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British University Islamic Society Demands Action Over Law Professor’s ‘’Islamophobic’’ Comments

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“As a Muslim student, I feel unsafe on campus at a university where they would rather support bigoted and colonial views rather than securing the wellbeing of their vulnerable students.”

The University of Bristol Islamic Society (BRISOC) claims that Law Professor Steven Greer used the Charlie Hebdo massacre as “evidence of Islam’s stance on freedom of speech.” There have previously been other complaints made against Professor Steven Greer over his “use of discriminatory remarks and Islamophobic rhetoric.” 2,505 students have signed a petition calling upon the University of Bristol to take swift action against Islamophobia.

BRISOC stated that:

We are disappointed by the apathy and the lack of action taken by the university when these concerns were brought to their attention. The university has not held Professor Greer accountable nor taken the concerns of Muslim students seriously, despite numerous complaints raised by students over the last few years.”

In a video uploaded by the Law school, Professor Greer explains that the disproportionate and discriminatory targeting of Muslims by the Prevent duty is justified because “jihadi terrorism is the principle terrorist threat the UK faces”.

The Prevent duty has been widely criticised by various human rights groups, the UN, and former police officers, and whilst there is no research to support its effectiveness, there are multiple reports that condemn it as Islamophobic and racist

In a post for University of Bristol Law blog, Professor Greer previously wrote a post entitled ‘Know Your Enemy: Racism and Islamophobia. He stated that: “‘Islamophobia’ generally refers to irrational antagonism towards Islam and/or Muslims also typically based on myth, caricature and misleading stereotype.”

Muslim students feel they have been subjected to Islamophobia and are asking for the following from Professor Steven Greer:

  • A statement of apology to all Muslim students, making it clear that his remarks are an opinion, rather than objective truth.
  • Removal of this material from his teaching and the module.
  • A firm commitment from him not to make such statements in future teaching.

According to Al Jazeera, Greer is bound by Bristol’s University duty of confidentiality, preventing him from making any comments on the allegations. But he did, however, tell Al Jazeera he rejects the allegations. TMV asked the University of Bristol if openly rejecting it was a breach of their rules and they said that:

“By stating that he rejects the allegations, Professor Greer is not disclosing any detail regarding the complaint or any processes that the University may be undertaking. This is not a breach of process and does not undermine any University processes or procedures.”

They also stated that:

Pending the outcome of any University procedures, Professor Greer is continuing to carry out the responsibilities and activities of an academic at the University.”

In regards to the comments on Greer’s teachings on the position of women in Islam, a Muslim student at the University of Bristol who wanted to remain anonymous said in detail:  

“As a Muslim woman, I am appalled by the false stereotypes being taught at the University to further fuel Islamophobia and create a narrative as if Muslim women need to be ‘saved’, further feeding into the white saviour complex. 

“Greer implies that it is because of the way Muslim women are ‘forced’ to dress and the so-called ‘limitations of Islam’, Muslim women are ‘oppressed’ and therefore unable to do certain things like work and so forth. Yet, Islam has given (and continues to give) women rights years before the West. If anything, Islam is the sole reason why I feel empowered in today’s society.

“Greer showcases a clear lack of knowledge and understanding about the actual religion itself, rather he conflates the actions of so-called Muslim governments with Islam, which has nothing to do with the religion itself. It is not Islam that oppresses women, rather it’s these false narratives that are being taught at Bristol University, that continue to oppress us.

“As a Muslim student, I feel unsafe on campus at a university where they would rather support bigoted and colonial views rather than securing the wellbeing of their vulnerable students.”

FOSIS, the Federation of Student Islamic Studies, which is an umbrella body of Islamic societies in UK universities, knows that incidents like these are not isolated ones. They have shown their support to BROSIC and stated:

We will continue to support Islamic Societies and Muslim students to effectively hold their institutions to account in tackling Islamophobia. We must ensure that a proper framework is adopted which comprehensively understands the essence of Islamophobia and effectively problematises the views such as those espoused by Professor Steven Greer.”

The University of Bristol has adopted the APPG definition of Islamophobia, but FOSIS told TMV that: “In many instances, as seen in the case of Bristol University, the APPG definition can actually lead to enabling certain forms of Islamophobia, as the definition suffers from being extremely limiting, narrow, and not fit for purpose to address the experiences of Muslim students.”

The higher education system needs to evaluate its practises and policies to ensure it does not insult or ostracise Muslim students. If Muslims say they are experiencing Islamophobia it needs to be taken seriously and cannot be ignored under the guise of academic freedom.

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