This story appears in the Cambridge Evening News:
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. For his own safety and that of others, the student, who is British, has not been named. During the initial furore surrounding the publication he was taken out of his accommodation and put in a secure place. Cartoons which had sparked worldwide protests in the Muslim community were reprinted in the edition. The college has promised to take action to prevent a similar incident occurring.
Part of the student's apology read: "I understand that this edition has caused deep offence and hurt to very many people, both inside and outside Clare, through its derogatory references to individuals and also to various groups, including women, Jews, Christians and Muslims."
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."
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. Guidelines for student publications are to be drawn up.
I haven't seen the magazine and am just talking on the level of general principles. It's worth being clear on what is and is not wrong in the college's response. My view is analogous to the issues surrounding civiity codes, which I wrote about last week. (Those comments are reproduced here, along with the views of other bloggers.) I am a near-absolutist on free speech - so including blasphemy and Holocaust denial, but excluding incitement to crime. My belief in free speech does not, however, require me to extend a platform of my own to anyone who wants it. I don't have a monopoly of the print and broadcasting media, and still less do I have a monopoly of force; if you ask me to display in my window an election poster for your party and I decline, I am not abridging your freedom of expression.
This magazine is, as I understand it, produced under the auspices of Clare College and substantially paid for by the college. I could wish that the college would stand by the republication of the Danish cartoons, but it isn't obliged to do so and is entitled to take a judgement on an editor who does publish them. If - much to my regret, and unlike the principled stand taken by newspaper editors in France, Germany and Italy - the British press collectively has not published the cartoons, then it is a little hard to expect a Cambridge College to take a stand on the issue.
What is unconscionable about the college's position is its espousal of the entirely spurious notion that free speech needs to be kept in balance with the avoidance of offence, and specifically the avoidance of offence to religious "communities". If a constituent college of a great and ancient university doesn't want something published under its auspices, then so be it. For the college to manufacture a pernicious and anti-intellectual principle justifying that choice is a betrayal of its calling.
In the next issue of the quarterly magazine Index on Censorship, to be published next month, I have an article entitled "The Tyranny of Moderation: Respect and Civility are the Enemies of Free Speech", in which I argue what's wrong with subordinating speech to the cause of civility. I'll return to the subject here in due course.