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A New Threat to Free Speech on Campus
by John Perazzo
This past fall, a student group known as "Temple University Purpose" (TUP) invited the controversial Dutch politician Geert Wilders to give a speech on campus. Wilders, one of the leading European critics of Islamism and a possible future prime minister in the Netherlands, was slated to show Fitna, his provocative documentary showing how Muslim jihadists draw their inspiration from the Koran not by distorting its message but by taking its mandates literally. When finalizing the arrangements for Wilders' appearance, TUP's student leaders and Temple administrators agreed that the university would cover the necessary security costs for the event, as it does for all speakers. But as campus leftists stepped up attacks on administrators for allowing Wilders' appearance, the university began to look for the exit sign. It settled on a back handed way of throttling free speech that is increasingly being employed by other schools, USC and UC Santa Barbara among them—forcing conservative student groups to pay costs for controversial speakers whose appearances become security problems because the campus left threatens violently to disrupt them.
When word of Wilders' scheduled appearance was made public, Temple's Muslim Students Association (MSA) pressured the administration to cancel the event. Despite its pedigree as a descendant of the Muslim Brotherhood, Temple's MSA has standing with school administrators as an ethnic grievance group. But it was the implied threat behind their aggrieved protests about the speech that got the university's attention—to raise hell if Wilders was allowed to appear. Yet Temple was in a bind because it had already okayed the event. Wilders might be controversial, but he was a figure of international stature. However provocative his message, suddenly reversing course and subjecting it to heavy handed censorship would cast the university in a bad light.
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