University introduces "blasphemy law" for fear of Muslim violence

The Australian National University has banned the satirisation of Islam after a student newspaper published a Quranic passage as a "rape fantasy"

by The Commentator on 31 May 2013 11:08


The Australian National University (ANU) has apparently banned the satirisation of Islam for fear of inciting violence and creating a backlash. 

The Australian newspaper reported this week that the ANU cited international violence in the wake of the Danish cartoons and Innocence of Muslims film to justify its decision to force student newspaper Woroni to pulp a satirical infographic which described a passage from the Qu'ran as a "rape fantasy".

The university also reportedly threatened student authors and editors of the infographic with disciplinary action, including academic exclusion and the withdrawal of the publication's funding. Critics have argued that the university is effectively introducing a "blasphemy law" seeking to protect Islam from criticism. 

The piece was the fifth in a satirical series entitled "Advice from Religion" which had previously discussed Catholicism, Scientology, Mormonism and Judaism - none of which drew complaint or university action.

In the April 16th edition of Woroni, authors Jamie Freestone, Mathew McGann and Todd Cooper posed the question, "How should I value women?"

Their answers referenced Aisha, the prophet Mohammed's nine-year-old wife, and described the 72 "houris" - women depicted in the Qu'ran as large-bosomed virgins who are a reward in paradise - as a "rape fantasy".

Following the publication of the paper, the editors were summoned to a meeting with the university's pro-vice chancellor for student experience following a formal complaint from the ANU Students' Association's International Students' Department. 

Woroni was informed that it had breached regulations and Australian Press Council guidelines, and that its work posed a threat to the university's security.

A university statement said: "In a world of social media, (there is) potential for material such as the article in question to gain attention and traction in the broader world and potentially harm the interests of the university and the university community. This was most clearly demonstrated by the Jyllands-Posten cartoon controversy ... and violent protests in Sydney on September 15 last year."

The editors co-operated with the university's ban on the parody, raising concerns about the precedent set for freedom of speech on campus and the new "blasphemy" laws.

The Australian also reported that during the controversy, a member of the International Students' Department said words to the effect of, "I don't think you understand the seriousness of this. In Pakistan, people get shot for this kind of thing."

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