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.

  • Rizwan

    well said, we should stick to our own comfort zone and try to make it better rather than forcing our religious intolerance everywhere, we are responsible for this global hatred towards us and for Allah’s sake lets try to clean our home ground first before we point finger at others.Recommend

  • Krranti 2020

    Disciplinary action? Is she in some school or something? USA provides absolute freedom of speech to every citizen so why such action is asked? This war is between Islam and Freedom of Speech, let us see who wins it.Recommend

  • Parvez

    I completely agree with what you say…and for my views on this forum I have been called ‘ one of those liberals ‘ ( not intended as a compliment ) but I’d like to take this a bit further…….its when the liberal laws in the ‘ west ‘ are used ( or abused ) to try force the local to accept that their ‘ way of life ‘ is wrong ( immoral is the word often used ) and they MUST CHANGE , is where I ask WHY ? If anyone should change it should be new entrant AND if the original dwellers fight back to maintain their values, I don’t blame them.Recommend

  • Videlicet

    Underneath that rhetoric “Muslims hate… America for!?” lies a valid question.

    Before getting into that let me clarify whom she refers to as ‘Muslims’. It is the people largely or exclusively muslims who, because of their fanatical religiosity, oppose and impose the consequences of their dislike (for the said things) upon rest of the Americans. Also probably people who propagate this dislike to other ‘moderate’ people who would not have minded these until they were brainwashed by this group.

    The valid question amidst that hateful sounding line is this: “this country (her country) believes in freedom, why do you join this country when you cannot accept this country as it is?”

    IMO, there exists a freedom to hate dogs, beer, pork… even free speech. But imposing ones dislike upon others takes away that freedom. Violence to convey your displeasure towards others enjoying their freedoms?!– unthinkable.

    Making faces, jeering at people at people who own dogs, drink beer, eat port or wear bikini may arguably be a freedom but is borderline uncivil. The other point the made by Christine Craig is that there exists certain cultural norms– wearing bikini in public beaches, or drinking beer or taking out dogs. It is unreasonable to go to a country begging for entry and accceptance and expect the citizens to life live the way you like.

    The cartoon does take some liberties by using a blanket term ‘Muslims’ while there may be many/most muslims who respect the bases, laws and norms of the country.

    The argument saying scientologists or baptist church refrain from or urge others to not exercise certain freedoms is empty. The cartoonist never argued those are right. Every activist or reformer or satirist cannot be expected to talk about all the just causes in the world. Maybe in the next cartoon Christine Craig may speak about Scientologists etc. Or maybe someone else will. Just because this person condemned something doesn’t mean she holds everything else she didn’t include in the cartoon as legitimate.Recommend

  • Videlicet

    Last para is well written and is a mature thoughtRecommend

  • Critical

    She hasnt made fun of any religious tenets of religious figures ….On the contrary,her cartoon looks spot on……

    Muslims dont want to be secular in their home country but they want to go to an infidel country ..Once they reach there,they preach about secularism….
    But in the name of secularism,they want everyone to follow their whims and fancies…like banning pork from school lunch,forcing people to say “Winter Holidays” instead of “Christmas Holidays”, throwing out the Santa Claus from a Mall in Birmingham..

    It seems illogical why Muslims love to settle in the West which they hate so muchRecommend

  • Linux Novice

    It is high time Muslims come forward to tackle Islamists. If not Muslims will get isolated everywhere without the distinction of whether she/he uses her/his brain or is a parrot of mullas.Recommend

  • abhi

    I think the cartoon is almost correct. If you ask these questions to any muslim, he is going to answer yes without hesitation. It is not generalization. Also she is not asking these people to leave america, all she is asking if they don’t like the american way of life why they chose to migrate here?Recommend

  • Ansari

    Well, am I free to raise a question about holocaust? After all, it’s freedom of speeach .. :) :)Recommend

  • Waqar Salman

    Freedom means to allow living of his own choice. Why they are so conscious about muslims? Let them living with their ways. Is this freedom they are giving to Muslums….Recommend

  • Asim

    I am sick and tried of people attitudes and views about freedom of speech and Islam. Making fun of peoples religion is not freedom of speech it is insulting. For that matter making fun of any religion and its followers i.e. Muslim, Jews, Christian, Hindu, Buddhists, etc is not acceptable behavior. From this approach this lady if she hates muslims or Islam will it stop her from visiting any Muslim country like Egypt, UAE(Dubai),Malaysia, etc. Point is we need to tackle issues in religion, culture diplomatically and intelligently instead of being negatively or insultingly. However, this does not mean Muslims do not make fun or insult other religions but such people are not representatives of Islam, as Islam does not allow people to make fun of other religions. Lastly, there is too much hatred and anger in the world and all the religions of the world promote family life, love thy neighbor and much more positive things.Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    Honestly, I can’t understand the hullabaloo everytime someone criticises Muslims, is this story worth making any news at all?

    There are scores of Muslim preachers who pass themselves as liberals due to the political correctness on part of the non Muslim world and are abusing every other faith day in and day out, they literallly mock other faiths before its followers, none of them get hacked.

    Here is a lady who is saying exactly what it is and not reprimanding her for saying the correct thing is considered a favour on her in her own land.Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    The political correctness of Europe especially if not America is going to cost the Europeans of their own land.Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    Really, why is Zakir Naik so popular among Muslims then!!

    The bottomline is Muslims take it as a norm to abuse other faiths and when their own is questioned, they call it an abuse of freedom of speech while their own freedom of speech vis a vis other faiths has crossed all its boundaries.Recommend

  • Swaadhin

    Muslims pray, protest and vote en bloc when in non Muslim lands and hence they are a political hot potato for non Muslim societies.

    It is the political correctness of the western countries and the defensive nature of its people which is going to cost them very dearly, liberal ethos are fine but you need to think twice when your offer of liberalism is being grabbed and being taken full advantage of to deny you your own space.Recommend

  • Parvez

    I doubt it will come to that ……. :-)Recommend

  • Dennis in Japan

    Political Correctness is the enemy of freedom of speech.
    If she had added one word “Most” at the beginning of the first sentence, this whole issue would be moot.Recommend