This Week’s Top Battle Rap Verse

Free speech enables both artistic expression and the right to offend. Battle rap as a genre often involves performers pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable to say.

Every Wednesday, Full Offence will post the top battle rap verse of the week.

This week’s verse comes from Californian rapper Pass in his matchup versus New Jersey’s Arsonal, hosted by King of the Dot Entertainment. Pass confronts Arsonal on disrespecting Oscar Grant in a previous battle, a man fatally shot by Californian police in 2009.

Bristol Uni LGBT+ President Defends Prosecuting Milo Yiannopoulos in Interview

I had a discussion with the University of Bristol Feminist Society Social Media Officer Francesca Collins on the NoneOfTheAbove YouTube channel on 4/11/15 about whether it would be right to “no platform” Milo Yiannopoulos from a deabte on 20/11/15 at the University of Bristol.

The video (below) now has almost 150,000 views after Francesca Collins abandoned the conversation after five minutes of what was set to be a talk lasting around an hour and a half.

Below are excerpts from an interview I conducted with Bristol University LGBT+ President Charlie Oxborough in response to the video. She also defends “no-platforming” Yiannopoulos.

What made you feel compelled to address this issue after the initial FemSoc video?

Initially I stayed out of the online arguments for two reasons. Firstly, arguing online is really not my thing. I’ve rarely seen those back-and-forth paragraph arguments end with a mutual agreement, other than to disagree. Secondly, our society strives to offer a safe and welcoming environment for our members. The verbal backlash that FemSoc received after being the first to speak out against the event made me realise I could be putting a lot on the line by opening up our society to similar comments.However, I briefly mentioned the event to an individual who was in favour of the talk, and within two minutes had made him entirely reconsider his position. I saw that the video had been unsuccessful. I knew I have an argument to make, and perhaps more than a brick wall is listening, so it then felt irrational to not stand up for transgender students being in my position. I didn’t want the online video to be the last voice speaking out against the event; I have a lot of respect for Francesca Collins for speaking out against such a backlash, but it didn’t do the opposition justice, let’s say.

So perhaps it would be best to pick up from where she left. What did you think of the view that Francesca Collins’ argument was merely in favour of students’ comfort rather than their safety?

I think that fundamentally this has very little to do with intricate details and interpretations of the Safe Space Policy. However, it’s certainly not just down to students’ comfort. The use of transphobic speech boils down to being hate speech – something that is generally rejected in society. Throughout all the discussions and arguments, you have to wonder whether the event would even have been considered in the first place if Milo were to be an outspoken racist, or homophobe. The university, and I am sure the Journalism Society, would undoubtedly ban such a speaker from holding an event – hate speech of those forms are wholly unacceptable. Yet in this case, with transphobic speech, we talk about ‘comfort’ and ‘safety’, as if this is something that transgender people should still have to put up with.

But doesn’t it do a massive disservice to transgender students in the long run because these opinions do exist in society. Won’t they be awoken to a much harsher reality later on in life if they are temporarily shielded from such opinions during their time at university?

Absolutely not. Should we stop shielding BME students from racism at university because they will still face it at some point in their life?

Racism exists, homophobia exists, transphobia exists, sexism exists. All and any forms of discrimination will always exist, in some place or another. Does it belong in an educational establishment? Hell no.

Why not have racists speak at university if a society wishes to hear their views? Isn’t the only way to truly defeat these ideologies to discredit them on an intellectual level?

Two reasons, really. The first is that there is really no argument worth having with these people (in this case you make, racists). If you think you can convince a preaching racist in a discussion, online or in person, you are sadly mistaken. They may not hold those views forever, they may have some moment of enlightenment, but it won’t be on their platform when talking to a crowd – it won’t be when a student with a notepad asks them some pressing questions for which they’ve recited their answers 100 times before.

