Oxford University buckles under leftist pressure

To ban or not to ban is always the question many would raise whenever there is an occasion to give a platform to contrarian individuals. But that is the reason we cherish institutions which take the concept of freedom of speech all the way to the hilt.

For long I always thought of Oxford University as one of those hallowed sanctuaries where all viewpoints, no matter how eye-popping or scandalous, got acceptance. What else would explain the Oxford Union inviting the likes of far-right politicians like Marine Le Pen, as well as the famed Holocaust denier David Irving?

But my faith in Oxford as a supporter of free thought and speech received a rude jolt on 20 March, when a decision was taken to cancel the lectures on ‘Economic development over the years and new reforms needed to take India forward’ and ‘Rethinking India History based on the book Breaking India: Western Intervention in Dravidian and Dalit faultlines’, by Dr. Subramanian Swamy and Rajiv Malhotra citing “logistical and internal issues”. The decision was supposed to have been taken after a series of meetings between prominent and influential members of Oxford University’s academic faculty and members of the Oxford India Society.

One interesting fact to notice here is that a petition opposing Subramanian Swamy and Rajiv Malhotra was raised on the popular site change.org, urging the Oxford India Society to cancel the invitation extended to them to speak on the aforementioned topics. Now are these petitioners actually striving to prevent giving the Oxford platform to people they consider as bigots with extremist views? What are these extremist views these crusaders of decency are trying to prevent?

Regarding Malhotra the petitioners claim that he is ‘known for his patently fanatic blogs and the book ‘Breaking India: Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Faultlines’. The latter can at best be described as hate speech against all scholars who have ever attempted to criticize the caste system or other forms of social hierarchies and discriminations in India. His targeted vilification campaign against most American scholars, not to mention several Indians as well, especially Wendy Doniger, has breached the limits of propriety…’  Really? Then what would these petitioners call the scholars who have been factually questioned and debunked in Breaking India?

If they do not mind I shall give brief list of some of the so-called scholars who were “vilified” by Malhotra:

  1. Angana Chatterji famed for her links with Ghulam Nabi Fai, an ISI mole in the USA who encourages perpetual insurgency in Kashmir .
  2. Vinay Lal whose own blog titled Lal Salam provides this description: His views on American foreign policy and the pax Americana have earned him a place in David Horowitz’s book on the 101 ‘most dangerous’ professors in America today.
  3. Vijay Prashad who still believes in the racial Aryan-Dravidian divide.
  4. Wendy Doniger whose works have been debunked by scholars of Sanskrit and so to say, Indology.

Yet I remember no petition to stop the very Wendy Doniger to air her erroneous views. It seems these petitioners would consider the Holocaust denier David Irving an astute historian while condemning writer Eli Wiesel as a ‘bigot.’

swamyBut the entire petition chiefly targeted Dr. Subramanian Swamy whose primary fault was penning a provocative piece in the 16 July 2011 edition of DNA where opined that the only way to wipe out Islamic terror  is the forceful integration of the Indian Muslim community with the larger Hindu population. Some scholars and commentators conceded the fact that although the article was harsh in nature, the points he raised indeed needed to be debated. But that year itself several Harvard affiliates circulated a petition calling on the university to end its ties with Swamy who earned his PhD from the said institute and also taught economics there, thus stifling his right to have his independent views.

However, his lecture topic for the Oxford event was not Islam but ‘Indian Economy’ which is as much related to Islam as chalk is to cheese, hence why raise the bogey of ‘Islamophobia?’

If Oxford is not at ease of being associated with alleged ‘Islamophobes’ what can explain their invitation to erudite commentators like Richard Dawkins, Douglas Murray and the late great Christopher Hitchens who have openly expressed their opposition as well as deep dislike for Islam?

Sticking with bigotry, the Oxford Union in the past invited the Sharia sympathizer Tariq Ramadan and the fanatical Dr Zakir Naik , the provocative Muslim preacher. Unlike all the aforementioned scholars, these gentlemen are only known to make religiously-charged comments. Dr. Naik for long showed scepticism towards the Taliban’s atrocities in Afghanistan as media cover-up and also claimed the 9/11 attacks were an inside job. Yet they were given a platform since they have a right to air their views.

But then why were the lectures of Dr. Swamy and Malhotra cancelled? I feel it has more to do with the leftist social scientists  in the Oxford circuit who for long have been considered the only valid voices when it comes to India’s socio-economic and historical issues. It has been a well-known issue that for long the academic areas of Indian society were dominated by leftist scholars, but many erudite commentators have now taken up the onerous task of debunking their falsehoods, Swamy and Malhotra being two prominent names among them.

Having said that, it is sad to see Oxford Union buckling under unjust demands and not allowing these two scholars who would have greatly enhanced the quality of discourse at Oxford.

