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Andrea Tantaros’ speech sparks controversy

What happens when a speaker’s freedom of free speech violates the College’s core values?

Andrea Tantaros, a regular contributor to Fox News, found out pretty quickly.

The Guilfordian obtained a video that shows the lecture in its entirety. A shocking exchange followed comments from Tantaros such as, “Muslims tend to be peaceful only if they are outnumbered.”

Tantaros chided Obama’s foreign policies and called Islam “a religion of hate.”

These statements instigated a passionate response from junior Lyes Benarbane, a philosophy major, who vigorously opposed what he called “hate speech” by Tantaros and pulled no punches in confronting her.

“You should be patently ashamed of yourself, first and foremost, for even remotely implying the sorts of things you are … about Islam,” said Benarbane. “I’m baffled first that you were brought here, that you came into this community and spewed this hate.”

“You know you shouldn’t have come,” said Tantaros, cutting him off. “It’s a free country.”

“I have dialogue with people on the right all the time. Here’s the thing —” said Benarbane who was cut off again.

“It’s a free country,” said Tantaros. “Free speech. But I’m guessing you probably haven’t studied the Koran. I have.”

“First, first and foremost, I’m actually from an Islamic family and I’m damn proud of the type of person I am,” said Benarbane. “First, I’m not a religious person, even if I was—” he was again cut off.

“I can tell,” said Tantaros regarding Benarbane’s lack of religion.

Benarbane said to The Guilfordian that he felt violated by the apparent hate speech. He cannot believe that the College has not spoken up about the talk.

“The College is supposed to be a safe zone,” said Benarbane. “This is not a gray area issue, this is not a free speech issue. This is a hate speech issue. It’s not only f****ed up, it’s personally insulting and hurtful.”

In a series of political talking points, Tantaros brought up the Democrats’ “war on women” and likened government sponsored birth control to helping women buy shoes.

The Guilford College Republicans and Young Americans Foundation, a conservative group, sponsored Tantaros’ visit. Two thousand dollars in college funds were used to bring her to the college.

Both Campus Activities Board and the College Republicans are issuing statements in The Guilfordian today.

William Moore, a senior and president of the Guilford College Republicans, said that Tantaros was selected after watching videos of her Fox show.

“We originally invited a Republican who was an atheist but that fell through, and Andrea was our second choice,” said Moore, who hoped to hear about fiscal responsibility and jobs coming from the Republican pundit.

Jeremy Rinker, visiting professor of peace and conflict studies, told The Guilfordian that he didn’t see the speech; however, Tantaros’ comments bordered on hate speech.

“Is it hate speech?” said Rinker. “It’s certainly an example of categorizing and dehumanizing an entire culture. I am less concerned whether or not it is “hate speech” as I am concerned about the potential violent ramifications of such intolerant language.”

Kent Chabotar, president and professor of political science, said that asking a speaker for an explanation and an appropriate response is usually the best way to clarify an issue.

“Although once a speaker has started, I am unsure how you unstart them,” said Chabotar in an email interview.  “While I deplore gratuitously offensive speech, as I understand many believed this speech to be, I also value free speech and a diversity of views especially on this campus.”

Chabotar told The Guilfordian that the best way to undermine offensive or untrue speech is to respond to the speaker and organizers directly.

 

Message from Campus Activities Board:

Dear Guilford Community,

The Campus Activities Board as a whole would like to offer our sincerest apologies for the inappropriate, hurtful comments Andrea Tantaros stated during her talk on Thursday, September 13, 2012.  We as a board are committed to creating an understanding, supportive atmosphere for the entire community and did not intend to cause harm or division. We believe it is important to honor the diversity of this community and do not condone racist, sexist, religiously intolerant, or otherwise hurtful language or action in any of our events. We were unaware that the speech would contain such language when we booked her.  In the future, we will exercise continued careful and diligent research when booking performers so as to prevent such incidents from recurring. Additionally CAB and Senate will be hosting a community forum next Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. in Founders Hall to discuss this event and reconcile any residual feelings and emotions regarding this event.  Please contact me with any concerns or questions.

