Familiar shades

Back in mid 2005, Macquarie University law lecturer Andrew Fraser caused outrage when he called for a return of the White Australia policy and labelled blacks an inferior race.

After the controversy over the publishing of cartoons allegedly offensive to Muslims, an Iranian newspaper is looking for entries depicting the Jewish Holocaust. A prominent Melbourne cartoonist has already been snared.

These issues should give pause to reflect on the limits, if any, of free speech. An American university is experiencing such a debate:

A Northwestern professor’s support for the Iranian president’s denial of the Holocaust is angering students and faculty across the university.

McCormick Prof. Arthur Butz recently backed Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in comments published by several Iranian news agencies. Calling the Holocaust a myth, Ahmadinejad said Israel should no longer exist as a country. The remarks are causing global controversy.

“’I congratulate him on becoming the first head of state to speak out clearly on these issues and regret only that it was not a Western head of state,’ Butz said.”

Intellectual freedom is being hotly debated on campus, though Butz is being defended on the grounds of free speech. It’s a tough call. His statements are bound to cause offence, but then, universities are supposed to be a place where all kinds of views are disseminated. Of course, it’s important to remember that many shouting about “free speech” are the first to defame Muslims, but less enthusiastic when Jews or Israel are discussed.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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