Commentary | Perspectives on campus discourse: toward maturity

In response to Haaris Khan and the resulting media backlash

The discourse surrounding the Twitter incident two weeks ago has been anything but collegial or positive on campus and social media platforms. Commentary has ranged from calling Haaris Khan an anti-Semite, to asserting that he is a terrorist, to criticizing The Daily for not printing a story for which there was no new information, to calling for new investigations into the admittedly threatening and racist tweets posted by Khan on March 14 and 15. Believe what you will about Khan’s beliefs or intentions – I don’t claim to speak on his behalf, as so many are wont to do – but please don’t make more of the incident than the Montreal Police or the administration did.  We as students have no more insight into the incident than these entities – the ones appropriate for handling such things – and to claim that we do, or that they somehow erred in their judgment, accomplishes nothing.  If anyone was in the wrong throughout this entire ordeal, it was those who came out violently against Khan without knowing the whole story.

 

I do not wish to diminish the seriousness of the event, or to undermine the fear felt by those who attended the Libertarian club’s screening of Indoctrinate U. I do, however, wish to criticize these individuals, and those who jumped on their bandwagon, for the way they have handled this particular event, and for what their behaviour says about the future of campus discourse.

 

I am just as righteously indignant as any other student who writes for the campus media, though I cannot help but feel the need to distance myself from my peers who have commented on this incident in other outlets. Starting a Facebook group demonizing Khan and calling for his expulsion while simultaneously labelling him an anti-Semite is not constructive, nor is regurgitating the same information over and over again in the press. In this case, I think the issue is less about whether or not the charges of hate, et cetera, brought against Khan are true, and much more substantially about whether or not our commentary and behaviour – as both a student body and participants in the media, have been constructive – or just pointless and harmful.

 

Through that lens, it becomes obvious that both what people have said about Khan and the way they have said it are just as hateful as the original act. I neither defend what was said in the tweets, nor do I believe that punishment is unwarranted, but I have no faith in my fellow students when they respond with more immaturity than the student against whom they throw their insults.

 
I think we should all take principled stances on issues we believe in, but hate is not a principle I can stand behind, no matter who champions it – be it Khan or the bloggers at the Prince Arthur Herald. There is a difference between respect, civility, and downright cowardice in collegial campus dialogue, and I believe we would be remiss to ignore that difference. As such, if someone is wrong, I am going to tell them so, and will do so now: you are all wrong. You are needlessly cruel and blatantly biased and irrational. End of story.

Read the corresponding point-counterpoint here.

Courtney Graham is a U3 Political Science and IDS student and The Daily’s Commentary editor. She can be reached at courtney.graham@mail.mcgill.ca.


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