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Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Two professors in police protection after death threats

By: V4 Agency

Authorities have launched an investigation in a case involving two professors, whose names were written across the entrance of a university, along with the words “Islamophobia kills.” The teachers, who allegedly made Islamophobic remarks, are now in police protection with their families. Regarding the issue, a renowned essayist has stressed that the principle of free speech allows any religion to be criticised.

France is embroiled in what appears to be the latest in a series of Islamophobia scandals. The most recent incident involves two professors at Grenoble’s Sciences Po Institute for Political Studies, as posters bearing their names have been suspended above the institution’s gates. The posters’ creators described the two teachers as fascists and used the words “Islamophobia kills”, which can be considered a mortal threat. The posters were displayed by the entrance because the two instructors had allegedly made Islamophobic remarks.

According to the weekly Le Point, the legal proceedings were launched by the local Public Prosecutor’s Office. According to prosecutor Eric Vaillant, publishing libelous statements against the teachers and placing posters on the university walls are both criminal offenses, which could result in fines of 12 and 15 thousand euros, respectively.

The poster scandal was preceded by a number of events. On 27 February, a student union at the Institute of Political Studies (IEP) filed a complaint against one of the teachers for alleged discrimination against the union, claiming that the professor had asked union members to leave his class.  The other teacher, who taught German at the university during the past 25 years, said there was a dispute at the end of November, when a work group was tasked with organising a thematic day on racism, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. The teacher said he had openly asked whether these three topics could be brought together under a single theme. However, his question allegedly offended several students, leading to his exclusion from the group. The professor decided to go on sick leave and hired a lawyer to determine what legal action should be taken.

The controversy has provoked strong public reactions, prompting France’s higher education minister to also weigh in on the debate. Frederique Vidal firmly condemned the accusations levelled against the two teachers and denounced any attempts to intimidate staff members. The politician announced that the Education Inspectorate will launch a formal inquiry, adding that – in tandem with the judicial investigation – the ministry will also make every effort to support the institute’s management and protect its staff.

Ile-de-France Regional Council President Valerie Pecresse told BFMTV in a statement that “Islamo-leftism does exist” at universities, but not as a field of research, but as a political trend that seeks to downplay the real threat Islamism poses to French society. She denounced the most recent poster incident, describing it as nothing more than intellectual terrorism. She added that the university should lodge a complaint against the students.

Interior minister Gerald Darmanin announced that measures have been taken to protect the two professors and their families, BFMTV reported.

A colleague at Sciences Po University, which runs EIP, defended the two professors by saying that there is indeed reason to protest if anyone who expresses strong criticism of the current form of Islam is subsequently accused of Islamophobia.

Speaking on the subject, renowned French essayist Eric Zemmour stressed that he sees a growing pressure on educational institutions to ban Islamophobia, even though Islamophobia is not a crime in a secular state. He stressed that in today’s France, anyone is free to criticise any religion, including Islam or Christianity and Judaism.

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