A Pennsylvania English professor whose anti-Israel rhetoric and denial of the Holocaust as a historic certainty have ignited controversy is citing academic freedom as his defense.The Christian Broadcasting Network, which broke the story of Siddique's anti-Israel and anti-semitic opinions last month, reports that the state of Pennsylvania is now scrutinizing him and his school:
Kaukab Siddique, associate professor of English and journalism at Lincoln University of Pennsylvania, appeared last month at a pro-Palestinian rally in Washington, where he called the state of Israel illegitimate. “I say to the Muslims, ‘Dear brothers and sisters, unite and rise up against this hydra-headed monster which calls itself Zionism,’ ” he said at a rally on Sept. 3. “Each one of us is their target and we must stand united to defeat, to destroy, to dismantle Israel -- if possible by peaceful means,” he added.
While many professors engage in anti-Israel rhetoric, Siddique is getting more scrutiny because his September comments prompted critics to unearth past statements that the Holocaust was a “hoax” intended to buttress support for Israel -- a position that the professor didn’t dispute in an interview Monday with Inside Higher Ed.
Siddique maintained that his comments should be placed in the framework of academic freedom, as an example of a questing mind asking tough questions. He also warned of dire consequences if universities can be intimidated by politicians and outside commentators. “That’s freedom of expression going up the smokestack here,” he said.
“I’m not an expert on the Holocaust. If I deny or support it, it doesn’t mean anything,” he said before invoking the firebombing of German cities during World War II and the U.S. bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as examples of the moral ambiguity of the war. “We can’t just sit back in judgment and say those guys were bad and we were the good guys,” he said. “I always try to look at both sides…. That’s part of being a professor.”
Siddique cited as scholarly evidence the work of notorious Holocaust denier David Irving, whom a British judge described as an anti-Semitic neo-Nazi sympathizer. “Irving has for his own ideological reasons persistently and deliberately misrepresented and manipulated historical evidence,” High Court Judge Charles Gray wrote in a ruling shooting down Irving’s claim of libel against the historian Deborah Lipstadt of Emory University.
The Siddique case isn't the first one in which a tenured academic has been criticized for questioning whether the Holocaust happened. Northwestern University periodically faces debate over Arthur R. Butz, an associate professor of electrical engineering who is a Holocaust denier, but who has avoided the topic in his classes.
Siddique’s embrace of Holocaust denial could be treated differently because of what he teaches. Cary Nelson, president of the American Association of University Professors and a staunch defender of the right of professors to take highly unpopular positions, said that academic freedom protects the professor’s right to criticize both Israeli policy and the moral legitimacy of the Israeli state. Holocaust denial is another matter entirely, said Nelson.
“Were he an engineering professor speaking off campus, it wouldn’t matter,” said Nelson in an e-mail. “The issue is whether his views call into question his professional competence. If he teaches modern literature, which includes Holocaust literature from a great many countries, then Holocaust denial could warrant a competency hearing.”
[T]he Chairman of the Pennsylvania State Board of Education, Joseph Torsella, is demanding answers--and action--from Lincoln University. Here is a portion of a letter he sent to Nelson just yesterday (read the entire letter here):We'll see what Lincoln University answers.
Academic freedom and the system of tenure designed to protect it are critical elements of higher education. So a professor expressing personal opinions (even extraordinarily objectionable ones) on current events is one matter, and I understand the need to protect these expressions of speech. Denying the Holocaust-a tragic historical fact-is another matter entirely. It is especially troubling that the professor in question teaches at a state-related university, subsidized by state tax dollars.
In my view, Mr. Siddique's Holocaust denials go directly to his fitness to educate the students in his charge (particularly since I understand that he teaches, among other subjects, a course in journalism). As you know, state regulations (22 Pa. Code section 31.24(b)) governing institutions of higher education in the Commonwealth require that faculty "shall be... qualified to teach in their fields of specialization." While the standards for initiating a review of any faculty member's tenure at any institution are appropriately high, the falsification or purposeful misrepresentation of research data, for example, would certainly occasion such a review. Mr. Siddique's misrepresentations of history are equally grave and consequential, and raise questions about intellectual integrity.
In the interest of clearing the air around these unfortunate accounts, I urge Lincoln to:
1. Formally investigate whether Mr. Siddique is, in fact, "qualified" to teach in light of his denial of the indisputable historical facts;
2. Formally investigate whether Mr. Siddique has used ANY university resources (e.g., office support, email and computer system, research facilities) to convey his personal views or in support of his efforts such as "New Trend Magazine";
3. Communicate the results of those two investigations to the State Board of Education's Council of Higher Education at the earliest possible opportunity; and
4. Make a clear public statement repudiating the substance of Mr. Siddique's views and underscoring that they are in conflict with the university's values and mission.