Muslim students at the University of Cape Town (UCT) have added their voice to the debate around the university’s banning of controversial journalist Flemming Rose. In September 2005, cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) were published by Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten, under the editorial direction of Rose.
UCT’s management has come under fire for withdrawing an invitation to Rose to speak at the TB Davie Memorial Lecture on academic freedom, for fear of possible protests.
Whilst most students are not familiar with the controversy surrounding Rose, a few of the students belonging to the Muslim Students Association (MSA) at UCT agreed with the fact that Rose should be disinvited from speaking at the university.
Yaaseen Kippie says that Rose published the cartoon and knew that it would offend people in such a manner. He spoke in reference to the protests that occurred following the publishing of the cartoons in September 2005.
“If we were to do that to any other religious figure then I’m sure that there would be uproar not only from a religious perspective, but also from an academic perspective and the debate around what constitutes free speech,” explained Kippie.
“And free speech is a very paradoxical term because speech itself has limitations and the reason why we felt Rose should not come is because of that.”
At the end of the day, Kippie says that it was not up to Muslims to decide whether Rose was able to speak at the university, but up to the university itself.
“I feel that it wasn’t really a Muslim problem, but an academic problem. It wasn’t really up to us because we (Muslims) only have a voice. UCT itself felt that is was a breach of academic rules and regulations within the country itself because defamatory laws are applicable all over the world.
However Kippie adds that he doesn’t believe that the university should actually ban people from coming to express their views.
“I don’t agree that they should not have let him come, but I do agree that he breached the limits of free speech.”
“Personally I don’t mind him coming. I wasn’t offended by the invitation because the Prophet taught that we shouldn’t be reactionary. But you can’t deny the fact that many Muslims will be offended because the Prophet is a figure that we all love deeply,” Kippie continued.
Another student, Irfan Sulaiman agrees that Rose should be disinvited, but he disagrees with the reasons set out by Vice Chancellor Max Price as to why the invitation sent to Rose was revoked.
“I think it misrepresents what Islam stands for so I don’t know why he used the potential for violence as the main reason for disinviting him,” Sulaiman went further.
“My personal reasons for not wanting him here is that academic freedom and freedom of expression should not be used as an excuse to perpetuate hate speech and stereotypes in society that should not be there.”
VOC (Umarah Hartley)