Silencing dissenters

The Ex-Muslims of Britain send a message to the NUS:

NUS: Revise Safe Space and No Platform Policies to Facilitate not Restrict Free Expression and Thought

We are deeply concerned by the increasing attempts by the National Union of Students (NUS) and its affiliated Student Unions to silence dissenters – including feminists, apostates, LGBTI rights campaigners, anti-racists, anti-fascists and anti-Islamists – through its use of No-Platform and Safe Space policies.

We stand against all prejudice and discrimination. We agree that free speech does not mean giving bigots a free pass. A defence of free speech includes the right and moral imperative to challenge, oppose and protest bigoted views.

Educational institutions must be a place for the exchange and criticism of all ideas – even those deemed unpalatable by some – providing they don’t incite violence against peoples or communities. Bigoted ideas are most effectively defeated by open debate, backed up by ethics, reason and evidence.

The proviso about inciting violence is of course where the arguments over particulars bite the deepest. I disagree with people who draw the line only at direct orders to go right now and kill specific people…and I also disagree with people who make overwrought claims about violence and genocide. That’s probably the plight of most people. I wish it were the case that relentless demonization never does motivate physical violence against people, but I don’t think it is the case. On the other hand any harsh words could motivate violence, and it won’t do to try to rule out the very possibility by ruling out the harsh words, because that would be the end of free inquiry and discussion.

At any rate, the NUS has been erring way too far on that side, using peculiar and unreasonable criteria.

I’ve emailed Maryam to add me to the list of signers.

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