Petition to Jo Johnson MP
Stand up for Universities teaching freely on Brexit
People being free to share thoughts and ideas on issues within society is one of the beauties of democracy. This week we learned that Conservative MP Chris Heaton-Harris wrote to university vice-chancellors requesting information about teaching on European affairs relating to Brexit, the name of individual staff teaching this subject, all materials used and links to classroom discussions. As a professor of law and government & Dean of my law school at Durham, I am appalled at to see this, and know it could intimidate academics - making them feel like the government is monitoring them. No vice-chancellor should be forced to act on this request and that's why I'm calling on the universities minister Jo Johnson to make this clear through a statement. Only a few vice chancellors have gone public. And thanks to them, this has been exposed. The letter has caused some parts of the press to call of information on "anti-Brexit" bias Heaton-Harris is a junior government whip and it is claimed that he was researching for a book. He should not be using his political position, or the House of Commons letterhead in this way. A clear statement from the universities minister, Jo Johnson, is required to bring this unfortunate matter to an end.We, the undersigned, call on Jo Johnson, to contact every university vice-chancellor receiving the letter from Chris Heaton-Harris MP in writing to confirm that no university is required to release the information Heaton-Harris requested. In so doing, he would reaffirm his government's commitment to academic freedom, debate, and the high quality of teaching standards at our country's higher education institutions. We are global leaders that should be championed not enemies to be silenced.
Petition to The Federal Government of Malaysia, All relevant state parties
Stop Crackdowns on Intellectuals in Malaysia!
We, the undersigned individuals, register our gravest concern and strongest objection to a series of crackdowns on intellectuals from September 25 to October 3. These include the arrest of Turkish writer Mustafa Akyol, the harassment and persecution of Akyol’s host, Dr Farouk Musa of Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF) and the banning of 22 books, including discursive writings by Akyol, Farouk Musa, scholar Faisal Tehrani (Dr. Mohd Faizal Musa) and cleric Ustaz Wan Ji Wan Hussin. “Religious teaching without tauliah [proper accreditation]” (Section 11 of Act 559 in this case) is a Syariah offense normally reserved for errant preachers in mosques and surau. Actions by the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Affairs Department (JAWI) against Akyol for allegedly committing such an offence prior to an aborted forum in Nottingham University Malaysia, and against Dr. Farouk Musa for allegedly abetting Akyol, set a dangerous precedent with far-reaching implications for academic freedom and, certainly, freedom of speech in Malaysia. Are intellectual discourses in universities involving Islam now being regulated by State Islamic Religious Departments? Do universities need to get clearance from the religious departments before inviting any speakers on any topics related to Islam? As Islam is being applied in almost every sector in Malaysian society, are the religious bureaucrats now the de-facto thought police for the nation to decide what thoughts we can and cannot have? We also view the recent banning of books by Akyol, Farouk Musa, Faisal Tehrani and Ustaz Wan Ji under Section 7 of the Printing Presses and Publication Act (PPPA) as a further attempt at mind control. Section 7 permits the banning of publications that are or are likely to be “prejudicial to public order, morality, security,” “to alarm public opinion,” or “prejudicial to public interest or national interest”. We ask, how did Home Minister, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, find “Islam Without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty” and its Malay translation “Islam Tanpa Keekstreman: Berhujah Untuk Kebebasan” by Mustafa Akyol, the two volumes of “Wacana Pemikiran Reformis” edited by Dr. Farouk Musa, “Aku_maka aku ada” (I _ therefore I am) by Faisal Tehrani and “Ulamak yang bukan pewaris Nabi” (Those clergy who are not the Prophet’s successors) by Ustaz Wanji, to be harmful to public order, morality, security, public opinion, public interest or national interest? Are ideas like moderation, reform and liberty now enemies of the state? The crackdowns on intellectuals during these two weeks is not an isolated development but a serious and dangerous escalation in a long and on-going process of thought policing to close the minds of Malaysians, especially Muslims. If we do not speak up for Akyol, Farouk, Faisal, Wan Ji and others whom the state want silenced, soon there will be no one left to speak up for us when we are silenced. We demand the Federal Government and all other relevant state parties: (a) To end all harassments, investigations and charges on Dr. Farouk Musa, IRF and their past and future intellectual guests; (b) To lift the ban of the abovementioned books as well as other books that promote intellectual discourses and moderation; (c) To abolish the Printing Presses and Publications Act and to replace it with a human-rights-compliant publication law; (d) To uphold Freedom of Expression, as enshrined in Article 10(1)(a) of the Federal Constitution and to end all thought policing on academics and academia; ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Note : This is a joint statement drafted by a group of civil society organisations in Malaysia, the coordinating unit is Teoh Beng Hock Trust for Democracy, any queries please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Petition to University of Cape Town, UCT Council, UCT Senate
Protect Academic Freedom at the University of Cape Town
We, the undersigned, including students, parents, alumni of the University of Cape Town, are aware of the ongoing campaign calling for an academic boycott of Israeli institutions at UCT. With this in mind, we call upon UCT’s management and leadership to stand against this campaign. We believe that the implementation of a wholesale academic boycott against Israel violates the principles of academic freedom and freedom of speech, guaranteed in Section 16 of the South African Constitution and which are fundamental to the undertaking of education and research. Research, teaching, and scholarship flourish through robust exchange of ideas, across borders and among institutions in different parts of the world, including the Middle East. The true essence of a university is to foster dialogue and develop solutions to problems without regard to political, racial, and cultural differences. UCT has always shown these qualities, leading us to celebrate our association with UCT. Additionally, we are concerned that despite there being a difference between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, there is a dangerous convergence. Conclusive evidence shows that anti-Semitism is on the rise globally, and it is a new type of Jew-hatred that masks itself as opposition to Israel’s state policies and Zionism. Student groups are well-known for their efforts to isolate the Jewish state’s universities, students and academics. And all too often student groups like the Palestine Solidarity Forum (PSF), at UCT, do not make the profound distinction between anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism, and criticism of the policies of a particular Israeli government. It is these blurred lines and misunderstandings that create a negative impact on campus for Jewish students, making them one of the most targeted minority groups at university. As administrators, any decision to boycott Israeli universities fans the flames of anti-Jewish hostility on campus and it should recognise that the primary source of the harassment, intimidation, suppression of speech and ethnic discrimination of Jewish students originate from the pejorative activities of these student groups who do not make this differentiation. For years, UCT has enjoyed the reputation of being an inclusive environment for students from all cultural and racial backgrounds, and while there is no greater benefit to one’s intellectual and social development than ideological diversity, it is crucial for the concept of tolerance that we speak out against what we disagree, with limits. The concept of tolerance implies that we refrain from using violence, intimidation, threats and bans to silence our opponents. We appeal to the university to draw on its rich history, as an institution that creates a community of intellectual individuals, where students were regarded as individuals in their own right, rather than a particular cultural or religious group. Any decision to boycott Israeli universities contributes to the popularity of radicalising identity politics and threatens to fracture campus life where we will find students inhabiting separate spaces and leading parallel lives. This is not the university we experienced, nor the one we envisage for the future.