By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
What I learned from John Eibner—and what the Voice was the first to publish in America (“The Cartoons Conspiracy,” The Village Voice, February 14, 2006)—was the role played in setting the stage for some of the fierce demonstrations—by the Saudi-based Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), representing 57 Muslim states at a summit meeting in Mecca in December 2005.
Here is the core of why many of these protests raged on. The OIC’s Muslim states “resolved to pressure—through a program of joint Islamic action-international institutions, including the U.N., to criminalize insults of Islam and its prophet.”
And dig this, John Sexton, “In its final resolution, in Mecca, the OIC focused on the satirical caricatures of Muhammad,” having “described publication of the caricatures as ‘blasphemy.’ Blasphemy is punished by death, according to Shariah law.”
Lo and behold, as I later reported here and in the February 2, 2009, Washington Times: “In an 83-to-53 vote, with 42 abstentions, the U.N. General Assembly urges nations to provide ‘adequate protections’ in their laws or constitutions against ‘acts of hatred, discrimination, intimidation and coercion resulting from defamation of religions and incitement to religious hatred in general.’”
And, President Sexton, “Only Islam and Muslims are specifically named in this resolution against religious defamation sponsored by Uganda—on behalf of the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference.”
Among those opposed was a majority of European countries, Japan, India, and some others. Also the United States, which does indeed support domestic “hate speech laws,” along with, I kid you not, the American Civil Liberties Union.
When I put that dangerous cartoon of Muhammad in my Voice column, I didn’t yet know about all of what I just reported. I did know—as I wrote later in “U.N. Forbids Defaming Religion, Especially Islam” (Cato Institute, January 29, 2009)—that: “I was damned if I’d be intimidated for doing my job as a reporter. What most stays in my mind is that before the December 18 U.N. resolution on defamation of religions, so much of the free press refused to run even one of the cartoons at the core of the story, and hardly anything about the United Nations’ December 18 resolution.”
A final note: I was, of course, stunned and honored when New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute named me “as one of the 100 outstanding journalists of the last 100 years.” But that came as a result of reporting like this column, exposing how New York University president John Sexton has so dishonored New York University.
Truth To Power: How did you manage to justify all that Bull based on what I said? I indicated that I was expressing my opinion in my comment. You are attacking me, an American, for my free speech right here in America. Your rhetoric is hard on my diagnosed PTSD resulting from the Vietnam War so I had better not comment again on this subject.
Bravo to Mr. Hentoff for having the courage and strength of his convictions to expose the disgraceful situation for what it really is. Another seminal article mentioned here is Naomi Schaefer Riley's “The Despot NYU Doesn’t Dare Question” (New York Post, June 22, 2012). I would another, earlier one addressing other angles of Pres. Sexton's ambitions in Abu Dhabi: Zvika Krieger's aptly-titled "The Emir of NYU" (New York Magazine, April 13, 2009). Both are readily available online. My main point, however, is in response to Major Ray. If Pres. Sexton's actions, as you say, bespeak godliness, I sure would hate to see what wickedness looks like. Mr. Hentoff lays bare the hypocrisy behind the University administration's selective hearing in Abu Dhabi. Yet you also happen to mention the NYU expansion here at home. Pray tell, then, what is so "Godly" about a University president running an academic institution like a real estate corporation, admitting more and more students, to bursting point, and all the while asking our City Council for more and more square footage to accommodate the rising flood undergraduates in what is, already, the nation's largest private university? What is so "Godly," moreover, about charging these students over $55,000/yr. in tuition, room and board, making NYU not only among the most costly institutions but also the most ridden with student debt (on average, a stunning $41,000 per student upon graduation)? Student debt has now eclipsed the 1 trillion-dollar mark nationally, outstripping credit card debt. And as host of journalists have written -- Timothy Noah (The New Repulic), Matthew Harris (The Fiscal Times), Tamar Lewin and Andrew Martin (NYT), to name but a few -- there is no more punishing or unforgiving debt than student debt. All the while, one campus after another is springing up all over the globe with the NYU banner from Abu Dhabi to Shanghai. Is NYU now a market brand, or is it still a "private university in the public service" committed to its academic mission and the stewardship of its community? The present administration appears to have forsaken New York for the world. You speak of "godliness"? I see only shame.
Hey what's wrong with opening up another campus in China? Students are studying abroad to learn, experience, and communicate, not to carry out activism. Also, keep in mind that although it's an American college, it's still just a campus, not an embassy or a consulate. It's not operate under the American law. Even if people want to make a difference there through cultural interaction, they have to do it subtly and gradually.
Freedom of speech in America can never be the same over there because to insist on it would be culturally insensitive and probably suicidal. What would be the point of a global learning experience? Why this issue now? I think I recognize your spiritual signature. Your article appears to be in complete resonance with another group of antagonists in Washington. They too wish to discredit a president so they can accomplish their selfish agendas. What is your reason for this attack? Is it to stop the NYU expansion? It fits the spiritual signature of the others. The President of NYU is a Godly person and he does not deserve to be attacked with viscous innuendos. This is my personal opinion and I have never met the NYU president. Go Fordham!
Free speech is exactly what we are all exercising here, Major Ray -- that is, unless you somehow consider yourself to be the sole, self-designated arbiter of what is right and just, to say nothing of "Godly." There was nothing personal about my comment. I did, however, take issue with your argument. Free speech and the right to disagree: Isn't that what makes the United States a great place to live, as opposed to, say, Abu Dhabi?