University of Maryland Bars Airing Of American Sniper After Muslim Students Denounce It As Offensive

American_Sniper_posterA board at the University of Maryland announced it will postpone indefinitely the screening of “American Sniper” on campus after Muslim organizations opposed the watching of the film as anti-Islamic and offensive. I have not seen the movie, but the effort to prevent other people from watching films set badly with me both in terms of free speech as well as the pluralistic values governing university communities. The movie was critically acclaimed and nominated for six oscars, including best picture, actor (Bradley Cooper) and adapted screenplay. Even people like Michele Obama have publicly proclaimed how the movie touched them. This is not to say that they are right. However, opposing other people from seeing a major artistic work is part of a growing effort to curtail free speech in the West and particularly on college campuses.

We have seen a crackdown on free speech in the West. For other recent columns, click here and here and here. This trend has only increased after the massacre at Charlie Hebdo in the West. What is particularly worrisome is that these attacks on free speech are being done in the name of pluralism and tolerance.

9780300124729The role of universities and private organizations in this trend is equally worrisome. This includes the disgraceful decision of Yale University Press to delete all of the Muhammad cartoons that triggered a spasm of murders and church burnings by Muslims around the world. Yale removed the cartoon from Jytte Klausen’s “The Cartoons That Shook the World.”

There has been a campaign across the country by Muslim students and faculty to ban the film as offensive. The University of Maryland’s Muslim Student Association declared that “American Sniper only perpetuates the spread of Islamophobia and is offensive to many Muslims around the world for good reason. This movie dehumanizes Muslim individuals, promotes the idea of senseless mass murder, and portrays negative and inaccurate stereotypes.”

There are many films that are objectionable from different perspectives. I never liked Zero Dark Thirty (2012) from a civil liberties stand point because it perpetuated the myth that torture was the key in finding Bin Laden or that it is somehow justified by such results. However, I would not seek to prevent others from seeing it. I am satisfied with voicing my objections to the accuracy and implied message of the film.

Recently, a similar effort led to initially to the canceling of a showing of American Sniper at the University of Michigan but later relented to showing the film after public outcry.

Maryland pulled the film after the objections but failed to explain where this line is drawn over groups preventing students from seeing films on campus. However, Student Entertainment Events, announced that it was contemplating “an event where students can engage in CONSTRUCTIVE and moderated dialogues about the controversial topics proposed in the film.” Once again, it is not clear whether other films would be subject to such special measures if groups or individuals object. While I commend the group for seeking a compromise, I remain disturbed by the lack of clarity in the standard for such postponements or barring of films. Any group can schedule a discussion about a film on their own. It does not serve their interests to be seen trying to deny free speech in this way to others on campus. We have long maintained that the solution to bad speech is more speech — not the denial of unpopular speech. There has been no restriction on the Muslim student group from planning such discussions. The question is why other students should be prevent or postponed in seeing a major and critically acclaimed movie.

What do you think?

192 thoughts on “University of Maryland Bars Airing Of American Sniper After Muslim Students Denounce It As Offensive”

  1. Hopefully, if/when the University conversation about American Sniper takes place at UMd, it’s pointed out to the MSA that Petty Officer Kyle’s mission was not anti-Muslim.

    From United Nations Security Council Resolution 1511 (2003) (link):

    13. Determines that the provision of security and stability is essential to the successful completion of the political process as outlined in paragraph 7 above and to the ability of the United Nations to contribute effectively to that process and the implementation of resolution 1483 (2003), and authorizes a multinational force under unified command to take all necessary measures to contribute to the maintenance of security and stability in Iraq, including for the purpose of ensuring necessary conditions for the implementation of the timetable and programme as well as to contribute to the security of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, the Governing Council of Iraq and other institutions of the Iraqi interim administration, and key humanitarian and economic infrastructure;

  2. terry6400 said…

    The “absolute right to be offended” began 150 years ago when Abraham Lincoln and his minions were offended by the South’s desire to be independent and shortly thereafter invaded the South, murdered countless women and children, and declared an undying but false love for the black race.

    You over simplify that period and the reasons for the Civil War. Jim Crow did not evolve from anything “false,” (it was real to them) it evolved in the south from those who refused to admit defeat. My great grand father fought on the Union side, as a cavalry officer, and was an abolitionist to the core. He lost three horses to gunfire but survived. It’s not “love” of the “black race”…if we must call it that, but simply disgust with the concept of slavery spreading across the country. If your kids were “different” as mine is as an “Amer-Asian” (the term disgusts me) would you call slavery for her kind right or wrong or of no consequence? A “false love” to be offended, if felt? Would you say anyone objecting, who are offended, to be immaterial?

    It’s not about a “love” for those different than others, though we are the majority so far, but simply respect for them. If we ask it for ourselves, we need to provide it for others, who ever they might be.

    That said, I don’t think what you wrote is what you think. At least I hope not.

    As a veteran of an ugly war, I know innocents die, and in fact my theory is that the children who endure those wars pay the ultimate price for it. The sole war memento I have is the 16×20 photograph in my living room of two very young smiling children, behind barbed wire, that remind me of those horrible days…and who pays for them. As French correspondent, and author, Jules Roy, said from Hanoi circa 1953-1954, “when we must barricade against children, something is very wrong” [paraphrased] since I am at present too lazy to look up the actual words. None the less, they apply and I can’t forget the import of them. I am frequently haunted by the question: do the kids I befriended remember me, or at least my squad? We tried. Even in the midst of ugliness, there is time to be humane and in fact human. I don’t know any veterans who won’t admit, even if reluctantly, that what I feel is valid.

  3. This sort of thing is par for the course at UM, the academic PC capital of the East. (I would have much preferred it become the UCLA of the East; alas Lefty was never able to make it happen – but that’s whole ‘nother miserable chapter in UM’s PC history.)

  4. All the hype the offended folks complain about is causing the automatic loss of freedoms world wide. Freedom of speech, the press and religion is in the cross hairs of the intolerant crowd. It’s impossible to walk ten feet these days without running into someone who is not offended about some issue. The right to be offended trumps ALL rights and freedoms, and freedoms must take a back seat on the bus.

    The “absolute right to be offended” began 150 years ago when Abraham Lincoln and his minions were offended by the South’s desire to be independent and shortly thereafter invaded the South, murdered countless women and children, and declared an undying but false love for the black race. The right to be offended has matured into what we have today. Our enemies throughout the world are using the same excuse to stop America from defending against its enemies.

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