Secondly, we don’t know who they are talking to. Everyone at some point in their life (admit it) has doubted the average intelligence of the general public. Aside from that, the unfortunate truth is that many people grow up with harmful ideologies, many fall into vulnerability and are waiting for someone to confirm their opinions, to tell them they’re right. The most harmful groups in the world are incredibly, incredibly clever at recruitment and convincing others of their ideologies. Milo Yiannopoulos is not at their level (bless him), he doesn’t have much of an agenda going on aside from troll journalism, but we don’t need a speaker like him to encourage anyone holding discriminatory opinions. Hate speech affirms opinions, and that can and does lead to dangerous actions.

What right is it of the students’ union to tell the Bristol University Journalism Society who they can and can’t listen to, providing that the speaker acts within the confines of the law?

Well, transphobic hate speech is not within the confines of the law. The University of Bristol Journalism Society and the Bristol SU literally carry the university’s name and reputation in their title. The university and union condemn any form of discrimination, supposedly. So when an event is held by any society it is an event tied to the union and in part the university. And obviously, then, this links back to those pesky ‘no hate speech’ rules.

In that case shouldn’t Milo Yiannopoulos be prosecuted?

Are you asking me if people who break the law should be prosecuted? Yes they should.

Well, do you think Milo Yiannopoulos has broken the law?

We all know that online comments unfortunately rarely result in consequences.

Under the definition of transphobic hate crime, he has.

It’s worth adding that I do think the union have a right to ban speakers, as many universities do, to speak up for those students who do not feel like they can speak up themselves. Do you think many, if any, transgender students would comment on Facebook events like the JournoSoc one to voice their opinion? Look at the comments Francesca received for being a feminist. I hope that the union does represent all students, not just those who shout the loudest.

The Writings of Raif Badawi

Saudi blogger Raif Badawi was flogged in public 50 times in January. He has 950 lashes and nearly a decade in prison left to serve – mainly for blogging about free speech. His blog, the Free Saudi Liberals Forum, was shut down after his arrest by Saudi authorities in 2012. Amnesty International are leading an international campaign demanding his release, which has received widespread support.

A video by Amnesty International Canada of Raif Badawi’s 10 year old son Doudi writing to his dad in prison in Saudi Arabia.

Below are extracts from his key published Arabic writings analysed by Ian Black, The Guardian’s Middle East editor.

Reflecting on the role of the Muslim religious establishment on 12 August 2010, Badawi warned about the stifling of creativity:

“As soon as a thinker starts to reveal his ideas, you will find hundreds of fatwas that accused him of being an infidel just because he had the courage to discuss some sacred topics. I’m really worried that Arab thinkers will migrate in search of fresh air and to escape the sword of the religious authorities.”

On 28 September 2010, urged by clerics not to attend “heretical” celebrations marking Saudi national day, Badawi underlined the importance of separating religion from the state:

“Secularism respects everyone and does not offend anyone … Secularismis the practical solution to lift countries (including ours) out of the third world and into the first world.”

Badawi linked Palestine, one of the touchstones of Arab solidarity, to the question of political Islam, attacking Hamas:

“I’m not in support of the Israeli occupation of any Arab country, but at the same time I do not want to replace Israel by a religious state … whose main concern would be spreading the culture of death and ignorance among its people when we need modernisation and hope. States based on religious ideology … have nothing except the fear of God and an inability to face up to life. Look at what had happened after the European peoples succeeded in removing the clergy from public life and restricting them to their churches. They built up human beings and (promoted) enlightenment, creativity and rebellion.States which are based on religion confine their people in the circle of faith and fear.”

The only article of Badawi’s hitherto translated from Arabic into English denounces the demand of Muslims in New York that a mosque and community centre be built on the site of the World Trade Centre, where 3,000 people were killed in the 9/11 attacks by al-Qaida. It goes against the official Saudi position by linking the terrorist group to the kingdom – and accuses Muslims of intolerance.

