UK Politics

Badger Speaks

A commenter at MediaWatchWatch has reproduced a response he has had from Professor Tony Badger, Master of Clare College Cambridge:

The issue at stake is not the publication of the cartoon but the possible incitement to prejudice in the whole edition against large sections of College Community – gays, Jews, Muslims – with college funding. Apart from the criminal law which is out of our hands. I hope that the standard disicplinary proceedings within the College will clarify whether there is an issue for disiciplinary action or not.

Here are two possibilities:

(A) The Cambridge Evening News report, and the other news reports which followed it, has misrepresented this controversy as being principally about the the causing of offence to the sensibilities of religious muslims.
Clare College operates a student disciplinary code which allows it to take action against “incitement to prejudice”, generally. Complaints have been received from all sections of the college and university community, and not simply muslims. The College response is premised on the danger that prejudice has been being incited against a wide range of different cultural groups: not simply or exceptionally muslims. The college would have taken action against the magazine, whatever the cultural group ridiculed.

(B) Clare College’s reaction is in fact a response to publication of material which is regarded as offensive to muslims. The student has been “put in a secure place” because of fear of a violent muslim reaction. The college chaplain has “met members of the Islamic Society and a local Imam”” in response to complaints received from muslims. The claim that the college has been motivated by a desire to punish “incitement to prejudice” against “gays, Jews, Muslims” is an ex post facto justification.

I simply can’t tell.

WhiteKnight at ConstitutionalLore, who has actually seen the “Crucification” issue says:

Clareification, the student newspaper of Clare College, has a tradition of ridiculing the racism or bigotry it ostensibly portrays though its sheer outrageousness. Even for those schooled in its unique brand of satire, however, last week’s renamed Crucification issue appalled. An attack on Islam and Christianity, it featured both the most controversial of the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons and the most vile and unambiguous Islamophobia. It was the material surrounding the former which has found its way into the press, however, suggesting that the Clare authorities are attempting to conceal the general content of the issue behind the controversy of cartoon republication. This may be designed as a damage limitation exercise on their part, but it comes with its own dangers.

From what was reported in the student, local and national papers, it appeared heavy handed for Clare to establish a Court of Discipline with the prospect of sending the guest editor down, which seemed to suggest that the College would no longer tolerate simply the causing of offence. Having since been able to get my hands on one of the few copies of Crucification left after Clare called them all in to be destroyed I can now appreciate the severity with which they are treating the matter – and I pulled the article before TCS went to press. But those without the contacts to get behind Clare’s wall of silence can only guess at where the authorities are coming from, and will draw the appropriate spurious conclusions. The danger of a partial cover-up is that the message sent out will not be the unacceptability of Islamophobia, but that a bastion of student free-thought is calling for timidity in cross-cultural critique. Clare’s ambiguity to save its reputation risks fuelling the misunderstanding and suspicion of cultural difference that only frank discussion can dispel.


Brownie adds:

Hmm….curiouser and curiouser.

Here’s a selection of messages from a thread posted on the Studentroom forum:

One of the big issues about it was that only Islam was ridiculed in the article. I don’t think there would have been so much uproar if Christianity was joked about as well. All the fuss seems to have died down a bit now though, but it has tainted Clare’s reputation a little, although I’m sure it will soon be forgotten.
The newspapers have not reported the whole story. There are several details that they have not reported, and the case isn’t as cut and dried as they make out.
I haven’t read the newspaper reports, just the original article. And it only made fun of Islam, which is why I think that there was such an uproar.

If these comments are accurate, then the response from Badger above makes no sense. Seemingly, there was no satirization of Jews and Gays or anything other than Islam and Muslims.

In some ways, this gives Clare a stronger hand. I am inclined to be suspicious of the motives of the guest editor if an entire edition of Clareification was given over to the “satirization” of one religion only. But then it does beg the question: why would Badger claim that other religions and creeds were targeted if they were not?

Of course, what would help is if we were clear about is the precise nature of the content, over and above the little we already know. Whiteknight claims above:

it featured both the most controversial of the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons and the most vile and unambiguous Islamophobia..

That’s “and”, as in the “vile and unambiguous Islamaphobia” is not represented by the cartoons. So what is this “vile and unambiguous Islamaphobia”? If I were a college official looking to justify the action against the editor, I’d make bloody sure the “vile and unambiguous” stuff made it into the public domain. Don’t mention the cartoons and simultaneously suppress the overt racism/bigotry if you don’t want to build a suspicion that the cartoons were the worst of it.

Perhaps Whiteknight can fill in the blanks?