Are Colleges REALLY Charlie Hebdo?

David Brooks raises a tough question about college culture. In the aftermath of the killings in Paris, shocked observers have voiced their solidarity with the slain writers and editors at Charlie Hebdo. But Brooks challenges college students and deans.

Are today's college students REALLY Charlie?

Are today’s college students REALLY Charlie?

“Let’s face it,” Brooks writes,

If [Charlie Hebdo] had tried to publish their satirical newspaper on any American university campus over the last two decades it wouldn’t have lasted 30 seconds. Student and faculty groups would have accused them of hate speech. The administration would have cut financing and shut them down.

As Brooks points out, critics of Islam such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali have been snubbed by schools such as Brandeis University. And anti-Islam comedian Bill Maher was the subject of a protest by students at Berkeley.

In neither case did students articulate the same sort of Islamic fundamentalism seen in the Charlie Hebdo murders. Rather, students protest that anti-Islam speakers were “racist” and must not be allowed to spew their “hate speech” on an enlightened campus.

Brandeis said it could no longer offer Hirsi Ali an honorary degree due to “certain of her past statements.” Hirsi Ali had apparently condemned all of Islam, not only “radical” Islam. She had called for Islam as a whole to be “defeated.”

In Berkeley, students protested the choice of Bill Maher as commencement speaker. In a much-ballyhooed argument with actor Ben Affleck, Maher denounced Islam as “the only religion that acts like the mafia.” Maher’s anti-Islam comments, students argued, constituted “racist and bigoted remarks.”

Maher himself insisted he still wanted to come to Berkeley. He pointed out the irony of celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of Berkeley’s famous Free Speech Movement by banning a speaker.

Obviously, these “attacks” on anti-Islam speakers are not the same as the murders in Paris, and Brooks does not equate them. But he does raise a question we need to consider: Are campus activists who ban speakers hypocritical when they now claim, “Je Suis Charlie Hebdo?”

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