  • Hard Truth

    There is something fundamentally flawed in this article. A true Hindu intellect will not seek the acceptance of Oxford, Harvard or the like. They will write with rigour to a Hindu audience endeavoring to first influence domestic opinion and bring it to a proper threshold. Ram Swarup, Sita Ram Goel, B. Lal, Arun Shourie, Koenraad Elst, N.S. Rajaram, Radha Rajan never sought Oxbridge affirmation. It was irrelevant in their minds. And yet, their writings made more of a dent in the mainstream Indian mind than either Malhotra or Swamy. Malhotra’s audience is the United States. Swamy’s desire is the newspaper headlines. What is needed is a systematic change of the secular Hindu mindset first and foremost, not gimmicks and theatre.

  • Javak

    Oxford is now becoming known for its Bigots and Bigotry. The Oxford University Press has already banned the use by its authors of the words pigs, bacon, ham, sausages, or anything else which could be perceived as pork. A university is the best place where even controversial subjects and ideas can be and ought to be raised and questioned. Oxford should drop the name University and call itself a Particularity, because that’s what it has become, a purveyor of one-sided, narrow orthodoxy that allows no challenge.

  • Karigar Medha

    Shame on Oxford .. hope desi bootlickers realize their Emperors are increasingly losing their clothes , if they had any in the first place

  • muruganar

    No surprises here! Oxford U, in my humble opinion, is the Al-Azhar of the Anglo-American empire. Its only mission is to defend and sustain the empire. Historically, Oxford-centric entities played key roles in opposing Indian Independence. With sustenance now more on Arab finances, anti-Dharmic sentiment is even stronger in this new gen madrassa. Dharmic intellectuals should avoid accepting invites from Anglo-American imperial instutions like Oxford or Harvard who can be expected to play politics once an invite is accepted! We should attach no more importance to an invitation from themas would be attached to an invite from Al-Ahzar in Cairo.

  • Sean J Connolly

    Problem is although the lecture was entitled “Indian Economy” it is fairly certain that with such strong Islamic values his speak would mention Islam in one shape or form.

    • Srini

      So what if he speaks on Islam. Is that where your free speech stops. He will not only talk about Islam, but also about the perfidy of the West to break up India, by pumping evangelists and dollars into India, and playing up imaginary differences and coming up with false reports. Just recently, We just saw the attempts of UK and BBC to portray India as a nightmarish place for women and rape capital with “India’s Daughter”. All this while hiding the truth about abuse of women, pedophilia, and rape statistics in their own country. The statistics clearly reveal that the truth is so diametrically opposite. India has the lowest incidents of rape compared to any one of the western nation, including the despicable and third rate UK.

      I am sure the young generation of Indians will not forget these and other atrocities being committed by the west on India. It will be paid back with interest in the future. You will be treated exactly the same way when (not if) India becomes powerful. Only this time you will absolutely deserve it and more. We will start to control the narrative in not so distant future. The power shift has already started, and EU is already Crapping in its pants and is begging for FTA with India. All we have to do is to find a recliner, a comforter and a bucket full of popcorn to watch the show! Better try to be on the good side of India, and do it soon.

      • Sean J Connolly

        You are so right, the West have supported and helped India thrive and become an upcoming nation. Everything India has is a direct result of the West. I do agree that the West needs to tell the “truth about abuse of women, pedophilia, and rape statistics in their own country” as the truth is these acts are being done by people from countries such as India and Pakistan and most of them are carrying out these acts are Muslims. As marrying children is part of the religion.

    • kyzylkumkohlrabi

      “…with such strong Islamic values…”, what do you mean by this?

      • Sean J Connolly

        my point is that the talk is meant to be about the Indian Economy but given the Dr’s previous history he is most likely to talk about Islam in his speak. As the Indian economy is made up of Hindu’s, Muslims and small amount of other religions, religion should not feature in his speech.

  • Barbaric Opinion

    Their loss and its not like they can be silenced.
    They will move on to greater heights but the institution by this stupid decision will lose its tradition of supporting FOE.

  • Shubhangi Raykar

    It is sad that the lectures are cancelled. Oxford Centre for Hindu studies is a place I was looking forward to visit But I think the work that goes on there also must be biased though I should experience it before arriving at any conclusion.

  • suru

    It is quite amusing and laughable that members of Oxford University’s academic faculty cancels the speech by Dr
    Swamy and Shri Malhotra.This means Oxford university seems racist.
    Understand that Oxford University has invited Anjem Choudary a hate speecher despite being on police bail on suspicion of being a
    member of a banned terror group.
    Are they really academic members ??
    Has Oxford University fallen so low ?
    These are the same Britishers including the BBC ( and some Indian media too) who made a
    hue and cry on free speech when the Indian government banned the Udwin’s documentary India’s daughter!!

    Now are you (those Indian media ,some bigwigs from Indian entertainment industry and BBC )ready to
    make a documentary on Racism at Oxford University for not allowing the speech by Dr. Swamy and Shri Malhotra?

  • Rangachary Srinivasan

    Oh, Where are the proponents of free speech in India? Where is arnab, rahul kanwal, barkha etc., Have they disappeared from the planet altogether? When their own lizard A.Roy can have differing views about mahatma and that is appreciated as freedom of speech why not swamy or malhotra are entitled to the same. OK. Now I understand. The Freedom of speech is only applicable to these morons and media crooks and not to sensible people.