Sydney Lecturer: Allow Anti-Semitism on Campus as ‘Free Speech’

A lecturer at the University of Sydney in Australia has argued for Muslim extremists to be allowed "to express their anti-Semitism" on campus, out of respect for their "right to free speech."

The shocking comments were made during a "heated" email exchange, seen by the news site.

The emails centered around the controversy over three university staff – Stuart Rees, Nick Riemer and David Brophy – who recently signed an open letter calling on the university to drop all charges against several anti-Israel "BDS" activists who disrupted a pro-Israel talk by former British Army Colonel Sir Richard Kemp.

One of those who disrupted the speech – Professor Jake Lynch – was accused of anti-Semitism after waving money in front of a Jewish woman's face during the confrontation. He was later controversially cleared of those charges.

But Lynch and 12 other BDS activists are still under investigation and could face disciplinary action.

In the letter, the three staff members criticized the university's ban on a spokesman for the Islamist Hizb ut-Tahrir movement, Uthman Badar, and claimed the violent disruption by BDS activists of Kemp's speech was the result of that ban.

"Perhaps, if the university was less selective in the speakers it offers platforms, there’d be less motivation for protests like the one at the Kemp lecture," Professor Riemer wrote.

Badar had been invited by the Muslim Students Association to address a Q&A session last year – on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

Hizb ut-Tahrir, which is banned in many countries, calls for the establishment of a "Global Caliphate," or Islamic empire. Though it is usually careful not to directly call for violence, much of the material and propaganda distributed by the group is virulently anti-Semitic, homophobic and anti-Christian, and praises Palestinian and other Islamist terrorists for their actions.

Counter-extremism groups have often highlighted how many Hizb ut-Tahrir members later go on to commit violent attacks.

The letter triggered a passionate back-and-forth by several university staff, including some who took particular issue with another part of Riemer's letter, in which he compared Richard Kemp to Hizb ut-Tahrir.

Many staff members voiced their firm support of the decision to ban radical Islamists from the university, and also expressed their opposition to the intimidatory tactics of BDS groups on campus, which they challenged was a true attack on free speech.

"Just in case people didn't know, Uthman Badar is a spokesman for Hizb ut-Tahrir, which is an explicitly political movement the goal of which is to reinstall a caliphate and to do so worldwide. I won’t get stated on the group’s attitudes to women," wrote Associate Professor Bronwyn Winter.

"This is part of the Islamist extreme-right, it is to the Muslim world what Nazism was to Europe in the 1930s and 1940s and indeed still is. To organise a speaker from this group on the anniversary of 9/11 is at the very least in extremely poor taste and at worst highly offensive to many."

Dr Wendy Lambourne from Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies agreed with her: "Sorry Nick, but free speech should not include hate speech and incitement to violence. That is the distinction and yes, it’s not always clear-cut, but I agree with Bronwyn that the line has to be drawn somewhere. Unfettered free speech is dangerous."

Dr Gil Merom highlighted Hizb ut-Tahrir's open admiration for ISIS.

"This global movement [Hizb ut-Tahrir] and its local chapter support the ‘freedom’ of Australians to join fighting in Syria (ISIL included), underage girl-marriage (to adults), and Jihad against Jews. The local chapter also complains about the vilification of ISIL."

But not everyone agreed. One lecturer, Yarran Hominh, said he felt ISIS supporters should be allowed to lecture students on their point of view.

"I would say yes, we should ‘allow’ them to express their anti-Semitism — within bounds [such as hate speech or incitement to violence], of course," he said.

At the same time, he took issue with Colonel Kemp's appearance on campus, saying: "Inviting such a speaker, as would inviting an anti-Semitic IS supporter to speak, seems to me to invite polarisation of the sort that is to my mind not conducive to a proper discussion of the issues."

Hominh's shocking statements would not constitute the first time a western university staff member has voiced support for allowing ISIS and other Islamist groups to operate on campus.

In March, controversy erupted after the dean of Cornel University in the US was recorded saying he would happily allow "pro-ISIS" groups on campus.

But the exchange is once again shining the spotlight on Islamist recruitment in Australian universities.

One former Aussie university student, Jake Bilardy, recently died carrying out a suicide bombing for ISIS.


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