Scholar cleared of Islamophobia says Bristol caved in to students

Steven Greer says students who accused him of laughing at the Koran should be sanctioned

February 15, 2023
Steven Greer as described in the article

A law professor targeted by a “vicious and potentially life-threatening” campaign that accused him of laughing at the Koran has criticised his former university for failing to stand up to student activists who continue to attack him.

Steven Greer, who retired as professor of human rights at the University of Bristol last summer, said he feared for his life and felt forced to leave his home after he was publicly accused of making “Islamophobic, bigoted and divisive” remarks while teaching.

An online petition created by the University of Bristol Islamic Society (BRISOC), which attracted more than 4,000 signatures and is still active, claimed that “students have reported that Professor Greer has brought the [Koran] into class, read a verse and laughed at it”.

Professor Greer, who received online threats and noticed a stranger loitering outside his home after BRISOC began its campaign two years ago, was alleged to have made discriminatory remarks by referring to the 2015 Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris in the context of Islam’s stance on freedom of speech, which the petition claimed was “an example of the kind of Islamophobic rhetoric that aims to posit the actions of killers as being representative of the entire Muslim community”.

He was cleared of wrongdoing by a review involving a King's Counsel, which found “no evidence of Islamophobic speech” and concluded that his teaching material “did not amount to discrimination or harassment and was intended as the basis for academic debate by the students who elected to study it”.

In a book published this week, Professor Greer says he felt let down by the university, which, even after he was cleared, discontinued his teaching module on Islam, China and the Far East and issued a statement saying that it “recognise[d] BRISOC’s concerns”.

That followed a “series of white-flag waving statements more sympathetic to BRISOC’s complaint than to me”, Professor Greer explains in Falsely Accused of Islamophobia: My Struggle Against Academic Cancellation, adding that Bristol made “no attempt to stop the online mob’s vicious social media campaigns of vilification, victimisation and harassment either during the course of the investigation or thereafter”.

Speaking to Times Higher Education, Professor Greer said the lack of institutional support was illustrated by the fact that BRISOC had not been required to apologise or remove the online petition, even after the allegations had been rejected.

“Anyone accused of mocking Islam, laughing at the Koran or disrespecting the Muslim faith can become a target for murder – I was accused of all of these things based on nothing but lies and distortions coming from anonymous complaints,” said Professor Greer.

“Universities routinely discipline students for cheating in assessments. But in my case, they seem completely unwilling to discipline a bunch of irresponsible students for putting my life at risk.”

Professor Greer, who is now research director of the Oxford Institute for British Islam, a thinktank, said he believed the accusations were made because he had defended the Prevent anti-terrorism programme against claims that it was Islamophobic.

He also claimed that the case against him was part of an “attempt to rescue David Miller” by distracting attention from the concurrent case against the Bristol professor of political sociology, who was sacked last year over comments about Israel.

Professor Greer has called for an independent inquiry into his case, arguing that it had echoes of the two-year hate campaign from trans activists faced by Bristol PhD student Raquel Rosario Sánchez, who likewise condemned the university for allegedly failing to stand up to abusive students.

A Bristol spokesman said students were encouraged “to engage with, debate, analyse and critique ideas and theories of all kinds within our academic programmes”.

“As a university, we are bound to investigate formal complaints when received,” he said. “This complaint was not upheld.”


Print headline: Bristol ‘gave in to’ student activists

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Reader's comments (2)

Funny how the, let's call them, Ismlaophobia-awareness-groups, are spot on to anything like this in the UK, but they say very little on persecution of Muslims in China, the Rohingya being expelled from Myanmar, in Thailand, the Nationalists in India, etc etc. Doesn't 'Islamophobia' matter in these places?
It is all to easy to dismiss people simply by giving them a label so that you don’t have to think about or engage their ideas.