I’ve seen folks on Facebook post this story, apparently approvingly, about a Purdue University Calumet prof asserting his right to ridicule Islam and Mohammad on Facebook. Professor Maurice Eisenstein, an associate professor of political science, says he asked on Facebook, “Where were the moderate Muslims? They must be listening to that idiot Mohammad.” The school launched an investigation of his remarks, and in response, Eisenstein is suing the school. He said the investigation was a violation of his First Amendment rights to free speech.
According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which is defending him:
The PUC Muslim Student Association and several students and faculty members had filed harassment complaints against professor Maurice Eisenstein after he criticized moderate Muslims who he believed had not condemned “radical Muslim” terrorism in Nigeria. Two faculty members had also filed retaliation complaints against Eisenstein, who came to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) for help.
“This is not the first time and it won’t be the last time we will see a university punish a student or professor for constitutionally protected speech on Facebook,” said FIRE President Greg Lukianoff. “Professors at public universities should not have to go to court to defend their free speech rights.”
The irony here, which I am betting will be lost on folks who see Eisenstein as an anti-Muslim hero and free speech martyr, is that FIRE is also defending The Medium, the Rutgers student newspaper that made a Hitler joke at the expense of a campus pro-Israel activist. In that case, the Zionist Organization of America and other Jewish groups are welcoming the university’s probe and urging that the newspaper and its faculty adviser be censured. “While we all respect the First Amendment as the bulwark of a free society, we do not believe the Medium should be allowed to hide behind a First Amendment claim,” state Jewish federations wrote to the Rutgers administration.
At least FIRE is consistent: They want the campus to be a robust marketplace of ideas according to the Constitution. “Eisenstein’s colleagues ganged up on him to punish him for his protected expression,” says FIRE Vice President of Programs Adam Kissel. “The best remedy for ‘bad’ speech is more speech, not this pattern of wild prosecution.”
I wonder if Eisenstein’s fans at FrontPageMag.com and on Facebook would extend that principle to a Muslim professor who attacked Jews, Judaism or Israel. I’m guessing not.