Does it matter if a tenured professor expresses personal opinions, no matter how odious and controversial, but that may be acceptable under the umbrella of academic free speech? With great regularity, academic fraudulent scholarship has been substituted for reasoned inquiry on our campuses, and, as Michael Rubin, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, observed, “academic freedom is meant to protect scholarship, not replace it.” Nor, as he pointed out, does “free speech…absolve anyone from professional incompetence.”
This is the heart of the matter concerning Professor Kaukab Siddique, a Pakistani-born, tenured associate professor of English and journalism at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, who seemingly puts great faith in conspiratorial dramas in which a crafty and all-powerful enemy—in this case, Jews — promotes, among other offenses, an oft-repeated claim that six million of their people were exterminated just to elicit the world’s sympathy and promote Zionism and the creation of Israel.
Siddique, no stranger to controversy based on his incoherent and wild libels, is at it again, this time against not only Jews, but women, gays, and others. In May, he posted items on his Facebook page decrying “dirty Jewish Zionist white supremacist thugs,” the “homo lobby,” “American women” being “slaves of rich men,” and “many women” being “sluts.”
While Siddique’s odd posts included the notion that “no American Muslim is a terrorist,” he lauded the terrorist group Hamas in a post that commented that “today Hamas fought very well against the zionist [sic] monster. Israel admitted that 13 of its best troops were killed today. One military Jew was captured…Civilian casualties of palestinians [sic] were extremely heavy because the rabid dogs of the Jews were doing their worst.”
If you scratch a Holocaust denier long enough, you may reveal an anti-Semite, but not always. You will, however, probably find someone like Siddique, who has been embroiled in an intellectual firestorm, largely of his own making, since his bursts of hatred toward Israel were exposed in a video taken during his appearance at a 2010 Labor Day rally in Washington, posted by The Investigative Project, and reported on at the time by the Christian Broadcasting Network.
In vitriol-laced language that unfortunately is not at all uncommon these days from the professoriate and many of their impressionable students, Siddique was filmed crying out to the crowd at the September 3rd event: “I say to the Muslims, ‘Dear brothers and sisters, unite and rise up against this hydra-headed monster which calls itself Zionism.’”
More troublesome than this example of creeping anti-Zionism was Siddique’s exhortation to his receptive audience that Zionism itself was an aggressive, dangerous ideology that must be extirpated: “Each one of us is [its] target and we must stand united to defeat, to destroy, to dismantle Israel,” he said, “if possible by peaceful means.”
Tenure comes with some clear responsibilities, not the least of which is to be an intellectual and moral partner with the academic community with which one has made a professional contract. Saying that it is acceptable for a professor to harbor delusional, primitive attitudes about the Holocaust and Jews as long as he only utters his calumnies off campus, and not as part of his teaching in the classroom, is disingenuous at best, and a craven way that university officials try to excuse the inexcusable in the behavior of some of their tenured ideologues.
A Lincoln administrator, for example, in addressing the recent vile posts by Siddique, asserted that “His latest activities, like his earlier writings, statements and activities, are an insult to women and other groups singled out.” However, the school’s spokesperson added, “Dr. Siddique’s statements and assertions are his own, and they in no way represent the views of Lincoln University, its administration, faculty or students…Like all faculty members, he is entitled to express his personal views in conversation or in public forums, as long as he does not present such opinions as views of the University.”
Siddique’s rabid anti-Israelism, of course, frequently animates the thinking of broad swathes of the West’s professoriate, who, obsessed with Third-world victimism and a virtual cult of Palestinianism, think nothing of calling for the destruction—by boycott, divestment, delegitimization, as well as armed resistance—of Israel, a sovereign nation, an American ally, and the single democracy in the Middle East.
But Siddique, it was revealed several years ago, has another intellectual defect that calls into question not only his academic credibility, but his very qualifications to hold tenure at a university at all.
Linked to his attitudes about Zionism, Israel, and Jews, Siddique also plays a leadership role in Jamaat al-Muslimeen (JAM), a “radical separatist Islamist” group, according to a briefing paper prepared by the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, which focuses its limited intellectual resources on disseminating anti-Jewish conspiracy theories and engaging in Holocaust denial. At a meeting of this group, for instance, Siddique touched on the same theme of his that was revealed in the D.C. rally: the treachery of Jews and the boundlessness of their power. “We’re under the grip of a Jewish Zionist power structure in this country,” he told the audience, and further suggested that one reason Jews were able to obscure the sins of Israel and exploit the Holocaust for material and emotional gain was due to the existence of the dreaded “Zionist-controlled media.”
In a now widely-circulated email-thread on the crackpot conspiracy-theory web site Rense.com, for example, Siddique revealed that his world view creates conspiracies as a way of explaining the unfolding of historical events; his is a pessimistic and frantic outlook, famously characterized by historian Richard Hofstadter as “the paranoid style” of politics, which shifts responsibility from the self to sinister, omnipotent others—typically and historically the Jews.
