On February 9th, the Daily Illini at the University of Illinois published the controversial cartoons of Mohammed that have exploded into a world-wide Muslim protest against the right to free speech. The original publishers of these cartoons are hiding in fear of their lives. Embassies are being set on fire. Hundreds of thousands of Muslims world round are calling for the deaths of those who created and printed the cartoons. TU sent the following letter to the Daily Illini, thanking them for their stance in support of free speech. It was published in the print version of the paper on February 13th.
To the Editor:
Allow me to express my strong support for the Daily Illini‘s courageous decision to print controversial cartoons of Mohammed.
I am disappointed to see that the Chancellor of the University of Illinois does not share my opinion. He writes that ?the right to publish incendiary material does not mean a publication must publish that incendiary material?.
Such views are the biggest threat to free speech in our own society. Like our political leaders, the Chancellor apologizes for our freedom of speech, appeases those who bully us into surrendering that freedom?in short, curtails freedom the second it is deemed offensive.
The Chancellor does not outright say that the Daily Illini has no right to free speech. He simply suggests it would be more prudent not to exercise it. He is wrong. When the right to speak is threatened, as the politicians who apologize for it threaten it today, it is then that strong assertions of that right are crucial. If we appease those who threaten us, we are lost. If we qualify the right to free speech, the right ceases to exist. As human beings, our right to speak is not effaced when someone wants us silenced. We have that right always, undyingly, and in principle.
In response to the Chancellor I ask: how better to proclaim the right to speech than to express it in the strongest way possible? What better way to support a hounded editor from Denmark than to re-assert the very action that has won him undeserved hatred and threats against his life?
The Daily Illini, faced with those who attacked the right to speak, as well as those who buckled under that attack, chose to assert that it would not buckle, nor would it abandon a basic principle of freedom. For that, I say, ?thank you?.
Editor, The Undercurrent