Reason as the Leading Motive

ARI at Johns Hopkins University

Posted by Jerry on March 20, 2006

“Unveiling the Danish Cartoons: America’s Right to Free Speech”

Dr. Yaron Brook and Dr. Onkar Ghate represented the ARI at this forum organized at the Johns Hopkins University by the campus Objectivist club. One note about the organization of the event: the logistics of the event were handled very poorly. The organizers had made very last minute changes to the location of the event without early notification and without putting up proper signs at the cancelled location. It took me and a few others a whole while to figure out that we were at the wrong place waiting for nothing to happen. Moreover, the organizers had intended to invite one other Islamic panelist but provided such short notice that it was not accepted. I felt the debate could have been more beneficial and engaging with more representation from the Islamic point of view.

Anyway, besides the ARI scholars, other panelists included Mr. Charles Mitchell from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, and Mr. Bash Pharoan, President of the Baltimore County Islamic Council.

Quite frankly, and I am not being biased here, Mr. Pharoan’s arguments were so naïve in many ways – his historical statements so inaccurate – his understanding of his own religion was so inadequate – like for example, he could not get away from the false notion that his “truth” is based on the Koran and therefore, according to him, the Koran speaks of peace and does not permit violence. But it does not take much intellectual effort to realize that even the terrorists base the legitimacy of their actions on the Koran, and even they claim that the Koran speaks the Truth, however their extrapolation of the “truth” somehow is diametrically opposed to the “truth” Mr. Pharoan seems to be reading.

Dr. Brook pointed out correctly that any recourse to “truths” based in holy books is meaningless. He said he did not want to get into the nitty-gritty of which verse of the Koran says what. The general principles and ideologies of Islam, Dr. Brook argued, stood in opposition to fundamental Western values. Islam is a religion – and as all religions, Islam demands its doctrines to be accepted on faith. Any attack on those doctrines – even verbal or pictorial – is considered blasphemous, a sacrilege, a spite on the word of God, His prophet, and His religion. It must be smothered. Thus, faith necessarily stands in opposition to Enlightenment values of reason, persuasion, experimentation, discussion, etc.

Dr. Ghate and Dr. Brook spoke in some length clarifying how Christianity suffered and underwent the same phase of battling Enlightenment values and finally has now come to accept it – keeping Church and State separate just as it keeps Church and Science separate (although both only to some degree). Islam, they argued, needs urgently to undergo that same transformation in order to co-exist peacefully with cultures that embrace the Enlightenment values. Islamic theocracies and Islamic infiltration in all aspects of a human’s life is the ideological cause of its embattlement with Western values.

During most of the event, Mr. Mitchell from FIRE was mostly silent – because he really had nothing to say. In the rare moments that he did speak, Mitchell displayed a disgustingly cowardly defense of his values by prefacing every argument he made by a long line of disclaimers. He made it a point to not take a position on the religious and philosophical principles underlying the Free Speech issue (in the context of the violent Muslim reaction), and even though his arguments were supposed to be for the protection of speech, he offered nothing more than mere repeated assertions with no persuasive force of principle or philosophy. There were times when Dr. Ghate or Dr. Brook had to provide those foundations to Mr. Mitchell’s statements. At one point Dr. Ghate even pointed out that while he agreed with Mr. Mitchell’s sentiments, his logic was flawed – and then Dr. Ghate proceeded to trace the proper logical argument. The issue was concerning American political system as being a democracy or not. Dr. Ghate very logically demonstrated that America was not originally created, and we are still not a democracy as such, but a Republic founded on the rights of individuals that are enshrined in our Constitution.

Dr. Brook pointed out that the Declaration of Independence is a very insulting document to the monarchy of England and to all monarchies in general. And that is the spirit of freedom and independence that America was built upon. Therefore, Dr. Brook argued, that the right to insult is among the very essential guarantees of the right to free speech. Dr. Brook also heavily derided the Europeans for their contradictory mess of hate-speech laws and pointed out correctly that there is no such thing as hate-speech, and it should not be punishable by law.

Mr. Pharoan kept insisting that the militant factions of Islam were a terribly small minority, and that they did not represent the true Islamic religion. Dr. Brook argued that unless the Islam community on the whole did not accept and realize that they have a true and real crisis in their religion, that their religion is truly being hijacked by a sizeable, powerful, and ruthless number of militants, they will not be able to convince anybody that Islam is a religion of peace. The militant ideologues – even if they are only a minority – are certainly speaking louder in actions and slogans than the rest of the Islamic communities. And America has a right to respond to them with equal force, and western newspapers should stand together in solidarity and print more offensive cartoons or publications to purposely spite the violent anti-freedom rioters.


3 Responses to “ARI at Johns Hopkins University”

  1. Myrhaf said

    Nice report. Sounds like a great evening.

  2. innommable said

    No one’s rioting because we’re gaying Jesus up a little bit.


  3. […] In discussions of human rights–especially, the right to liberty, free speech, and free expression–many people are rather quick to point out that “with rights come responsibilities.” These people were the most vocal during the whole Danish Muhammad cartoons fiasco. People condemned the western press and newspapers, including the Ayn Rand Institute, for exhibiting insensitivity and intolerance by preaching a dogmatic adherence to rights without the temperance of responsibilities. […]

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