Monday, April 17, 2006

Murdock responds 

Karen Murdock responds to the former Green party candidate for mayor of Minneapolis. This is her complete letter to the Progressive Calendar, unabridged except for inserting the link to the cartoons.

I am sorry to hear that Ms. Farheen Hakeem feels moved to instigate a boycott by Muslims of the college where I teach, Century College in White Bear Lake, because of what she calls my "racism." Before I posted the Danish cartoons of the prophet Muhammad I tried, like any good teacher would, to put them into an educational context by posting background material on the dispute and blank pages for people to respond to the controversy. (You can read more about the case at )

Cartoon riots are unusual and newsworthy. The cartoons that sparked worldwide riots and homicide deserve and even demand to be shown, especially in a college environment. Discussion works best when the people engaging in it can see what they are discussing. Most non-college newspapers in this country have refused to show the cartoons and, despite a student population of 12,000, we have no student newspaper at Century. That seems to me all the more reason to show the cartoons on a faculty bulletin board. (All 12 cartoons, and explanations necessary so that non-Danes can understand them, can be found at .)

I am not a racist. I am a teacher and a seeker after knowledge. It is my proper job to encourage discussion. Ms. Hakeem's attempt to persuade my college administrators to punish me for my actions is unfair.

The fundamental question is, what practices ought to prevail in a humane secular democracy? Just as seekers need to know what they are seeking, so they need to be free from oppression in their search. Open and very vigorous discussion-- even of provocative issues--is the way that we, as free people, deal with controversy. Repressing free speech is short-sighted, shameful, unwise, and untrue to the noble vision and perpetual challenge our Founding Fathers gave us in the Bill of Rights.