A derogatory letter bashing Muslims in the student newspaper at the University of Michigan-Flint outraged some campus members, prompting a university apology and pleas for stricter journalism standards.
But the student editors who published the inflammatory letter - which described all Muslims as "ungrateful, self-centered peons who are beneath the rest of civilized society" and "selfish brats" - called it free speech.
Following a month of back-and-forth letters to the editor and criticism of The Michigan Times for publishing the Sept. 17 opinion piece, students hosted a forum Tuesday to discuss the First Amendment.
About 50 students - including some who came for a class assignment - filled Clint's Cafe in the University Center for the forum "Free Speech: Is it really free?" Four panel members represented the newspaper, Muslims and expertise in journalism and hate speech.
In an often passionate debate, most students protested what they deemed irresponsible journalism. . .
Iman Abdulrazzak, 18, of UM-Flint's Muslim Student Association, said many Muslims decided the letter was too ignorant to elicit any response.
She said she was pleasantly surprised that non-Muslims were offended.
"Free speech allows for such pieces as this, although it's slanderous and bigoted," she said. "The real problem is there are still people who actually believe such things.
"It was shocking to see it on a college campus because you know people here are educated, and we live in a city of such diversity." . . .
"We do fully support free speech," said Dawud Walid, executive director for the Michigan branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "At the same time, blanket generalizations that seek to demonize an entire demographic of people (are) dangerous."
Interim Chancellor Jack Kay, who sat on the panel as a hate speech expert, said he would never advocate censorship but denounced the newspaper's decision.
"I think it was poor judgment," said Kay, who offered the campus an official apology for the letter. "There are better ways to get this kind of discussion going." (MORE)