Fury as defender of Professor Miller delivers lecture at Oxford University

Tariq Modood described the controversial academic's work as 'valuable'


Oxford University is embroiled in fresh controversy after asking a professor who defended David Miller to give a legal lecture on “equality and diversity”.

Tariq Modood spoke at Oxford on Tuesday, just weeks after the university caused “distress” to its Jewish students by accepting a donation from the family of Oswald Mosley.

In March, Modood defended Miller, a fellow Bristol University professor suspended for having described Jewish students as “pawns” of the state of Israel and calling for “an end to Zionism as a functioning ideology in the world”.

Prof Modood, founder and director of Bristol University’s Research Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship, said at the time: “I think the empirical research that David is doing is not antisemitic and is valuable for hunting down evidence that displays the linkages between various organisations and funders in this country, the US and Israel that are not just promoting their own views.

"Of course they have a right to do that, but they’re having the effect of making it difficult for people in this country, including academics, to speak up at conferences for the Palestinian cause without incurring the charge of antisemitism and therefore putting one’s career and reputation at risk.”

He added that the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism was “mixing up anti-Zionism and anti-Israel with antisemitism”.

Following Miller’s suspension, 460 academics signed a petition in protest at the university’s investigation into him, which they claimed was an assault on academic free speech.

Bristol University found that while Prof Miller’s comments did not constitute unlawful speech, he had “failed to meet the standards of behaviour” expected of staff.

He was sacked by the university, which explained it had a duty of care to students and the wider university community. Miller claimed his sacking is part of a “pressure campaign” by a “hostile foreign government” and said he would appeal.

Asked about the lecture, a spokeswoman for the Union of Jewish Students said: “Universities, including their staff, have a duty of care to all their students and it is their responsibility to ensure campus, online and physically, is a safe and open space for every member of the community.” Lord John Mann, the former Labour MP who advises the Government on antisemitism, said: “I look forward to hearing from his speech how all Jewish students are to be given equality in universities, and who he believes should define equality rights for Jewish students.”

Last month Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said Jewish students were owed an explanation after it emerged that Oxford University had been given £6million by the Alexander Mosley Charitable Trust. The fund was set up by late former motorsport boss Max Mosley and named after his late son Alexander, a graduate of St Peter’s College. The Union of Jewish Students said news of the donation was “distressing” for students because it came the family of the former leader of the British Union of Fascists.

The University is now in talks with the Oxford Jewish Society in the wake of the controversy. Oxford and Prof Modood were contacted by the JC for comment.

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive