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Jun 6, 2013 2 Comments ›› admin


The ANU should hang its head in shame. Students and staff have stood idly by while their own administrators have attacked their freedom of speech and expression. They, like the Chancelry, have buckled when threatened by religious bullies. And they have done so with barely a peep.

          The facts of the case are simple. The student newspaper Woroni has been publishing a series of satires on various religions. They began with Catholicism then moved to Scientology, Mormonism, and Judaism. So far so good. Oh sure, there were some protests from devotees but that was part of the process. However, then came Islam. And that’s when the ANU was put to the test.

          Universities by their nature are concerned with the quest for the truth of the matter and religions – by their nature – claim to have discovered the answers already. The two modes of thought are in natural conflict and over the centuries the universities have gradually undermined the ignorance and fear that their adversary feeds upon. But there is still a long way to travel before either side can claim the final victory.

          Each uses a range of rhetorical devices in the struggle and at the pointy end the religions demand censorship. And since reason – by its nature – is an ineffective weapon against faith, their opponents resort to humour, sarcasm and satire to highlight its absurdities. But not, apparently when it comes to Islam, and certainly not at the ANU.

          According to a statement from the Woroni editors, the university’s administrators last week threatened ‘all Woroni editors and all three authors of the piece’ with academic misconduct that could lead to ‘exclusion from the university’. In the face of these threats the editors removed the offending material.

          The Vice-Chancellor Ian Young told ABC radio, ‘There have been a number of cases internationally of satirical cartoons about the Koran which can have some very unfortunate side-effects…we felt that it actually breached the rules of the university in terms of students’ conduct.’   

          This is a tragedy. For it is an extremist and distorted form of   Islam that today represents the greatest threat to peace. Indeed, our troops have been fighting its leaders inAfghanistan. Violence between Islamic sects is raging inSyriaandIraq. Our shores are beckoning an increasing number of refugees fromIran.Britainis convulsed with rage over Islamic extremist atrocities in their streets.

          Clearly, censorship which has been imposed quite unashamedly since the fatwa on Salman Rushdie in 1989, is not helpful. It merely protects the purveyors of hate from exposure. It actually empowers them since it gives an official imprimatur to their eminently contestable beliefs.         This is bad enough when the mass media bow their knee as happened when a Danish newspaper published a satirical cartoon. But it is outrageous when applied to a student newspaper in what purports to be a leader in the great quest to bring enlightenment to the dark corners of  the human experience.

          The faculty opted out. Perhaps they have forgotten the words of  Edmund Burke that graduate of TrinityCollege, Dublin: ‘Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.’

Below are three of the four infographics approved to be published   (couldn’t locate the Mormonism one). Click on the images for a larger version.









  1. Andrew Copp says:

    Hi Robert,

    I wholeheartedly agree with your questioning the censorship by ANU administrators of the Student (Woroni) Islam article. I am perplexed that Islam (purported by their spokespeople as the ‘religion of peace’? has such influence to bend the minds of these administrators to stop such an article being published. I have always thought one definition of a bully is that – ‘all is fine, until you question/confront’. In this case, the ANU seems to have voluntarily taken on the victim’s role, taking action to yield to the bully tactics of this on many occasions heavy-handed religion. This definitely is a retrograde step, yielding to something because of its possible brutish repercussions rather than standing up and supporting the strong even risky exchange of ideas – a place where universities should be.

  2. Mervin says:

    Howdy just wanted to give you a quick heads up. The words in your article
    seem to be running off the screen in Firefox. I’m not sure if this is a formatting issue or something to do with web browser compatibility but I figured I’d
    post to let you know. The style and design look great though!
    Hope you get the issue fixed soon. Many thanks

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