The decision by the EUR to say goodbye to Tariq Ramadan remains highly controversial. Employees and students debated the dismissal of Islam philosopher on 7 September. “Is the university board the highest moral authority in this country?”
Ramadan’s dismissal was the result of the news that he anchors a TV show on a network which receives financial support from the Iranian regime. EUR sociologist Willem Schinkel criticised the decision to dismiss Ramadan, by saying that the university has taken a George Bush stance: “The board, in its infinite wisdom, takes the position that everything about Iran is wrong”. Schinkel suggested an Obama approach in stead: enter into a dialogue. The board’s judgment he called “authoritarian and unbalanced”.
Acting Chairman of the Board Steven Lamberts defended the board’s decision: “As employee you have the freedom say women or gays have a lower standing, but you cannot work for a regime that does not respect core democratic values. A professor in nuclear physics cannot be an advisor to the regime in North Korea and a lung specialist cannot simultaneously work for a cigarette manufacturer”, Lamberts argued, saying Ramadan’s situation was similar because he refuses to give up his side job as TV host at a TV channel which is sponsored by a bad regime.
Surprisingly, Lamberts got support from an academic who had also criticised the university. Professor Henri Beunders said Ramadan should have used his position to denounce the Iranian leadership. Schinkel replied that “Ramadan is already doing this by mentioning women’s rights and gay rights. One cannot expect much else or the man’s head will roll, literally”.
Another point was why Ramadan may not work for an Iranian channel while the university does allow itself to cooperate with Chinese universities. Professor Siep Stuurman believes the university has double standards. “They give themselves the benefit of the doubt, but Ramadan cannot be given the benefit of the doubt.” In addition Stuurman blamed the university for having acted too fast. “It was a hurried, poorly substantiated decision.” Many of the audience agreed.
“We would have wanted a debate about the controversy, within our own academic community”, Arjo Klamer professor in culture and economy said. “The whole story has caused damage to the university’s reputation”. However, acting Chairman of the Board mister Lamberts stayed with his decision and criticised Oxford University’s decision not to reprimand Ramadan. “We will not retreat into our ivory tower; as university we want to be part of society.” HOP