The editor of the University of Illinois student paper, The Daily Illini, was recently fired for republishing the controversial Mohammed cartoons. Accusing the board of setting a “bad precedent,” Acton Gordon called the cartoons newsworthy and stood by his decision to act quickly and publish them. “We had a news story on our hands, with violence erupting about imagery, but you can’t show it because of a taboo, because of a taboo that’s not a Western taboo but a Muslim taboo?” he said. “That’s a blow to journalism.”
And he’s right. While almost every newspaper in America refused to print the cartoons, including The New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, an editor in the most free and democratic nation in the world should be able to exercise his right to disseminate information. In this instance, censoring the University of Illinois from seeing the cartoons for fear of the repercussions, assumes the worst of its Muslim students. Gordon should be able to exercise his First Amendment rights, especially when publishing a cartoon that the world is both transfixed upon and retaliating against.
Gordon is planning to sue the University of Illinois, and has retained the services of Junaid Afeef, a Muslim attorney, who while deeply offended by the cartoons, does not believe that free speech can only be adopted when suitable.
Meanwhile, at the University of California Berkeley, the California Patriot, the campus’ conservative newspaper—yes, they have one—also published the two cartoons this week. Claiming to publish the cartoons “in solidarity with the Muslim people,” the Patriot missed the boat by picking up the story so late. The cartoons are accompanied by an op-ed, claiming that “being offended occasionally is the price of living in a diverse, tolerant, pluralistic society.” That is correct. And on the Berkeley campus that is exactly the way it was handled, as Muslim Student Association thanked “the Muslim community in standing in solidarity and … not engaging in such provocative methods, but by aiming to educate and utilizing the situation to help spread the beautiful word of Islam.”