Melanie Phillips: The Spinelessness of Leeds University

  • 0

For Jewish students, Leeds university has for some time been a source of growing concern. Such students have been forced to run a gauntlet of anti-Jewish prejudice dressed in the familiar camouflage of anti-Israel sentiment, as in the notorious (and now beaten off) attempt to gag the Jewish society.

Last week, a more significant controversy erupted there. A non-Jewish German academic, Dr Matthias Küntzel, was shocked when his planned lecture, ‘Hitler’s Legacy: Islamic Antisemitism in the Middle East’, was abruptly cancelled by the university along with two smaller scheduled seminars.

The university insisted its decision had nothing to do with freedom of speech; nor was it bowing to threats or protests from interest groups. The meeting had been cancelled on safety grounds alone, and because ‘contrary to our rules, no assessment of risk to people or property has been carried out, no stewarding arrangements are in place and we were not given sufficient notice to ensure safety and public order.’

But there was no security risk. No threats had been received. The only ripple was a couple of protests from Muslim students, who claimed the lectures would increase hatred and threaten their ‘security and well-being’ on campus. The university’s excuse was absurd.

Indeed, Küntzel delivered his speech outside the university twice without security problems. Although the university secretary Roger Gair claimed in a letter to the Times that these were the two seminars that were going ahead ‘as planned’, Küntzel says that, on the contrary, after the cancellation they were hastily convened by private initiative off campus, in Hillel and at a hotel.

Now, fresh information has reached me which reinforces the view that the cancellation was indeed designed to suppress Küntzel’s views. After meeting the university authorities the head of the German department, Professor Stuart Taberner, told his staff that, although he didn’t think censorship was the issue, if Küntzel were to be re-invited the university would have to ‘look closely’ at the subject of his talk.

‘Having now found the text of what I take to be his talk on the web,’ he said, ‘I’m convinced that the university would want to be reassured that it was striking the correct balance between free speech – the expression of ideas – and its obligation to be mindful of the language in which these ideas are framed’.

The real reason for the cancellation was thus laid bare. It was because of what Küntzel was saying. The implication was that his language was somehow inflammatory. But his lecture – which he previously delivered in January at Yale – is merely a scholarly and factual account of the links between Nazism and Islamic antisemitism.

He argues that the alliance between the Nazis and the Arabs of Palestine infected the wider Muslim world, not least through the influence of the Nazi wireless station Radio Zeesen which broadcast in Arabic, Persian and Turkish and inflamed the Muslim masses with Nazi blood libels laced with Arabic music and quotes from the Koran.

Subsequently, this Nazified Muslim antisemitism was given renewed life by both the Egyptian President Nasser and the Muslim Brotherhood, which is the intellectual inspiration for both Hamas and much of the current jihad against the west.

So what exactly is the ‘correct balance’ that this account fails to strike? Indeed, Küntzel makes the eminently balanced claim that this history shows there is nothing inevitable about Muslim antisemitism, which is merely Nazism in new garb.

The link he makes is no more than the demonstrable truth. But clearly, it is not possible to speak this truth at Leeds university. And the reason for this is surely that it draws a straight line between today’s Islamic world and Hitler’s Germany.

Indeed, Küntzel sees a seamless connection between Nazism and the jihad against the west. Hitler, he says, fantasised about the toppling of the skyscrapers of New York, the symbol of Jewish power. And the Hamburg trial of terrorists associated with 9/11 heard evidence that New York had been selected for the atrocity because it was a ‘Jewish city’.

For Islamists, however, such a connection threatens the image they have so assiduously cultivated for themselves as the victims of prejudice.

For their appeasers, it destroys the illusion that Islamist extremism arises from rational grievances such as the war in Iraq or ‘Islamophobia’. Worse still, those on the left who march shoulder to shoulder with radical Islamists are thus exposed as the allies of Nazism.

The result is that Leeds has now joined the growing list of universities which have spinelessly given up the defence of free speech, and thus, in the great battle for civilisation against barbarism, run up the campus white flag.

Melanie Phillips: The Spinelessness of Leeds University

  • 0
Skip to toolbar