Why Christine Craig should not face disciplinary action for her anti-Muslim cartoon

Published: September 24, 2015

Virginia school board chairperson has caused an uproar after posting an anti-Muslim cartoon on Facebook, questioning why Muslims wanted to come to America.

Uncertainty breeds insular thinking and bigotry, a theme as old as time, and as true. Therefore, it is of no surprise to find, in this brave new world of globalisation, economic changes and environmental threats, a surge in discriminatory behaviour and values.

This surge is not limited to the US, but it is seen as being more prominent, mainly because of America’s stance as a moral watchdog of the world. The land of the free, the land of opportunity, comes into the limelight every time Donald Trump opens his mouth, or a member of a public school board shares a discriminatory cartoon.

To clarify, Christie New Craig is not a teacher, nor has ever been one.

She graduated from the Chesapeake Police Academy and made it to the position of deputy sheriff before joining Sen (R) John A Cosgrove as chief of staff. She has, however, been a member of the Chesapeake School Board since 2010. A board that represents public (government) schools in the area, schools that are legally obliged not to discriminate against students and student access to opportunity, on any basis.

So, was the cartoon she shared discriminatory?

Screengrab from Council on American-Islamic Relations Facebook

Given that it relied on blanket stereotypes about a particular group (in this case religious) to suggest exclusion of said group, it was definitely a discriminatory cartoon, and offensive as a result.

Should Ms Craig face disciplinary action, such as losing her position on a school board, as a result of her choice? I think not. While the sharing of the cartoon suggests that Ms Craig is ‘like that’, i.e. a discriminatory person, despite, or because of, her upbringing, it was shared on her personal Facebook page and not in her official capacity, either as an employee of a Republican senator, nor as a member of a school board. Imposing professional punishments on personal behaviour (outside of criminal acts) is a line we don’t want to encourage the state to cross, however repulsive we might find the behaviour.

Does Ms Craig’s action threaten the equality of treatment of students in public schools? Could Chesapeake public schools start discriminating against Muslim students as a result of an apparent social acceptance of such behaviour?

No, and this is where Ms Craig and many like her, appear to fail to understand the history and law of their own country, to the detriment of their right to spout whatever nonsense they like. It is, in fact, the same Amendment to the US Constitution that protects the right and freedom of religion that protects Ms Craig’s freedom of speech:

“Amendment 1: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…”

Furthermore, Amendment XIV, Section 1 protects all US citizens from inequitable application of the law:

“All persons born or naturalised in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.”

Many Americans died to create and protect a country based on the above values. Americans continue to die protecting their nation, so why do an ignorant few want to throw it all away?

The right of an American Muslim not to eat pork while wearing a bikini is equal to the right of the Westboro Baptist Church to hold anti-homosexuality parades.

The right not to drink alcohol is equal to the right to follow L Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology.

Impinge on the rights of one group, and you threaten the rights of all groups.

I support Ms Craig’s right to share her ignorance with family and friends, ignorance hidden is not ignorance solved. Furthermore, the publicity such acts garner encourages a discourse that might alleviate some of the misunderstandings about Islam, and about discrimination in general. The arrest of a Muslim American boy for making a clock has opened doors for that boy that didn’t exist before, and allowed Americans who understand their Constitution and its values to state their views.


Caitlin Malik

She lives and teaches in Lahore.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.