Monday, July 17, 2006

The Dutch & Academic Freedom...Or Not 

This is scary. The Brussels Journal is reporting that "university professors in the Netherlands are not allowed to voice 'unscientific' opinions that are too critical of Islam." A "large majority" of chancellors of Dutch universities agreed that academic freedom should be limited at the county's universities. Only two opposed the statement.

The crises was brought about when the Chancellor of Utrecth University censored Professor Pieter W. van der Horstofessor's valedictory lecture in which he wanted to argue that "the islamisation of European antisemitism is one of the most frightening developments of the past decades." The reason given for censoring the lecture:
the lecture was "unscientific" and "incited different population groups against each other."...and that "Islamic students might disrupt the lecture," in which case the university "would not be able to guarantee van der Horst's safety."

What is even more scary, is that at least some, if not much of Dutch society supports censoring academic freedom in order not to offend "certain" groups:
Though Chancellor Gispen was criticised for his interference by some conservative Dutch media, others backed him, declaring that in a multicultural society one should avoid antagonising certain groups. This is also the opinion of the majority of the Dutch university chancellors.

Though freedom of speech is not as broad in Europe as it is in the U.S., this is still a shocking position for any person to take, let alone academics in a liberal democracy. Further, the implication that only "certain" groups are protected from criticism is more then troubling. Make's one wonder which criteria is used for determining what constitutes a "certain" group. Perhaps the degree of protection from criticism increases in direct proportion to a group's disposition to engage in violent acts?

I invite everyone to read the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education's web site before shaking their head in a knowing manner while thinking "only in Europe." If you do, I think you will find that unfortunately many in the U.S. agree with the Dutch.