Deepest Apologies,

Hallie Dowling-Huppert, Campus Activities Board president, dowlinghupperthr@guilford.edu

 

Message from the Guilford College Republicans:

There has been some buzz about campus relating to our event with Andrea Tantaros. For the most part, it has been positive. However, there is a perception that her comments were anti-Muslim.   We would like to address these feelings in a honest manner.

As she stated in the beginning, she does not speak for the Republican party. The Republican party in itself is a coalition of individuals that all stand for common goals such as: small government, strong national defense, and a strong economy.

We, as the branch of the Republican Party for Guilford College, never have and never will support hate towards a certain group. When the War on Terrorism started, the leader of our party made the following comments:

“We see in Islam a religion that traces its origins back to God’s call on Abraham. We share your belief in God’s justice, and your insistence on man’s moral responsibility. We thank the many Muslim nations who stand with us against terror. Nations that are often victims of terror, themselves.”

“Islam is a vibrant faith. Millions of our fellow citizens are Muslim. We respect the faith. We honor its traditions. Our enemy does not. Our enemy doesn’t follow the great traditions of Islam. They’ve hijacked a great religion.”

-George W. Bush, 2002

There is a concern as to where the Guilford College Republicans stand regarding Tantaros’ position on Muslims and the religion of Islam. After emailing her to get her true intentions, we believe that her comments were about the interpretation of how some extremist groups, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, and not everyone in the Islam religion interpret the Quran. The way the speech was structured, it would lead anyone to the conception that she thought that all Muslims were told by their religion to behave in such a manner. This is not true. The Quran is supposed to be an extension of the Old Testament in the Bible.  We stand with George W. Bush when he says “they’ve hijacked a great religion.”

We believe that the freedom of speech, otherwise known as the Diversity value, should allow anyone the freedom to speak freely. It is this censorship that sows division among us and leads people to do be alienated from our general sense of “community.” If we are to censor, where do we stop? We seek to heal the division amongst us and wish to help further the level understanding and consideration on this campus in order to achieve true community.

If there are any other concerns, feel free to contact us.

collegerepublicans@guilford.edu

Will Moore

Guilford College Republicans president

 

 

Click HERE to watch a short excerpt video of Tantaros’ speech or watch the full video HERE.

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4 Comments

4 Responses to “Andrea Tantaros’ speech sparks controversy”

  1. D on September 21st, 2012 2:29 pm

    I have a couple comments:
    1. I saw in the paper it said the video would be available on the website, but I cannot find it anywhere.

    2. I think it would be beneficial to hold an open forum for the community for people to express their feeling about this issue.

  2. adviser on September 25th, 2012 2:32 pm

    There is a video in the multimedia page of some excerpts from the speech. If you click through to our youtube page, the entire 40 minutes is there.

  3. Zhihong Chen on September 21st, 2012 9:43 pm

    The fact that Andrea Tantaros quickly turned the debate into a personal attack on one of our students is really shocking. Freedom of speech should be complemented with a sense of responsibility. One needs to be aware of the power and impact of such speech on impressionable college students. I doubt whether Tantaros ever studied the Qur’an as she claimed, for she was simply parroting some old orientalist stereotypes against Islam. Even if she has studied the Qur’an, she must have done it with a biased mind so that the only thing she saw in it was hatred. I think this IS a hate speech issue. And the way she cut a student short repeatedly and attacked him personally is utterly disappointing and even infuriating.
    Given that this was not the first time an Islamophobic speaker was invited to speak at the college, I think the college needs to deal with this issue on an institutional level and offer a more balanced stage for public speeches.

  4. Aimee on July 22nd, 2014 7:51 pm

    Incredible points. Outstanding arguments. Keep up the
    amazing work.

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