Self-censorship at Leeds Uni

(From The Telegraph). Yesterday German political scientist Matthias Küntzel was due to address Leeds University on the topic “Hitler’s Legacy: Islamic Antisemitim in the Middle East”. The talk was cancelled hours before it was scheduled because of security fears.

Leeds Uni had received several protesting emails but, according to Küntzel, none of them actually threatened violence. They were just “very, very strongly worded”.

One of the emails sent to the Vice Chancellor from a student who describes himself as “of both Middle Eastern and Islamic background” complained that the title of the event was “profoundly offensive”:

To insinuate that there is a direct link between Islam and anti-semitism is not only a sweeping generalisation but also an erroneous statement that holds no essence of truth.

So why didn’t he go along to the meeting and make his point?

Leeds Uni are insisting that they are not bowing to threats or protests from interest groups. Instead they claim the meeting was cancelled “on safety concerns alone”. Safety from what?

Küntzel is understandably fuming:

I was told it was for security reasons – that they cannot shelter my person. But I don’t feel in any way threatened.

I know this is sometimes a controversial topic but I am accustomed to that and I have the ability to calm people down. It’s not a problem for me at all.

My impression was that they wanted to avoid the issue in order to keep the situation calm. My feeling is that this is a kind of censorship.

The German Department is none too pleased, either.

UPDATE: The Times reports that the president of the university’s Islamic Society confirmed that they had complained to the vice chancellor, but did not ask for the talk to be cancelled.

2 Responses to “Self-censorship at Leeds Uni”

  1. Olly says:

    How is that title insinuating “that there is a direct link between Islam and anti-semitism”? All it says to me is that there is anti-semitism somewhere in the Islamic world, which I don’t think anyone will try and deny. Are they assuming that everyone thinks all Muslims are the same, then? If I give a speech about the “white power” movement does that insinuate that all white people are racist?

  2. Marc says:

    I’m with Carl Sagan’s view that the cure for a bad argument is a better one. That is, unless you live in the “civilised world”. Here the cure for ANY argument, that someone (somewhere) finds offensive, is censorship.