Academic: Extremism Debate Is Being Stifled

Academic: Extremism debate is being stifled

By Graeme Paton, Education Correspondent
Last Updated: 2:05am GMT 17/03/2007
The Telegraph

An academic at the centre of a row over censorship last night accused Britain of being the worst country for stifling debate on Muslim extremism.

Matthias Kntzel, a German author and political scientist, was due to give a lecture at Leeds University on Islamic anti-Semitism but it was cancelled after complaints from Muslim students.

As disclosed by The Daily Telegraph yesterday, a number of protest emails were received, although the university insisted the event was axed because of safety fears.

Last night the academic, who has made similar speeches around the world, said the move smacked of a growing trend in Britain to silence “controversial thinking” on issues surrounding Muslims. It comes two weeks after students at Oxford University launched a petition demanding the sacking of David Coleman, a professor of demography, over his links to MigrationWatch, the immigration think-tank.

Dr Kntzel said: “It is a worrying trend. If I say something which is not positive about a particular brand of Islam, the imposition is that I am inciting hatred of every Muslim. I am very concerned about this – it is an attack on academic freedom. We are seeing it more and more, particularly in the UK.'

He added: 'There is nothing wrong with holding beliefs but you must be able to challenge and question them. Academic integrity is all about the exchange of positions and the search for truth – I think this is in danger in the UK.”

Dr Kntzel's lecture, which had been due to take place on Wednesday evening, was based on the link between the Nazis and anti-Semitic views held by some extremist Muslim groups.

The university denied the cancellation was due to student protests, insisting it had hosted talks in recent months by controversial speakers from both sides of the Middle East conflict. In a statement, it said: “We value academic freedom and remain committed to promoting and positively encouraging free debate, inquiry and, indeed, protest.

“We tolerate a wide range of views, political as well as academic, even when they are unpopular, controversial or provocative. Where meetings are potentially controversial, we have a duty to protect the safety of participants in the event, and other people within the vicinity, and to ensure that public order is maintained.

“The university cannot allow an event to take place without the necessary arrangements in place.”


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