Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Islamophobia at U of M Flint

http://www.mlive.com/news/flintjournal/index.ssf?/base/news-46/1192629122104170.xml&coll=5

UM-Flint struggles over nasty letter to paper

THE FLINT JOURNAL FIRST EDITION
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
By Beata Mostafavi

FLINT - A derogatory letter bashing Muslims in the student newspaper at the University of Michigan-Flint outraged some campus members, prompting a university apology and pleas for stricter journalism standards.

But the student editors who published the inflammatory letter - which described all Muslims as "ungrateful, self-centered peons who are beneath the rest of civilized society" and "selfish brats" - called it free speech.

Following a month of back-and-forth letters to the editor and criticism of The Michigan Times for publishing the Sept. 17 opinion piece, students hosted a forum Tuesday to discuss the First Amendment.

About 50 students - including some who came for a class assignment - filled Clint's Cafe in the University Center for the forum "Free Speech: Is it really free?" Four panel members represented the newspaper, Muslims and expertise in journalism and hate speech.

In an often passionate debate, most students protested what they deemed irresponsible journalism.

"It offended me that someone would single out an entire religion like this," said student Greg Lipinski, 21, who is a Christian. "I think the MTimes runs just about anything.

"Definitely there should be a change in standards. You can't just publish everything."

The letter's author, who is also listed as a contributing writer for the paper, did not attend and could not be reached for comment.

The newspaper, which ran an editorial calling the writer's opinion troubling, stood behind the decision. Editors said it exposed existing racism and forced dialogue.

"It's the practice of the MTimes to not censor any letter to the editor," editor-in-chief Amanda Durish, who couldn't attend the forum, told The Flint Journal. "Just because I disagree with it, I don't shut it down. I think these opinions are definitely useful to the university community."

"We do fully support free speech," said Dawud Walid, executive director for the Michigan branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "At the same time, blanket generalizations that seek to demonize an entire demographic of people (are) dangerous."(MORE)

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