May 13, 2019

On the Andrew Klavan event

This week, author and podcaster Andrew Klavan will speak at Stanford at the invitation of a student organization. In a social media post, the student group that invited Klavan articulated its interest in “learning about America’s Judeo-Christian heritage and why it is worth defending.”

While our university welcomes discussion of all aspects of America’s religious diversity, we are deeply troubled by views Klavan has expressed in the past in relation to Islam. Klavan has sought to promote Judeo-Christian values in part by fostering anti-Muslim sentiment. In an online video, Klavan distorts the tenets of the Muslim faith, equating Islam with violence and barbarism. We stand firmly against vilification of Islam. We are particularly dismayed that an event of this type is planned for the holy month of Ramadan when the Stanford Muslim community joins Muslims around the world in observing a month of fasting, prayer, and spiritual growth.

We are also concerned about the publicity tactics that have targeted Muslim students. Last week, several flyers for the event were found stapled to bulletin boards and strewn across the Markaz, our Muslim community center, in an evidently deliberate attempt to disturb and disrespect our Muslim community. This is unacceptable behavior that undermines our community values.

We believe it is possible to affirm one’s own faith traditions without denigrating or distorting those of others. Indeed, this fundamental commitment guides all religious life at Stanford University. The Office for Religious Life’s ethical framework calls on our entire campus community to treat with respect the religious traditions and activities of others; and to safeguard the religious freedom, human dignity, conscience, and personal spiritual welfare of all members of the university. We believe Klavan’s articulated views on Islam violate these commitments and values.

We reaffirm our support for our Muslim community here on campus and across the country. We also reaffirm that Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, racism, and other forms of bigotry have no place in our community.

As a campus and nation, we are committed to free expression of diverse opinions. At the same time, as a campus we aim to model responsible use of free speech. As several community members have recently voiced, just because speech is protected does not mean that it is ethical, moral, and/or responsible. While we cannot legislate it, we hope the members of our community will aspire to a higher set of standards than the bare minimum letter of the law, promoting speech that edifies and uplifts our diverse community.

We understand it can be deeply frustrating and painful to see speakers invited to campus whose ideologies disparage members of our community. Acknowledging this pain, we nonetheless encourage you to look beyond the sensationalism of speakers whose currency is controversy to the examples of people joining together across difference and standing in solidarity even in the face of hatred and slander.

Violence has shattered many communities, but we nonetheless stand together. Following the Easter bombings in hotels and churches in Sri Lanka, students, staff, and faculty gathered for a vigil in Memorial Church. Together we remembered and honored victims in Sri Lanka, in Pittsburgh and Poway, Christchurch and Charlotte. Students from diverse religious traditions stood in solidarity with communities impacted by this violence across the country and around the world. Together, they proclaimed life and love are always stronger than violence and hatred.

As you decide how you will respond to this speaker and others who may follow, we encourage you to have hope in the communities of solidarity who stand with you and who join you shoulder to shoulder in making a community of care and shared dignity a reality. Together we can be and do better.