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. That’s the thing with stories…they can say a great many different things, depending on who says them… the only thing we can agree on is St Francis was indeed a man of God!
    So is his current namesake!

  2. This is how wiki tells it…
    In 1219, accompanied by another friar and hoping to convert the Sultan of Egypt or win martyrdom in the attempt, Francis went to Egypt where a Crusader army had been encamped for over a year besieging the walled city of Damietta two miles (3.2 km) upstream from the mouth of one of the main channels of the Nile. The Sultan, al-Kamil, a nephew of Saladin, had succeeded his father as Sultan of Egypt in 1218 and was encamped upstream of Damietta, unable to relieve it. A bloody and futile attack on the city was launched by the Christians on August 29, 1219, following which both sides agreed to a ceasefire which lasted four weeks.[23] It was most probably during this interlude that Francis and his companion crossed the Saracen lines and were brought before the Sultan, remaining in his camp for a few days.[24] The visit is reported in contemporary Crusader sources and in the earliest biographies of Francis, but they give no information about what transpired during the encounter beyond noting that the Sultan received Francis graciously and that Francis preached to the Saracens without effect, returning unharmed to the Crusader camp.[25] No contemporary Arab source mentions the visit.[26] One detail, added by Bonaventure in the official life of Francis (written forty years after the event), has Francis offering to challenge the Sultan’s “priests” to trial-by-fire in order to prove the veracity of the Christian Gospel.

    St. Francis before the Sultan Al-Kamil of Egypt witnessing the trial by fire (wall fresco, Giotto.)
    Such an incident is alluded to in a scene in the late 13th-century fresco cycle, attributed to Giotto, in the upper basilica at Assisi (see accompanying illustration).[27] It has been suggested that the winged figures atop the columns piercing the roof of the building on the left of the scene are not idols (as Erwin Panofsky had proposed) but are part of the secular iconography of the sultan, affirming his worldly power which, as the scene demonstrates, is limited even as regards his own “priests” who shun the challenge.[28][29] Although Bonaventure asserts that the sultan refused to permit the challenge, subsequent biographies went further, claiming that a fire was actually kindled which Francis unhesitatingly entered without suffering burns. The scene in the fresco adopts a position mid-way between the two extremes.

    …however, your recounting sounds better.

  3. During the Crusades, St. Francis of Assisi made a spiritual pilgrimage to “the Holy Land”, he also visited Egypt and was captured by a diabolical and tyrannical Sultan. While in the Sultan’s camp a wager was offered by St. Francis, he agreed to walk into a blazing fire, a conflagration of tremendous heat and power, to see who had the greater faith, and to see who would be protected. The Sultan asked Francis to go first, St. Francis readily obliged and walked through the inferno unscathed as Hananiah, Azariah and Mishael did in the book of Daniel, because they refused to bow down to the pagan idol of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. They walked through the flames untouched as did St. Francis. The Sultan renounced Islam and converted to the Catholic faith.

  4. And any movie people find offensive, for any reason, should be BURNED!

  5. The US is indeed a horrible country. I have no idea why anyone would want to emigrate here. I think the word should be passed from here like a clarion call, DO NOT COME TO THE US. IT IS A TERRIBLE COUNTRY!

  6. April 27, 2015 “Information Clearing House” – “PP” –
    “What do we mean by “civilized?” Well, take a look at its official definition and see if you note any descriptors that are lacking in present day US culture:

    Civilized adjective

    1. Cultured, educated, sophisticated, enlightened, humane All truly civilized countries must deplore torture.

    2. Polite, mannerly, tolerant, gracious, courteous, affable, well-behaved, well-mannered


    A civilized society, then, is one that is humane at its core, that knows right from wrong, and which does not need to conduct lengthy ‘internal reviews’ to discover if videotaped brutality is indeed showing illegal abuse

    My first Uber lift was in South Carolina. My driver was from Sudan originally, but had emigrated to the US 20 years ago. Being the curious sort, I asked him about his life in Sudan and why he moved. He said that he left when his country had crumbled too far, past the point where a reasonable person could have a reasonable expectation of personal safety, when all institutions had become corrupted making business increasingly difficult. So he left.
    Detecting a hitch in his delivery when he spoke of coming to the US, I asked him how he felt about the US now, 20 years later. “To be honest,” he said, “the same things I saw in Sudan that led me to leave are happening here now. That saddens me greatly, because where else is there to go?”

    It’s time to face some uncomfortable ideas about the state of civilization in the United States. This country is no longer the beacon of freedom illuminating a better way for the world. Why not? Because it has ceased to be civilized.

    The recent spate of police brutality videos and the complete lack of a useful or even sane response by the police unions is shaping my writing here. But it goes well beyond those incidents and extends into all corners of the lives of US citizens now, as police abuse is only one symptom of a much deeper problem.”

  7. Take pride friends, in knowing that when the clash of civilizations you ask for comes to be, you were the foot soldiers who helped ushered it.

