Bristol Law lecturer under fire from Bristol Islamic Society over ‘Islamophobic’ remarks

They claim Professor Steven Greer used the Charlie Hebdo massacre as ‘evidence of Islam’s stance on freedom of speech’

BRISOC is taking action over a number of complaints made against Professor Steven Greer of Law School due to his “reported use of discriminatory remarks and Islamophobic comments”.

A petition started on by The University of Bristol Islamic Society (BRISOC) has amassed nearly 1,300 signatures calling to “Stop Islamophobia at Bristol University: #ScrapTheModule”.

Despite a formal complaint with the university that is ongoing, BRISOC writes that “the university has not held Professor Greer accountable nor taken the concerns of Muslim students seriously”. Professor Greer denies the allegations made against him.

Due to “having engaged with the university over a number of years without any progress”, BRISOC “feel it is necessary to make the public aware” in the hopes that the University “will act on the ‘speak-up’ culture they want to push forward”.

Law students reported that “Professor Greer frequently expresses views in his classes that can be deemed Islamophobic, bigoted and divisive”. BRISOC say Professor Greer provided justification for the Chinese government policy of targeting Uyghur Muslims by stating that “if a particular piece of legislation impacts disproportionately against a group, it looks ‘superficially’ like it is discrimination […] this is the case with China and Muslims in re-education camps”.

They claim he expanded on this by saying that “most difficulties [in reference to the Uyghur’s plight] stem from the Islamic influence upon it”. BRISOC writes that this “erases the reality of their subjugation” and that his justification only implies “that it is the Uyghurs’ faith that is to blame for their ‘re-education'”.

In their statement, BRISOC urges “all the students at Bristol and the wider community to join us in standing for justice and calling for the university to take swift action against Islamophobia on our campus”.

BRISOC demands that Professor Steven Greer apologises to all Muslim students, “making it clear that his remarks are an opinion, rather than objective truth”. They also demand that “material is removed from his teaching and the module” and “a firm commitment [is made] from him to not make such statements in future teaching”.

If these demands are not met, BRISOC asks that the University consider “further disciplinary action, including suspension and/or dismissal”.

BRISOC also asks for “a written apology for funding, supporting, and promoting Professor Greer’s work and teaching, as well as all the damage caused”, “continuous detailed updates on the case to all Muslim students” and “a review of the systems tackling Islamophobia at Bristol, which also involves the Islamic Society as the representative body of Muslim students on campus”.

The most recent complaint against Greer is related to the Human Rights module that he teaches. Greer has reportedly used Charlie Hebdo attack as “evidence of Islam’s stance on freedom of speech” which BRISOC view as “an example of the kind of Islamophobic rhetoric that aims to posit the actions of killers as being representative of the entire Muslim community and Islam”.

When asked in a video posted by The University of Bristol Law School if “The Prevent Duty”, a Counter-Terrorism and Security Act passed in 2015, is “racist, Islamophobic and discriminatory”, Greer responded: “The prevent strategy includes all forms of terrorism but the fact that most of those that had come to its attention are Muslims is simply a reflection that Jihadi Terrorism is the principal terrorist threat that the UK currently faces”.

BRISOC say in their statement that “these examples […] expose a clear lack of depth of knowledge about Islam” and “show an institutional failing to understand how this rhetoric will cause harm”.

The Bristol Tab reached out to Professor Greer for comment, but were re-directed to the university press office due to confidentiality over the ongoing formal complaint active within the university.

A University of Bristol spokesperson said: “We are working with the University’s Islamic Society to respond to concerns raised about an individual member of staff. That process is still ongoing and under review and as such we are unable to comment further. We are in regular contact with the Society and the member of staff during this time.

“We are committed to making our University an inclusive place for all students. As part of our focus on this, we have been working closely with students from minority groups to try and understand their specific concerns and worries. A key outcome from these discussions was the adoption of the All Parliamentary Party Group definition of Islamophobia and the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism.

“We seek at all times to abide by both our Free Speech Policy and our Public Sector Equality Duties. Specifically, we are steadfast in our commitment to freedom of speech and to the rights of all our students and staff to discuss difficult and sensitive topics.”

They continued, emphasising that universities are a place of research, learning and debate where: “controversial and even offensive ideas may be put forward, listened to and challenged. Intellectual freedom is fundamental to our mission and values.”

“We also affirm our equally strong commitment to making our University a place where all feel safe, welcomed and respected, regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, disability or social background.

“We would urge anyone who feels that they have been discriminated against or subject to hate speech or harassment, to contact our support services so we can offer appropriate help and support.”

Since the allegations came to light, the Bristol SU have put out a statement in solidarity with BRISOC condemning “all forms of discrimination” and reinforcing their commitment to uphold the “APPG definition of Islamophobia”. This statement takes a similar form to one made just a few days earlier, standing in solidarity with Jewish students after offensive comments were made against Jewish students by another Bristol lecturer.

The Islamic Society at the University of the West of England have put out a statement on their social media pages to show their solidarity with BRISOC.

“In light of the recent developments at our fellow friends at Bristol University, UWE ISOC would like to reinforce our support for our Muslim Brothers and Sisters. We pray the situation is resolved peacefully and harmoniously between all parties”.

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