Student Triumphs in Free Speech Battle
A Muslim student has finally won his right to free speech after his former university principle issued a public apology and conceded defeat.
In an embarrassing u-turn, Ex-SOAS director Professor Colin Bundy said he sincerely regretted publishing on the SOAS website news that student Nasser Amin had been “reprimanded” for writing an article on the Palestine issue.
The statement dated November 6th read: “Professor Bundy, the immediate past Director and Principal, sincerely regrets, in the context of allegations of anti-Semitism at SOAS, the reference on the School’s website to the author of the article entitled ’When only violence will do’ in the Spring 2005 issue of the SOAS SU ’Spirit’ Magazine. He further regrets the use of the word ’reprimand’, which he acknowledges was inappropriate.”
The article received international attention when published in the spring of last year in which Amin defended the Palestinians’ controversial right to violent resistance against illegal Israeli occupation.
However, what followed was a torrent of criticism as Amin was accused of anti-Semitism and as a supporter of Palestinian terrorism, allegations he has vehemently denied as false.
Journalist Melanie Phillips went so far as to call on the police to investigate the article, while David Winnick asked in the House of Commons whether Amin had transgressed the law.
Yet besides suffering racial abuse from other students, he said the long ordeal not only led to a disruption of his studies, but also left him suffering from depression.
Following two months of sustained pressure, Bundy publicly announced he had reprimanded Amin, a claim his lawyers denied and who in the summer 2005 threatened the School with the possibility of legal action if a retraction was not made and Amin’s good name not cleared.
The Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC), who taken up the right to defend Amin’s freedom of speech, said that although no formal sanction or reprimand was ever applied, “Professor Bundy secretly wrote to ministers in the Home Office and Department for Education, as well as local MP Frank Dobson, saying that Amin had been reprimanded over the article”.
But the long running dispute was suddenly brought to an end when Bundy’s apologetic reversal finally recognised Amin’s right to free speech.
“His intention had merely been to discuss a difficult and controversial issue within the context of the School’s Freedom of Expression policy,” the statement read.
It continued: “Both Mr Amin and Professor Bundy recognise the important contribution of all races, religions and faiths to the life of the School and the value of tolerance and diversity in our multicultural society.”
Following the public apology, Amin said he was pleased both parties had resolved the dispute in a “highly satisfactory” way and declared the matter closed.
“I am now able to concentrate my attention on my academic activities. I hope that lessons have been learnt and that no student will have to go through a similar ordeal for simply expressing opinions about topical issues which many people in wider society also have views on.
“I would like to thank all those people who have supported me through what has been a very difficult time for both myself and my family. In particular, I take this opportunity to thank the Islamic Human Rights Commission, MPACUK, Islam Channel and The Muslim Weekly, amongst others,” he said.