    That’s not it though. There is something else. There exists a rather ugly anti-Arab, or more specifically – anti-Islam wave which is being pushed along, gradually building up into a Zeitgeist in US right-wing political and ‘Christian’ discourse. Presently, this is threatening to go mainstream in America. This is partly due to 15 years of the West’s war against Arabs, and a classically conditioned Pavlovian western anxiety surrounding Muslims. This is not just traditional bigotry, or even racism. It is both disturbing – and frightening, not unlike similar Nazi rhetoric which ushered in Germany’s modern dark age. The same patterns are now being mirrored in certain side-shows within the US political circus.

    Within this contrived ‘End Times’ meets the Crusader, or Samuel P. Huntington’s ‘Clash of Civilisations’ dialectic, Arabs and Muslims are almost universally characterized as terrorists and generalised as a universal threat which “must be dealt with”. Given enough time, these same preachers will be eventually craft a similar ‘End Times’ narrative around Russia, or China (some already have).

  8. the two “heathen’s” I encountered at the supermarket were either sneered at, or were viewed with jaw-dropping, mouth gaping horror!…these two buffoons were a shock to our western, civilized, Christian sensibility…as Father Billet told me many years ago..”.a spirit is behind islam…it’s “evil spirit”…true dat!

  9. No doubt Annie! Hence my question to Ari. Furthering understanding is a noble endeavor, however as we see here, most minds are already made up.

    Forgot to mention earlier that the movie’s theatrical run was accompanied by a sharp increase in islamophobia and hate crimes against Muslims, in that light, the students at Michigan were more than justified in protesting it.

  10. 8:53, sorry. And Jonolon’s comment about shooting Muslim Ameticans is @ 2:38PM.

  11. Po, it’s pretty disturbing hearing someone advocating shooting Muslim Americans. Also the nasty denigration of the Muslim couple @8:63 is disgusting.

  12. was shopping at stater bros, the other day…guess what?…a nutty camel jockey was decked out in her idiotic, laughable, gimmicky “bee-keeper” costume, complete with pill box head, with a small grill “it” can look out from…her worthless husband looked like a snake, recently eloped from a wood-pile…these two walking stains should be deported…sooner, rather than later…loved Brad Cooper in this film…awesome film eastwood’s powers of direction were never sharper, with classical restraint…a masterpiece

  13. jonolan, Good to see you commenting here again. I read your blog and enjoy it.

  14. @Aridog

    I do not know if the will or can learn but they will, if they continue, be provided with the lesson and will not be offended by that happenstance.


    Beldar’s view may be warped but, sad as it is to say, he’s not wrong in what facts he presented.

    Of course, he ignores how America treated the Amerikadeutscher Volksbund and how the House Committee on Un-American Activities (Sound familiar in light of his reference to McCarthy) dealt with them. Then that is nature of those who equate a antipathy to Communism with Nazism.

  15. jonolan… from “MAD” to simple combat reconnaissance, many do not know what they advocate…but they will learn.

  16. Beldar here. In WWII the Americans sided with the Soviets against the Nazis. Some of the Americans on the right did not approve– such as the German American Bund. Google that name folks. But the Bund went underground and became the Joe McCarthy dont be soft on Communism wing. There were Communists in America too. And they have gone South especially since Communism went South in Russia. Gorbychov was kind of down the middle. Read his book: Peristroika. From my point of view a radical lefty on this globe goes full circle and touches hands (and cant stand the hands) with the radical righty, because the Planet Earth is round and the righty lefty thing goes full circle not just out horizontally.
    So geographically the rightys speak from a same platform with their backs on that same platform to the leftys and neither know how much their radicalism puts them on a similar stage.
    Here in this university context you have radical muslims wanting to ban a film and they might have support from some lefty non muslims. Oh, its offensive. Oh My! It is illustrative of the global reach of righty lefty- rather than the notion of horizontal dimension. Sometimes birds of a feather flock together, even if they are different species flying on different wings.

    1. Beldar – could I suggest you find a few books on the American involvement in WWII. You have a very warped view.

  17. Aridog said:

    Glad you’re entertained. Yet, you accomplish nothing in fostering understanding.
    Understanding being a two way street, Ari, it takes two. Some seek understanding, others seek to condemn! I have found other places where I get my fill of understanding, here, I amuse myself.
    Po says:
    Have you been following the discussion?

    Ari says:
    No, why would I bother other than to scan?
    Hence your issue, you keep missing the reason for the berating…I am the kid who always gets caught kicking back and gets in trouble…while the sibling who always start it escape 🙂
    However, I see what you are saying, rise above the islamophobes and the bullies, don’t respond to the ad hominems, the misinformation, the taunts and labels… overall, be better than they are.
    Will be hard but I’ll try 🙂

  18. AR Erb … your summary is NOT what was posited by randyjet. Care to comment specifically on his comments?

  19. Po said …

    I am enjoying myself…quite a bit I might say.

    Glad you’re entertained. Yet, you accomplish nothing in fostering understanding.

    …have you been following the discussion?

    No, why would I bother other than to scan?

  20. Isaac,
    I am glad you clarified your stance. When I read your earlier reply, you seemed to be one who was civilian ownership of guns.

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