The University of Leeds was accused of infringing free speech last night when it cancelled a lecture on “Islamic anti-Semitism” by a German academic.
Matthias Köntzel 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”.
Dr Köntzel, a political scientist who has lectured around the world on the antiSemitic ideology of Islamist groups, told The Times there were concerns that he would be attacked. He said that he was “outraged” that his meetings had been cancelled and had yet to receive an explanation.
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.
“I have lectured in lots of countries on this subject. I gave the same talk at Yale University recently, and this is the first time I have been invited to lecture in the UK. Nothing like this has ever happened before – this is censorship.
“It is a controversial area but I am accustomed to debate. I value the integrity of academic debate and I feel that it really is in danger here. This is a very important subject and if you cannot address it on university property, then what is a university for?”
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.
“The title of the talk is provocative and I have searched the internet to read his writings and they are not very pleasant,” Mr Sawalem said. “We are not opposed to freedom of expression. We just sent a complaint, we did not ask for the talk to be cancelled.”
The university authorities contacted the German department on Tuesday and asked for a change in the title. The department agreed to relabel the talk as “The Nazi Legacy: the export of antiSemitism to the Middle East”.
Yesterday morning, the head of the German department, Professor Stuart Taberner, was called to a meeting with the Vice-Chancellor’s staff and the head of security. After the meeting, Dr Köntzel’s lecture and workshops were cancelled.
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.
What he wrote
“ AntiSemitism based on the notion of a Jewish world conspiracy is not rooted in Islamic tradition but, rather, in European ideological models. The decisive transfer of this ideology to the Muslim world took place between 1937 and 1945 under the impact of Nazi propaganda . . . “Although Islamism is an independent, antiSemitic, antimodern mass movement, its main early promoters, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the Mufti and the Qassamites in Palestine, were supported financially and ideologically by agencies of the German National Socialist Government.”
Jewish Political Studies Review, spring 2005
Original piece is http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/education/article1517364.ece
Dr KÃ¶ntzel's claim of censorship is only partly right. The other reasons for the university's cancellation of his lecture seem to be the university's desire to be politically correct and its caving in to anticipated, Mohammedan intimidation, a typical dhimmi response as Bat Ye'or points out.
by paul2 on 2007-03-31 15:27:03 GMT