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Anton Muscatelli receives letter concerning academic freedom and antisemitism

By Jordan Hunter

The BRISMES Committee on Academic Freedom has sent a letter regarding the University’s consideration of a talk by Dr Somdeep Sen.

Principal Anton Muscatelli has received a letter from the The British Society for Middle Eastern Studies (BRISMES) Committee on Academic Freedom regarding the University’s protocol for invited speakers and it’s definition of antisemitism. The letter argues against the triggering of “stage three” of the University’s speaker protocol after the Glasgow Jewish Students Society complained about Dr Somdeep Sen’s – author of “Decolonizing Palestine: Hamas between the Anticolonial and the Postcolonial” – upcoming talk. 

The letter alleges the complaint triggered the stage three screening of the University’s “Protocol for Managing Speakers and Events”, which means that the University’s Prevent Group, a committee on campus security, may impose restrictions, or cancel the speech altogether. The University has resultantly asked Dr Sen to provide his general points and slides in advance of his talk. The complaint by the Glasgow Jewish Students Society was made due to beliefs that will lead to negative repercussions for Jewish students on campus.

“The University has resultantly asked Dr Sen to provide his general points and slides in advance of his talk.”

BRISMES argues that the complaint should not have triggered “stage three” because the policy mostly cites logistical security concerns and counterterrorism as the triggers. However, there is also a portion of the statute that poses “reputational risk to the University” as a trigger. 

The BRISMES letter further criticises the University’s adoption of the International Holocaust Rememberence Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism. The IHRA defines antisemitism as “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews”. The IHRA further elaborates that the definition implies “manifestations might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. However, criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.” BRISMES contends this definition targets pro-Palestinian academics and limits their ability to speak in cases like this.

“BRISMES contends this definition targets pro-Palestinian academics…” 

BRISMES in a statement to The Glasgow Guardian said, “BRISMES is monitoring with deep concern the intervention of Glasgow University. [The] University’s intervention appears to violate academic freedom and freedom of speech, and [sic] might also include unlawful discrimination on behalf of the University as well as defamatory accusations made by a university student group against a respectable scholar and BRISMES member. BRISMES is now corresponding with the University’s management, and we hope that as a result the University of Glasgow will amend its protocols and procedures so as to guarantee the integrity of academic freedom and freedom of speech on campus.” 

The Glasgow Jewish Students Society could not be reached for comment. 


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