Thus, in his incoherent postings on the site, he suggested that the Nazis were not actually that harmful to European Jewry, a point he attempted to prove by cruelly suggesting that “The German behavior was so good that Elie Wiesel (the arch holocaust propagandist) left Auschwitz WITH the retreating Germans when the Russians advanced towards the camp.”
Siddique concluded that the “Holocaust is a hoax,” so those who still dwell on it should “Get over it!” as there “is not even ONE document proving the holocaust [sic]”— an assertion that might come as a surprise to the archivists at the U.S. Holocaust Museum and Memorial, as just one example, which has in its archives some 51 million pages of documents and 121 million images cataloguing the exact Nazi atrocities Siddique denies ever occurred.
If the victim status of Israel — and by extension, all Jews — can be diminished by exposing the lie of the Holocaust, which is what deniers dedicate themselves to achieving, Palestinians become the more aggrieved victim, a people victimized by former victims — but who deserved to be victimized: the Jews, who spread the lie of their own suffering for material ends.
More seriously, Siddique’s chronic Holocaust denial, his calls for the destruction of Israel, and his demonization of Zionism, Israel, and world Jewry should be of enormous concern to Lincoln University officials. Far from being “a concerted act by the extreme right wing aligned with Israel to destroy someone who spoke out against them,” as Siddique himself characterized the reaction to his opinions, his ideas have to be understood as blatantly anti-Semitic, and expressive of raw Jew-hatred, regardless of his own attempt to excuse it as mere criticism of Israel.
Putting aside the fact that Lincoln’s own code of conduct forbids “any conduct or behavior that is disrespectful, absurd and rude,” and despite the fact that the university has now distanced itself from comments and beliefs Siddique expressed publicly but outside of the campus walls, there should be universal denunciation of the professor’s whole belief system, riddled as it seems to be with pathological and visceral hatred toward Israel and Jews.
This case also exposes a startling double standard that is currently prevalent in academia when it comes to who may say what about whom. Either because they are feckless or want to coddle perceived protected student minority groups in the name of diversity, university administrations are morally inconsistent when taking a stand against what they consider “hate speech,” believing, mistakenly, that only harsh expression against victim groups needs to be moderated. When other groups — whites, Christians, Republicans, heterosexual males, Jews, for example — are the object of offensive speech, apparently no protection is deemed necessary.
More relevant is Lincoln’s own reaction, or lack thereof, to Siddique’s anti-Zionist invective at the rally, and the subsequent revelations about his Holocaust-denying hobby. Were it not for the waves of criticism coming from Pennsylvania officials, Jewish groups, and others, Siddique’s behavior would have continued without comment, and it is likely that no introspection from the university community would have occurred at all.
Imagine for a moment that it was discovered that a tenured professor at Lincoln was “outed” as being a white supremacist, and his postings were sprinkled on the pages of a hate site such as Stormfront.org, in which he railed, as visitors to that site regularly do, against the threat of non-whites to a refined white culture, the harm that non-whites do to society through criminality, high birthrates, and questionable morality, and the overall superiority of the white race to other, “lower” forms of human existence. Would any member of the Lincoln community, a historically black university, care whether or not that professor brought those attitudes into his classroom or merely expressed them off campus? Would they say that even if he had a right to express this type of attitude safely under the umbrella of academic free speech, he could do so without suffering universal opprobrium for his views? Could any sentient observer contend that a tenured professor who delved into the netherworld of neo-Nazism and white supremacism could somehow return to the cocoon of a campus and separate his other life from the person he is when he stands in front of students, helping young minds thoughtfully to explore human thought and achievement?
The answer obviously should be, no; that anyone who expressed such feelings in the academic community would be immediately and thoroughly shunned; that his or her actions and speech would be labeled for what they clearly were — repugnant hate speech that has no place on a campus.
When an offense is made to members of one of academia’s favored victim-groups, the response is immediate, widespread, and thunderous in its self-righteousness. Consider, for example, what happened in March of this year when members of the University of Oklahoma’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity were videotaped singing a racist chant in which the word “nigger” was repeatedly included in the refrain, as well as sentiments to the effect that there would never be an African American member of that fraternity. The University went into paroxysm of self-righteous denunciation of the behavior and speech in the secretly taped episode once it went viral on social media, and the university’s president immediately suspended the fraternity chapter from campus and expelled, without due process and ignoring any First Amendments rights that protected even the odious speech of the frat brothers, two of the offending students.
While it is apparently a matter of academic free speech when a professor denigrates and libels Jews and Israel and denies the Holocaust off campus, at Oklahoma no such consideration was given, since the issue was racism and the supposed victims black. “I have emphasized that there is zero tolerance for this kind of threatening racist behavior at the University of Oklahoma,” OU’s president, David Boren, wrote in a strongly-worded press release that forcefully condemned what he, and others, recognized was hateful speech, a moral stand seemingly absent in the Lincoln University incident since the victims were only Jews. “I hope that the entire nation will join us in having zero tolerance of such racism when it raises its ugly head in other situations across our country . . . I hope that students involved in this incident will learn from this experience and realize that it is wrong to use words to hurt, threaten and exclude other people . . . .”
