Commentary | Actually defend free speech


I’m writing to encourage students to protest against the removal of “radical Islamic books” at Concordia’s Muslim Students’ Association and hope that they can involve the McGill administration to protest this decision.

While I am dubious of the administration’s actions in the past, while I was at McGill they were up in arms to defend free speech “even if it’s not what you want to hear” over a related abortion activism case with Choose Life, so I hope they can apply that here.

Removing these books is also an act of censorship. It also tells members or visitors to the Muslim Students’ Association that they can’t be trusted with such controversial material, which is the worst kind of discrimination.

The real reason behind the book ‘culling,’ whether Concordia admits it or not, is the fear that they will be read by some young Montreal radical who will then decamp to Syria or Iraq and fight for ISIS, as has happened in Europe and the U.S.. Perhaps Concordia is afraid of this, or worse, that they might be held liable.

This assumption is a bit misleading because the reason why many of these young people went to fight for ISIS began with deep discrimination they face, particularly in Europe, and economic marginalization. Reading a controversial text was the last step on the road to radicalization, not the first.

If we only read books that “reflect the law and reflect the values of the institution and our society” (the words of the Concordia administration), it would be profoundly limiting, especially in a university setting.

—Erin Hale, BA Philosophy 2012, former Daily editor