“What hurts me most as a citizen of the area which exported those terrorists … is the audacity of Muslims in New York that reaches the limits of insolence, not taking any regard of the thousands of victims who perished on that fateful day or their families. What increases my pain is this [Islamist] chauvinist arrogance which claims that innocent blood, shed by barbarian, brutal minds under the slogan “Allahu Akbar”, means nothing compared to the act of building an Islamic mosque whose mission will be to … spawn new terrorists … Suppose we put ourselves in the place of American citizens. Would we accept that a Christian or Jew assaults us in our own house and then build a church or synagogue in the same area of the attack? I doubt it. We reject the building of churches in Saudi Arabia, not having been assaulted by anyone. Then what would you think if those who wanted to build a church are the same people who stormed the sanctity of our land? Finally, we should not hide that fact that Muslims in Saudi Arabia not only disrespect the beliefs of others, but also charge them with infidelity to the extent that they consider anyone who is not Muslim an infidel, and, within their own narrow definitions, they consider non-Hanbali [the Saudi school of Islam] Muslims as apostates. How can we be such people and build … normal relations with six billion humans, four and a half billion of whom do not believe in Islam.”

In the first weeks of the Egyptian revolution in February 2011, Badawi hailed the drama in Cairo’s Tahrir Square as an example to the whole Arab world. The Saudi government, by contrast, was horrified by the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak and delighted when Mohamed Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood veteran elected to succeed him, was ousted.

“It is a revolution, led by students and the marginalised, a revolution in every sense of the word … that is … a decisive turning point … not only in the history and geography of Egypt but everywhere that is governed by the Arab mentality of dictatorship and security. It is not yet clear whether is Egypt is about to change, but it is our hope that a new Egypt will emerge from the painful birth pangs its people are experiencing … after years of subservience and oppression.”

In Sepember 2011 Badawi launched a sarcastic attack on Saudi clerics after a TV preacher called for astronomers to be punished on the grounds that they encouraged scepticism about sharia law.

“Actually, this venerable preacher has drawn my attention to a truth that had been hidden from me and my dear readers – namely, the existence of the so-called Sharia astronomer. What a wonderful appellation! In my humble experience and in the course of my not inconsiderable research into the universe, its origins and the stars, I have never once come across this term. I advise NASA to abandon its telescopes and, instead, turn to our Sharia astronomers, whose keen vision and insight surpass the agency’s obsolete telescopes. Indeed, I advise all other scholars the world over, of whatever discipline, to abandon their studies, laboratories, research centres, places of experimentation, universities, institutes etc. and head at once to the study groups of our magnificent preachers to learn from them all about modern medicine, engineering, chemistry, microbiology, geology, nuclear physics, the science of the atom, marine sciences, the science of explosives, pharmacology, anthropology etc. – alongside astronomy, of course. God bless them! They have shown themselves to be the final authority with the decisive word in everything, which all mankind must accept, submit to and obey without hesitation or discussion.”

In May 2012, shortly before his arrest, Badawi addressed the nature of liberalism.

“For me, liberalism simply means, live and let live. This is a splendid slogan. However, the nature of liberalism – particularly the Saudi version – needs to be clarified. It is even more important to sketch the features and parameters of liberalism, to which the other faction, controlling and claiming exclusive monopoly of the truth, is so hostile that they are driven to discredit it without discussion or fully understanding what the word actually means. They have succeeded in planting hostility to liberalism in the minds of the public and turning people against it, lest the carpet be pulled out from under their feet. But their hold over people’s minds and society shall vanish like dust carried off in the wind.”

In another piece that month, Badawi invoked the Quran to support the importance of liberalism, the need to separate religion and state and implied that Islam itself has been distorted by the Saudi political establishment to promote illiberal and authoritarian ideals.

No religion at all has any connection to mankind’s civic progress. This is not a failing on the part of religion but rather that all religions represent a particular, precise spiritual relationship between the individual and the Creator. However, positive law is an unavoidable human and social need because traffic regulations, employment law and the codes governing the administration of State can hardly be derived from religion.”