For more than 250 years, Whig-Clio has embraced controversy and dialogue, because that’s what the Halls are all about: open debate, vital discourse, and even occasionally rancorous exchange of ideas. These traditions have endured near-pitched battles over hosting Alger Hiss and Adm. Thomas Moorer. More recently Whig-Clio hosted Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, whose version of a bomb-equipped Muhammad actually triggered riots against Denmark in parts of the Muslim world.
Apparently this era of free expression at Whig-Clio is over. According to the Nov. 19 Princetonian, in withdrawing his invitation to host Nonie Darwish, an outspoken critic of Shariah and an ex-Muslim, Whig-Clio president Ben Weisman passed the buck to Tigers for Israel (TFI), saying he understood TFI “deemed her views a legitimate element of the mainstream discourse and in part agreed with her incendiary opinions. By rescinding their offer, TFI indicated their understanding that Darwish’s views have no place in the campus community.” [See In Brief in this issue, page 21.]
Let’s see: “Incendiary” views are OK if someone agrees with them, but if no one else does, Whig-Clio won’t stick its neck out. That “reasoning” would have ruled out Hiss, Moorer, and Westergaard, for sure. Yet Mr. Weisman just hosted Mr. Westergaard and bragged about sponsoring a “dialogue about freedom of speech.”
Now, apparently, we need monologue, and a monologue delivered by Sohaib Sultan, campus Muslim-life coordinator, who weighed in heavily against allowing Darwish a forum. Interestingly, Mr. Sultan has succeeded in shutting down presentation of an alternative, if highly charged, vision of Islam — in contrast to his own Koran for Dummies vision, a very much softer and gentler view.
Both perspectives need to be heard. Intimidation and cowardice have made that impossible at Princeton, for now. If Whig-Clio expects to be taken seriously again, this needs to be fixed, and soon.