The Sudanese regime officially pardoned British teacher Gillian Gibbons for the "crime" of insulting the prophet Mohammed by allowing her seven-year-old students to choose the name Mohammed for the class teddy bear. But will the Professional Staff Congress (PSC) regime of CUNY in like manner grant a pardon to Dr. Sharad Karkhanis who is being slammed with a $2 million lawsuit for the "crime" of insulting a prominent PSC faculty union leader, Professor Susan O'Malley? Both Gibbons and Karkhanis were used as scapegoats to distract attention from the menacing issues confronting both these troublespots in the East and here in the West.
Now that the failed strategy of the clerics and scholars of the Sudanese regime has backfired and brought mounting international focus on the Darfur genocide and widespread clamor to free Gibbons, Sudan President Omar al-Bashir has dropped all charges and freed Gibbons from prison. The strategy of the academic elites and scholars of the PSC to persecute and silence a defiant critic with a lawsuit filed by O'Malley has also backfired bringing a resumption of interest in the fraud and abuses of the PSC and further support for Karkhanis's case from both the left (e.g. John Wilson) and the right.
In Sudan, one of the most barbaric places on Earth and the safe haven for every Islamic terrorist organization on the planet, genocide continues unabated after four years of mass murder, violence and forced exile of millions directed by Khartoum. In a land ruled by Sharia law, Gibbons was sentenced to 15 days in prison and deportation for the offense of blasphemy and threatened with 40 lashes and six months in prison for inciting religious hatred. According to Times of London columnist Ben Macintyre, this was an orchestrated attempt by President Bashir and his regime to scapegoat an infidel Western woman and stir up fiery Muslim rage over her offensive actions toward their religion, in order to deflect world attention from the murder and mayhem in Darfur, and to demonstrate Sudan's hard-line Islamic credentials to the fundamentalist world. When the plan was bamboozled by the mounting focus on Darfur and the county's medieval system of Islamic law, and British diplomats were sent to persuade the Sudanese government to release Gibbons, Bashir had no choice but to grant a presidential pardon.
Taking a page out of Khartoum's playbook, PSC leader O'Malley, notorious for trying to censor The Patriot Returns, has now filed a lawsuit charging her most outspoken critic with libel and defamation to scare him and any other would-be dissenters into silence, in order to distract attention from the fraud, abuse and incompetence of the PSC leadership. The PSC, also notorious for shutting down forums for free speech when they became too critical, now wants to hide damaging disclosures before the upcoming elections for some union stalwarts. It was initially reported in the New York Sun that the PSC failed to deliver a decent contract and they squandered the member's welfare fund by the sum of 97% on political causes and contributions to the legal funds of terrorists. Now O'Malley, former chair of the University Faculty Senate (UFS), who sits on the PSC executive board, is running for election for the Kingsborough Community College seat on the UFS in the next two weeks. Trying desperately to duck bad press and avoid the glare of the media spotlight, she has maintained a low profile saying nothing about the lawsuit except that it is "very, very silly" in an interview with New York Sun reporter, Annie Karni.
But the plan for scapegoating Karkhanis has backfired and failed to scare him into silence. Rather it has put O'Malley in the spotlight of bad publicity hurting her chances for election. There has been considerable buzz from the blogosphere, including FIRE, Free Speech at CUNY, Mitchell Langbert's Blog, History News Network, Phi Beta Cons, Inside Higher Ed, and many others, as well as New York media, New York Post, and New York Sun.
The PSC and UFS leadership has utterly misjudged Karkhanis' character. Instead of groveling to the whims of an elitist PSC regime and pleading for forgiveness, as they must have surmised, he has determined to fight it all the way to the Supreme Court. He will fight forever for his First Amendment right to dissent, to criticize and satirize in written expression, and so will I, as well as many other friends and unsolicited defenders of free speech and freedom of the press.
It remains to be seen whether or not the PSC will follow in the footsteps of their Sudanese cohorts and grant a pardon to Karkhanis and retract this "silly" lawsuit or continue routine illegal activities defrauding the dues paying members, in this case funneling the union dues to pay for Susan O'Malley's lawyers in a protracted highly visible court case. This private legal affair, which will be under the lens of severe scrutiny, is not a PSC or UFS case and any CUNY union funds used for O'Malley's frivolous libel suit to censor free speech will be brought to light.
The PSC leadership has erred by not taking the time to research the political and literary background of Dr. Karkhanis. Examination of his background would have revealed a long distinguished career championing the inviolable rights of freedom of speech and conscience and especially fighting for freedom of the press in his native land, India. He published a book, Indian Politics and the Role of the Press highly critical of Mrs. Indira Gandhi's emergency regime, which censored the press. In a repressive environment he dared to challenge the ruling establishment, admonishing India's Prime Minister that "press censorship was resented all over the world" and despite deteriorating social conditions as the justification for invoking emergency rule, defending freedom of the press is vital for safeguarding democratic institutions. But instead of meeting with a hostile reaction or punishment, Karkhanis's remonstration was amicably received in a candid meeting with Mrs.Gandhi. Why should we expect anything less critical from him as a professor at CUNY with respect to the censorship and fraud of the PSC?
Karkahnis's wise counsel to all of us is to stick to principles and don't be afraid to speak out and rock the boat. Most people keep their lips sealed and won't criticize when they see something wrong, because they feel they may be penalized or their careers may suffer. Karkhanis proved them wrong in the past and will prove them wrong again in the present legal case. In the long run, only benefit will ensue if one is bold enough to expose the flagrant abuses and hold their leaders accountable for their actions. His message to Susan O'Malley, whom he has long held to account on the pages of The Patriot Returns, is that her obsession to censor critics in addition to "her obsession with finding jobs for terrorists" to teach in the City University system is harmful to CUNY as well as her own career. Perhaps to demonstrate how the outrage has spread, the NYPD message board said it best recently in this officer's quote regarding the lawsuit: "O'Malley forgot that when you're in a snake pit, you're going to be bit by a snake. And she's hanging out in a snake pit of terrorist(s)."