University accused of allowing Hamas supporter to speak to students
Birmingham University has been accused of allowing “a notorious Jew-hater and supporter of terrorist attacks” to speak to students at an event on campus.
MP Denis MacShane has written to the university’s Vice Chancellor urging him to cancel a planned talk by Azzam Tamimi, a Palestinian-born academic and supporter of terror group Hamas.
But the university has refused to intervene, saying the talk should go ahead in the name of freedom of speech.
Dr Tamimi has been invited on to campus by the University of Birmingham Islamic Society, which has organised a seminar to commemorate the Israeli invasion of Gaza 12 months ago. The society, which has also invited Labour elder statesman Tony Benn to the event, said the invitation did not mean it agreed with all his views.
He is a supporter of Hamas, the Palestinian organisation which organised suicide bombings against Israel from the early 1990s until 2005.
In an interview with the BBC in 2004, Dr Tamimi defending violence against civilians, saying: “We don’t call it violence, we call it legitimate struggle, we call it jihad.”
Asked specifically about suicide bombs which killed civilians, he said: “If the Israelis want it to stop, it can stop today.
“It doesn’t make me feel better to see anyone killed but if you come and kill me and kill my children and drive me out of my land, what do you expect? I have to defend myself.”
Dr Tamimi also told the interviewer: “At one time Nelson Mandela was called a terrorist. It doesn’t matter what people say today.”
Mr MacShane, a Labour MP and former Minister for Europe, who led a Parliamentary inquiry into anti-Semitism in 2006, urged university Vice Chancellor Prof David Eastwood to cancel the meeting.
In a letter to Prof Eastwood, he said: “I understand that a notorious Jew-hater and supporter of terrorist attacks on Jewish women and children in Israel is scheduled to give a talk . . . at Birmingham University.”
He accused Dr Tamimi of “glorifying Jihad and the killing of those opposed to his fanatical Islamist world view” and asked: “Should your campus be used as a platform for someone linked to Jew-hate and incitement to terrorist acts?”
But the university has released a statement insisting it will not intervene.
A spokesman said: ‘The University of Birmingham has a code of practice on freedom of speech on campus, and those seeking to invite outside speakers onto campus must fill in a freedom of speech request form at least 15 days before the proposed event.
‘The University has received a freedom of speech request from the Islamic Society for Azzam Tamimi to speak on campus and the event will go ahead as planned.
“Universities are plural societies which are home to differences of opinion, debate and views. The University of Birmingham hosts many visitors and events every year and itself is a community of 150 nations situated in a vibrant multi-cultural city. We respect the right of all individuals to exercise freedom of speech within the law; we are also intolerant of discrimination of any kind.”
A spokesman for University of Birmingham Islamic Society said: “We don’t advocate Hamas or its views. Dr Tamimi represents an important part of the dialogue which has to take place.”