Even more relevant to the discussion of Professor Siddique and his school’s response to it is the ongoing case of Connecticut College professor Andrew Pessin, who has found himself vilified on campus, not only by a cadre of ethnic hustlers and activists, but by fellow faculty and an administration that has been slow to defend Pessin’s right to express himself—even when, as in this case, his ideas were certainly within the realm of reasonable conversation about a difficult topic: the conflict between Israel and Hamas.
In August of 2014, during Israel’s incursions into Gaza to suppress deadly rocket fire aimed at Jewish citizens, Pessin, a teacher of religion and philosophy, wrote on his Facebook page a description of how he perceived Hamas, the ruling political entity in Gaza: “One image which essentializes the current situation in Gaza might be this. You’ve got a rabid pit bull chained in a cage, regularly making mass efforts to escape.”
That image of a pit bull did not sit well with at least one Connecticut College student, Lamiya Khandaker, who, not coincidentally, had founded a chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, the virulently anti-Israel, sometimes anti-Semitic student activist group operating on more than 115 campuses across America.
Khandaker complained publicly about Pessin’s old Facebook post, asserting that it was dehumanizing and racist, and claiming that Pessin was characterizing all Palestinians, not just Hamas, as pit bulls. Though it was clear from his previous posts and the context of the post in question that Pessin was referencing only Hamas, a U.S. State Department-designated terrorist organization, as a rabid dog, he deleted the offending Facebook entry, and even proffered an apology, writing that “I am truly sorry for the hurt and offense that I have caused,” and offering his “deepest apology for causing such wounds.”
Pessin’s apology was insufficient for the ever-suffering moral narcissists on his campus. Editors of Connecticut College’s student newspaper, College Voice, insisted that Pessin’s thoughts were “dehumanizing” to Palestinians and had “caused widespread alarm in the campus community.” The paper’s editor, Ayla Zuraw-Friedland, initiated a campaign of lies against Dr. Pessin, contending that his post “caused widespread alarm in the campus community,” that the college community could and should “identify racism when we see it,” and that the very students viciously attacking Pessin for his thoughts were themselves “victims of racism.”
The College’s History Department joined the fray in vilifying Pessin and expressing their self-righteousness, announcing that “we condemn speech filled with bigotry and hate particularly when that speech uses dehumanizing language and incites or celebrates violence and brutality,” an odd accusation to make against an individual who had critiqued the behavior of a terrorist group. More than that, Pessin, according to the enlightened history faculty, was complicit in a wide range of oppression, subjugation, and racism, pointing to “the particularly salient tactic of dehumanizing language as a means to justify brutality and lull otherwise ‘well intentioned’ people into silence and, effectively, complicity in racism, sexism, discrimination, colonialism and the numerous genocides throughout human history.” The fact that the Hamas Charter is itself essentially a call to genocide—specifically of Jews—apparently was lost on these historians.
Even Connecticut College President Katherine Bergeron publicly castigated Pessin. While she observed, appropriately, that “All our rights are better protected when free speech is the order of the day,” and “This means that, just as everyone has a right to speak, everyone has the right to speak against, to confront speech that they consider destructive or inappropriate,” she did not hesitate to evaluate—and condemn—the content of Pessin’s original benign Facebook post. “I was taken aback as much by its central image as by its vehemence . . ,” she said. “It was not in keeping with the level of discourse I have come to expect from the Connecticut College community and, in particular, from its faculty.”
How administrators, faculty, and students at Lincoln University reacted (or, more to the point, did not react) when Professor Siddique was exposed for the bigoted, Holocaust-denying anti-Semite that he clearly is, compared to the reaction at other schools to perceived, or real, racism against identified victim groups, is instructive in taking the ideological pulse of academia today. The university officials and student groups who now try to expel all thought that “they hate;” who proclaim their desire for campuses where there will be vigorous discourse, on contentious issues, from many points of view, but end up allowing the expression of only acceptable opinions; who label speech with which they do not agree as hateful, and demonize or shun the speakers who utter those alternate views; who vilify Israel, Jews, Zionism, and U.S. support for the Jewish state with every sort of invective, but claim that criticism of Israel is suppressed by a cabal-like “Israel lobby;” and who shout down, heckle, and bully their ideological opponents during on-campus events—all of these individuals have sacrificed one of the core values for which the university exists.
In their zeal to be inclusive, and to recognize the needs and aspirations of perceived victim groups, they have pretended to foster inquiry—a core purpose of the university—but they have stifled and retarded it. And, as this otherwise noble purpose for the university has devolved, the first victim in the corruption of academic free speech has, unfortunately, been the truth.