Thursday 15 March 2007

Leeds University bans free speech (again)

Oh dear. How very un-PC. Leeds University has banned a lecture on the subject of racism. Surely liberals from Islington to Hampstead are choking on their moccachinos even as I write?

Sorry, but no. Because the lecture, by German academic Dr Matthias Köntzel, was on the subject of Islamic anti-semitism.

Dr Köntzel, the Times reports, "arrived at the university yesterday morning to begin a three-day programme of lectures and seminars, but was told that it had been called off on 'security grounds'". So not only do they cancel his lecture, they drag him all the way from Israel (where he works) to Leeds before doing so.

Why did Leeds University do this?
The university, which acted after complaints from Muslim students, denied that it was interfering with the academic freedom of Dr Köntzel, and said that proper arrangements for stewarding the meeting had not been made.

The lecture, entitled “Hitler’s Legacy: Islamic antiSemitism in the Middle East”, was organised by the university’s German department and publicised three weeks ago. A large attendance had been expected.

Dr Köntzel, a former adviser to the German Green Party, said: “I have been told that it has had to be cancelled for security reasons. It seems there were concerns that there could be violence against my person."

Now, who would possibly want to use violence to stifle debate? Answers on a postcard, please.
Dr Köntzel, a research associate at the Vidal Sassoon International Centre for the Study of Antisemitism at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said that he had been shown two e-mails that had been received, which objected to his lecture.

One, apparently written by a student, said: “As a Muslim and an Arab this has come to me as a great shock. The only intention that you have for doing this is to increase hatred as I clearly regard it as an open racist attack.”

Ahmed Sawalem, president of the university’s student Islamic Society, confirmed that he had contacted the office of Professor Michael Arthur, the Vice-Chancellor, to register an official complaint.


Annette Seidel Arpaci, an academic in the German department, said: “This is an academic talk by a scholar, it is not a political rally. The sudden cancellation is a sell-out of academic freedom, especially freedom of speech, at the University of Leeds.” A spokes-woman for the university said that it valued freedom of speech and added that the cancellation of the meeting had been a bureaucratic issue.

“The decision to cancel the meeting has nothing to do with academic freedom, freedom of speech, antiSemitism or Islam-ophobia, and those claiming that is the case are making mischief,” she said.

Sorry, anonymous spokeswoman, I guess I'll just have to "make mischief" then.

Of course, Leeds University isn't overly keen on free speech. I've previously mentioned, en passant, the case of Dr Frank Ellis, a lecturer effectively sacked by the university for expressing politically-incorrect views. It seems that, at Leeds as at many other universities, free speech is only allowed when it falls clearly within the definitions of acceptability drawn up by the far-left. Even suggesting that a Muslim could be anti-semitic is now unacceptable. Never mind that it's true.

Interesting, also, that no one seems to bat an eyelid at the news that Muslim students threatened violence against Dr Köntzel. That, it seems, is par for the course these days.

Update, 17th March, 12.30am:
Via Little Green Footballs: there's an excellent video on Youtube, showing the anti-free speech attitudes of a Muslim student group (and their left-wing allies) at the inaptly named Concordia University in Canada, and in particular their, often violent, enmity towards the university's Jewish group, Hillel. It is in five parts (total duration: 50 minutes), and the first part is online here. Well worth taking the time to watch.

No comments: