Is Choked By Fear’

A Few Thoughts On NPR And Current Liberal Establishment Thinking Under Obama

From FIRE.org-’Federal Government Mandates Unconstitutional Speech Codes At Colleges And Universities Nationwide’

Greg Lukianoff At FIRE.Org: ‘Emily Bazelon And The Danger Of Bringing “Anti-Bullying” Laws To Campus’

Race And Free Speech-From Volokh: ‘Philadelphia Mayor Suggests Magazine Article on Race Relations Isn’t Protected by the First Amendment’…What about black people held in bondage by the laws..the liberation theology of Rev Wright…the progressive vision and the folks over at the Nation gathered piously around John Brown’s body?: Milton Friedman Via Youtube: ‘Responsibility To The Poor’……Robert George And Cornel West At Bloggingheads: “The Scandal Of The Cross”

Repost-Ayan Hirsi Ali At The CSM: ‘Swiss Ban On Minarets Was A Vote For Tolerance And Inclusion’

Full piece here.

Rather than see the vote as a failure to allow Muslims their religious freedoms (populist response to the immigration wave?), Hirsi Ali suggests the ban rather should be thought of, in part, as a check upon the political ambitions that stem from Islamic theology:

“Islam is an idea about how society should be organized: the individual’s relationship to the state; that the relationship between men and women; rules for the interaction between believers and unbelievers; how to enforce such rules; and why a government under Islam is better than a government founded on other ideas. These political ideas of Islam have their symbols: the minaret, the crescent; the head scarf, and the sword.”

Because this fits into a view that many Europeans already have about how their own societies should be run:

“In their response to the presence of Islam in their midst, Europeans have developed what one can discern as roughly two competing views. The first view emphasizes accuracy. Is it accurate to equate political symbols like those used by Communists and Nazis with a religious symbol like the minaret and its accessories of crescent and star.”

According to Ali, it’s not an attack on religion per se, but rather a workable European solution to to Islam’s inability to separate politics from religion… because (what I think is the real target here) there’s another view of Islam in Europe:

“The second view refuses to equate political symbols of various forms of white fascism with the symbols of a religion. In this school of thought, Islamic Scripture is compared to Christian and Jewish Scripture. Those who reason from this perspective preach pragmatism. According to them, the key to the assimilation of Muslims is dialogue.”

and:

“These two contrasting perspectives correspond to two quite distinct groups in Europe. The first are mainly the working class. The second are the classes that George Orwell described as “indeterminate.” Cosmopolitan in outlook, they include diplomats, businesspeople, mainstream politicians, and journalists. They are well versed in globalization and tend to focus on the international image of their respective countries.”

Are you convinced?

Addition:  I think Hirsi Ali correctly points out how much room for improvement there is in Europe’s handling of Muslim immigration…

Another Addition: She has directly challenged Islam as well, and this is not tolerated, resulting in numerous death threats.

See Also On This Site:  Why hobble our economy, if it’s so important to integrating new arrivals?: Via The A & L Daily-Interview With Christopher Caldwell At Spiegel Online

Ayan Hirsi Ali in The NY Times: Lee Harris’s ‘The Suicide Of Reason’ Theodore Dalrymple Still Attacking Multi-Culturalism In Britain From YouTube: Roger Scruton On Religious Freedom, Islam & Atheism…From The Middle East Quarterly Via A & L Daily: Europe’s Shifting Immigration Dynamic

Repost-Frank Furedi At Spiked Via The A & L Daily: ‘The Truth About Tolerance’

Full piece here.

Although Ramadan’s book is presented as a spiritual meditation on the problems of existence, it is actually an eclectic mixture of current intellectual prejudices and old-fashioned appeals to revelation and dogma’

and:

“It is precisely because Ramadan is unsympathetic to the idea of individual autonomy and moral independence that he can casually dismiss tolerance as the intellectual charity of the powerful. Tolerance is anything but charity.”

Because, Furedi argues, there is no acceptance of the idea of critical judgement in Ramadan’s embrace of Western multiculturalism.

Obviously, I can see danger in many Muslims’ claims to faith (at times an unyielding moral absolutism) mixed with only an acceptance of the West’s moral relativism.  I would also point out that to an American, smaller European economies, more stratified societies, and greater cultural homogeneity can lead to less space in Europe than America for immigrants (and we are facing a current round of homegrown terrorists, however low the percentage, the consequences are very high).

One step beyond Ramadan, on this view, might be a Muslim thinker accepting a definition of tolerance that includes critical judgment and more classical liberalism.  I would also point out such a definition would likely require greater inclusion of Muslims into European societies as well, if integration is in fact the goal.

Ayan Hirsi Ali’s rejection of the European Left and flirtation with the right (where a narrow nationalism combined with racial identity lurks in darker corners) could be instructive as a possible, but perhaps not necessary, path.  She has also been very vocally anti-Islam as a faith entirely.

Perhaps there a few ways around the current stalemate in the Middle-East with our military involved in protracted nation-building in order to achieve security aims.  Perhaps I haven’t come up with any.

