Appeal launched by society over claims of 'islamophobia'

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By Guy Taylor, Investigations Editor and Robin Connolly, Co-Editor-in-Chief.

Bristol University’s Islamic Society has released a petition calling for an apology from Professor Steven Greer and the University, following allegations of ‘discriminatory remarks and Islamophobic rhetoric,’ claims which have since been denied and are under investigation by the university.

On top of an apology, the petition demands the ‘removal of this material from his teaching and the module,’ and ‘a firm commitment from him to not make such statements in future teaching.’

Failing this, ‘a consideration of further disciplinary action, including suspension and/or dismissal.’

On behalf of Professor Greer, a University of Bristol spokesperson stated: ‘A formal complaint has been lodged with the University of Bristol alleging Islamophobic remarks in the course of Professor Greer’s professional activities.

‘He disputes the allegations, but since they are subject to an on-going investigation we have asked him not to make any further comment as he is bound by a duty of confidentiality and cannot comment upon the matter in detail.’

Professor Ken Oliphant, Head of the University of Bristol School of Law also said that ‘the Law School has been working with the University to respond to the concerns raised and, for the reasons stated in the University statement, it would not be appropriate to comment further on the matter for now.’

At the time of publishing, the petition has recieved over 1,550 signatures.

The statement includes claims of negative reports by some law students over the views expressed by Professor Greer in his classes, as well as levying strong criticism at his alleged comments on the Uyghur Muslims in China.

The claims targetting Greer also concern his opinions on topics such as the the Charlie Hebdo attacks and freedom of speech, as well as the government’s Prevent Duty.

Professor Greer is a Professor of Human Rights Law, who has written extensively on the legal and political theory behind the UK's counter-terrorism policies.

In 2019, he wrote an article for the University of Bristol Law School Blog, arguing for the need to distinguish between forms of racial and religious prejudice and outlined a detailed understanding of the different faces of islamophobia in this country.

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The petition published by the Islamic Society also alleges the university of being complicit in the allegations it made, but states that it hopes ‘they will act on the ‘speak-up’ culture they want to push forward.’

Speaking to Epigram, the society expressed further dissapointment with the university, stating that it is a ‘recurring issue that the processes in place don't recognise the concerns of Muslims students.’

A University of Bristol spokesperson said: ‘We are working with the University’s Islamic Society to respond to concerns raised about an individual member of staff. That process is still ongoing and under review and as such we are unable to comment further. We are in regular contact with the Society and the member of staff during this time.’

The spokesperson also made clear that: ‘We are committed to making our University an inclusive place for all students. As part of our focus on this, we have been working closely with students from minority groups to try and understand their specific concerns and worries. A key outcome from these discussions was the adoption of the All Parliamentary Party Group definition of Islamophobia and the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism.

‘We seek at all times to abide by both our Free Speech Policy and our Public Sector Equality Duties. Specifically, we are steadfast in our commitment to freedom of speech and to the rights of all our students and staff to discuss difficult and sensitive topics.

‘Universities are places of research and learning, where debate and dissent are not only permitted but expected, and where controversial and even offensive ideas may be put forward, listened to and challenged. Intellectual freedom is fundamental to our mission and values.

‘We also affirm our equally strong commitment to making our University a place where all feel safe, welcomed and respected, regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, disability or social background.

‘We would urge anyone who feels that they have been discriminated against or subject to hate speech or harassment, to contact our support services so we can offer appropriate help and support.’

In a Facebook post, the Islamic society described its disappointment at the ‘apathy and the lack of action taken by the University when these concerns were brought to their attention.’


Featured Image: Cameron Scheijde

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