The University of Cape Town was once known known for academic freedom. In fact it had a tradition of having a lecture every year on that specific topic.This year it invited former publisher Flemming Rose to give the lecture on academic freedom. He was an excellent choice as he is the former editor of Jyllands-Posten, which published the Danish cartoons in an attempt to contribute to the debate about criticism of Islam and self-censorship.
The below article was written by a previous invitee of the University of Cape Town in response to the decision of the University to ‘disinvite’ Flemming Rose from giving this year’s TB Davie Lecture on Academic Freedom.
What has happened is part of a disturbing trend. Western Universities say they believe in equal rights then allow lectures to be segregated by sex to accommodate Muslim lecturers and Muslim students. They allow radical extremist Muslim speakers on campus but ban critics of Islam. They stand up for freedom of speech except when it might offend Muslims. Is it because of fear or is it submission? Whatever it is, it needs to stop.
Last year, I was honoured to be invited to the University of Cape Town to give the 2015 TB Davie lecture. It was a privilege to have been able to become part of the history that is the TB Davie lecture, a history of resistance to apartheid and to censorship, a history of refusing to think as one has been told to think but, rather, of challenging people to open their minds, a history of continually rethinking the meanings of freedom, and of academic freedom. It was a privilege, too, to be able to sign my name in a speakers’ book in which other signatories include such great figures as Walter Sisulu, Wole Soyinke, Orlando Patterson, Juliet Mitchell, Edward Said and Noam Chomsky.
Even though I spent but a short time at UCT, I came to have great affection for the university, and its students and staff. It comes as a shock, therefore, to discover that the UCT has decided to disinvite Flemming Rose who was to be this year’s TB Davie lecturer.
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