Also On This Site: Just when I go out on a limbFrom Beautiful Horizons: ‘Christopher Hitchens and Tariq Ramadan at the 92nd Street Y’.  Christopher Hitchens is an equal-opportunity socialist/post-socialist critic of all of religions’ claims to faith, and perhaps, like Hirsi Ali, shared a swing to the right (from that confused Left) that could lead to some moral problems.  Repost-Ayan Hirsi Ali At The CSM: ‘Swiss Ban On Minarets Was A Vote For Tolerance And Inclusion’

Free speech (used both well and unwell) meets offended  and violent Muslims: Mohammad Cartoonist Lars Vilks HeadbuttedDuring Lecture’From The OC Jewish Experience: ‘UC Irvine Muslim Student Union Suspended’From Volokh: ‘”South Park” Creators Warned (Threatened) Over Mohammed’

A British Muslim tells his story, suggesting that classical liberalism wouldn’t be a bad idea: From Kenanmalik.com: ‘Introduction: How Salman Rushdie Changed My Life’ From Foreign Policy: ‘Germany’s Age Of Anxiety’

Why hobble our economy, if it’s so important to integrating new arrivals?: Via The A & L Daily-Interview With Christopher Caldwell At Spiegel OnlineTheodore Dalrymple Still Attacking Multi-Culturalism In Britain

Ron Rosenbaum At Slate Via The A & L Daily: ‘Bonfire Of The Intellectuals’

Full post here.

Is Paul Berman the left you’ve been looking for (if you’re not really on the left)?  or more a person on the left adhering to a fundamentally libertarian proposition:  freedom from violence in this case?

“By the “flight of the intellectuals,” Berman means their flight from the values they espoused when defending Salman Rushdie in 1989, and their sniping, snarking, and subverting Ayaan Hirsi Ali this century.”

and:

“Is there a paradox at the heart of Enlightenment values? Should a belief in “tolerance” extend to the intolerant? Must Enlightenment values stop short of challenging multicultural values? Or do multicultural values sometimes entail moral relativism? One key issue, for instance, is whether Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s campaign against female genital mutilation makes her—as the intellectuals Berman attacks have called her—an “Enlightenment fundamentalist,”

Of course, the economy has a lot to do with how well or not well (more likely) Muslims are being integrated into European societies as well.  It’s really up to Europeans.

Also On This Site: Repost-Ayan Hirsi Ali At The CSM: ‘Swiss Ban On Minarets Was A Vote For Tolerance And Inclusion’

Some of the same tensions are at play here in the U.S.: From The Harvard Educational Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’

Nussbaum argues profoundly for more equality:  From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum

And A Straussian address of the problem:  From Wikipedia’s Page On Leo Strauss: A Few Quotes:  From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?

“Strauss taught that liberalism in its modern form contained within it an intrinsic tendency towards extreme relativism, which in turn led to two types of nihilism. The first was a “brutal” nihilism, expressed in Nazi and Marxist regimes. In On Tyranny, he wrote that these ideologies, both descendants of Enlightenment thought, tried to destroy all traditions, history, ethics, and moral standards and replace them by force under which nature and mankind are subjugated and conquered. The second type – the “gentle” nihilism expressed in Western liberal democracies – was a kind of value-free aimlessness and a hedonistic”permissive egalitarianism”, which he saw as permeating the fabric of contemporary American society.”

Paul Berman On Bloggingheads: The Left Can Criticize Iran

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Ayan Hirsi Ali At The CSM: ‘Swiss Ban On Minarets Was A Vote For Tolerance And Inclusion’

Full piece here.

Rather than see the vote as a failure to allow Muslims their religious freedoms (populist response to the immigration wave?), Hirsi Ali suggests the ban rather should be thought of, in part, as a check upon the political ambitions that stem from Islamic theology:

“Islam is an idea about how society should be organized: the individual’s relationship to the state; that the relationship between men and women; rules for the interaction between believers and unbelievers; how to enforce such rules; and why a government under Islam is better than a government founded on other ideas. These political ideas of Islam have their symbols: the minaret, the crescent; the head scarf, and the sword.”

Because this fits into a view that many Europeans already have about how their own societies should be run:

“In their response to the presence of Islam in their midst, Europeans have developed what one can discern as roughly two competing views. The first view emphasizes accuracy. Is it accurate to equate political symbols like those used by Communists and Nazis with a religious symbol like the minaret and its accessories of crescent and star.”

According to Ali, it’s not an attack on religion per se, but rather a workable European solution to to Islam’s inability to separate politics from religion… because (what I think is the real target here) there’s another view of Islam in Europe:

“The second view refuses to equate political symbols of various forms of white fascism with the symbols of a religion. In this school of thought, Islamic Scripture is compared to Christian and Jewish Scripture. Those who reason from this perspective preach pragmatism. According to them, the key to the assimilation of Muslims is dialogue.”

and:

“These two contrasting perspectives correspond to two quite distinct groups in Europe. The first are mainly the working class. The second are the classes that George Orwell described as “indeterminate.” Cosmopolitan in outlook, they include diplomats, businesspeople, mainstream politicians, and journalists. They are well versed in globalization and tend to focus on the international image of their respective countries.”

As a good American, I don’t know where I stand on day to day European politics, I’ll try and leave that to Europeans.   I have to say, though, Hirsi Ali is a pretty smooth political operator herself in a cosmopolitan, populist sort of way.

Are you convinced?

Addition:  I think Hirsi Ali correctly points out how much room for improvement there is in Europe’s handling of Muslim immigration…

See Also On This Site:  Ayan Hirsi Ali in The NY Times: Lee Harris’s ‘The Suicide Of Reason’ Theodore Dalrymple Still Attacking Multi-Culturalism In Britain From YouTube: Roger Scruton On Religious Freedom, Islam & Atheism…From The Middle East Quarterly Via A & L Daily: Europe’s Shifting Immigration Dynamic

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