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Should Academic Free Speech Accommodate Holocaust Denial?


If you scratch a Holocaust denier long enough, you may reveal an anti-Semite, but not always. You will, however, probably find someone like the morally repellant 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 (i.e., Jews) weaves oft-repeated claims about the Holocaust just to elicit the world’s sympathy and promote Zionism and the creation of Israel.

Siddique has been embroiled in an intellectual firestorm ever since his paroxysms of hatred toward Israel were exposed in a video taken during his appearance at a Labor Day rally in Washington and posted by The Investigative Project and reported on by the Christian Broadcasting Network. Siddique was filmed crying out to the crowd: “I say to the Muslims, ‘Dear brothers and sisters, unite and rise up against this hydra-headed monster which calls itself Zionism…we must stand united to defeat, to destroy, to dismantle Israel, if possible [apparently not necessarily] by peaceful means.”

But Siddique, it has been revealed since this recent furor began, has an even more pernicious intellectual defect that calls into question not only his academic credibility but his very qualifications to hold tenure at a university at all. It is one thing for a tenured professor at a modern university to have negative attitudes toward Jews and Israel. It is altogether a more serious matter when a member of the professoriate, as is the case with Siddique, thinks academic free speech gives him moral cover to delve into the intellectual netherworld of conspiracies, historical distortions and full-blown Holocaust denial.

In a now widely circulated e-mail thread on the website Rense.com, for example, Siddique suggested the Nazis were not actually that harmful to European Jewry, and that the “Holocaust is a hoax.” Those who still speak about it should “Get over it!” since 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 one example, which owns some 51 million pages of documents and 121 million images cataloguing the exact Nazi atrocities Siddique denies ever occurred.

Does it matter if a tenured professor expresses personal opinions, no matter how odious and controversial – and are they not acceptable under the notion of academic free speech? Yes and no. With great regularity, academic imbecility and fraudulent scholarship have been substituted for reasoned inquiry on our campuses; and as Michael Rubin, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, has observed, “academic freedom is meant to protect scholarship, not replace it.”

Nor, he adds, does “free speech absolve anyone from professional incompetence, which is the heart of the matter in a conversation about Professor Siddique and his qualification to be part of a community of scholars where certain ideas and theories simply do not deserve nor warrant academic discourse.”

More seriously, Siddique’s vile intellectual outbursts should be of enormous concern to Lincoln University officials, since his ideas have to be understood as expressive of raw Jew-hatred, regardless of his own attempt to excuse it as mere criticism of Israel.

In fact, if one applies the working definition of contemporary anti-Semitism, produced in 2005 by the European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) to Siddique’s core ideologies and attitudes, the nature of his speech and thought is quite clear. EUMC’s definition describes behavior as anti-Semitic when an individual makes “mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews “; denies “the fact, scope or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany during World War II”; and accuses “the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust,” all of which animate Siddique’s lurid writing and speaking.

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 campus walls, there should be universal denunciation of the professor’s whole belief system.

This case also exposes the startling double standard 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 – are the object of offensive speech, no protection is deemed necessary.

Imagine for a moment that a tenured professor at Lincoln was discovered to be a white nationalist, with his postings sprinkled on the pages of a hatesite such as Stormfront.org in which he railed, as visitors to that odious site do, against the dangers of non-whites to white culture, the harm non-whites do to society through criminality, high birthrates, and low morals, and the overall superiority of the white race to other groups.

Would any member of the Lincoln community care whether or not that professor brought those vile attitudes into his classroom or merely expressed them off campus? Would any member of that community claim the professor had a right to express that type of noxious attitude even safely under the umbrella of academic free speech?

Would any sentient observer contend that a tenured professor who delved into the perverse intellectual netherworld of neo-Nazism and white supremacism could somehow separate his other intellectual life from the person he is when he teaches in front of students?

The answer, obviously, is, no. Anyone who expressed such feelings in the academic community would be immediately and thoroughly shunned, that is, his or her actions and words would be labeled as repugnant hate speech that has no place on a campus. And when offense is given to members of one of academia’s favored victim groups, the response – from administrators, faculty, students groups, and even the outside community – is immediate, widespread, and thunderous in its self-righteousness.

But at Lincoln University, when a tenured professor demonizes Jews, delegitimizes Israel, accuses Zionists and Israelis of treachery, theft, brutality, and pure evil, and calls for the world to rise up and destroy the Jewish state by any means necessary, the reaction is grotesquely understated. In fact, the final moral call by Lincoln’s administration is that while Siddique’s views are not in keeping with the university’s sensibilities, at least he keeps his morally imbecilic views and ideology safely outside the campus walls where, presumably, they cannot infect the minds of students within.

Richard L. Cravatts, Ph.D., director of Boston University’s Program in Publishing, has just finished a book about the worldwide assault on Israel taking place on college campuses, “Genocidal Liberalism: The University’s Jihad Against Israel & Jews.”

About the Author: Richard L. Cravatts, Ph.D., author of “Genocidal Liberalism: The University’s Jihad Against Israel & Jews,” is president of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East.


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