Over the weekend, people from a fraternity hospitalized our brother deriding and depriving him of his dignity. They accosted him repeatedly with the N-word. Yesterday, I attended a sit in organized by our beautiful students. Students continually challenge the unequivocal support of hate/free speech on campus.
As we move closer to the Islamic new year, (btw Happy Rosh Hashana!), I can’t help but think of what Imam Husayn would do in this situation or the parallel’s within the Prophetic tradition. Surely, we must advance towards the common good. To sit for justice.
What I wish my students would consider is the economics behind the defense of free speech. In the Quran, God revealed, “Let them worship the Lord of this House, Who has fed them, [saving them] from hunger and made them safe, [saving them] from fear” (106:3-4).
Allah is trying to quell the economic concerns of those rejecting truth. The truth is obvious, the N-word is not hate speech, it is “incitement to violence” (Rev. Clark West).
The proponents of “free speech” are rarely driven by egalitarian virtue but rather we are driven by economic and personal gains. What happens to donations when a well funded frat is punished? What happens to the economy in the arid desert of Mecca when people stop coming for the idol festivals?
Hajj, a spiritual pilgrimage for seekers of truth. What happens to the applications of brilliant students of color when they know an institution will stand up for them unequivocally? What happens to student and alumni investment when they recall institutional support during their time of vulnerability? What’s the benefit of a moral response?
Millions would flow into the desert of our institutions if we commit to what we know is right. To refuse money that is spiritually bankrupt is a start.
Practically, we should ask ourselves who will financially support our institutions if they act beautifully? How do we get these people and foundations to weigh in on our advancement of the common good? Do we believe in the possibility of something Greater?