Justice and reconciliation

Is there something in the water in Cambridge, or what? Is everybody crazy there? Crazy as in stark raving mad?

A Cambridge University student who sparked a huge row when he published anti- Islamic material has issued a grovelling apology. The 19-year-old second-year Clare College student went into hiding after he printed a cartoon and material satirising religion in college magazine Clareification…A Clare College spokesman said: “Because of the gravity of the situation and the diversity of views expressed about the best way of handling it, the Dean of Students set in train procedures for convening the Court of Discipline. As events unfolded, however, a collective decision was taken to pursue instead a course of restorative justice and reconciliation. The general and the guest editor were both formally reprimanded by the Dean of Students, and were also interviewed by the Master. The guest editor was required to publish an apology, and also to meet any students who asked to see him as well as senior representatives of Cambridge religious communities.”

The ‘gravity of the situation’? What gravity? What situation? Why was there any need to ‘handle’ it at all? What business did anyone have convening a Court of Discipline when no crime had been committed? (Had it? Please tell me Cambridge doesn’t actually have a law on the books against publishing cartoons. Please, please, please tell me that.) And what on earth makes them think there is any need to pursue ‘a course of restorative justice and reconciliation’? That kind of language is used in contexts of mass murders, years of systematic oppression, torture, war crimes, genocide. It’s not usually wheeled out because someone published a fairly mild cartoon! The imbecilic writer of the article can talk about ‘anti- Islamic material’ but no one is obliged to take that ridiculous phrase at face value.

A note of apology was distributed to all college members. The college is now arranging a meeting for next term to discuss the problem of maintaining free speech while avoiding offence.

Oh good. Splendid. That should be one hell of a long meeting. As a commenter at Mediawatchwatch wondered, ‘is that at the same meeting that the head of the Maths Department intends to square a circle?’

Thanks to Ben Goldacre to alerting me to this one.

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