Harvard instructor under fire for anti-terrorism op-ed attacking Muslims

August 1, 2011

A Harvard Summer School economics instructor is under fire and facing calls for his termination after publishing an article calling for strong political action to combat Islamic terrorism in India.

On July 16, Harvard instructor Subramanian Swamy wrote an op-ed in the Indian newspaper Daily News and Analysis, “How to Wipe Out Islamic Terror,” in response to the July 13th Mumbai bombings that killed 23 people.

In the op-ed, Swamy wrote that Muslims in India “are being programmed by a slow reactive process to become radical and thus slide into suicide against Hindus.” The solution, Swamy wrote, is a unified Hindu political front.

“We need a collective mindset as Hindus to stand against the Islamic terrorist. The Muslims of India can join us if they genuinely feel for the Hindu,” Swamy wrote. “If any Muslim acknowledges his or her Hindu legacy, then we Hindus can accept him or her as a part of the Brihad Hindu Samaj (greater Hindu society) which is Hindustan.”

“Others, who refuse to acknowledge this, or those foreigners who become Indian citizens by registration, can remain in India but should not have voting rights (which means they cannot be elected representatives),” he continued.

In the wake of the article, more than 200 people have signed a petition demanding the administration “repudiate Swamy’s remarks and terminate his association with the University.” (RELATED: TLC to air reality series on American Muslim families)

According to the Harvard Crimson, “Harvard has not explicitly said that it is investigating Swamy or that it has considered such an investigation.”

In response to the petition and any possible disciplinary action, the civil liberties group Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) issued a letter to Harvard president Drew G. Faust, calling any action against Swamy an affront to academic freedom.

“If members of the Harvard community are given to understand that Harvard might begin an investigation—with possible disciplinary consequences—of the views they express, they likely will self-censor,” FIRE  wrote. “This is precisely the result that a university dedicated to intellectual freedom must seek to avoid.”

Swarmy’s article is also causing controversy abroad. In India, a minorities commission called for the arrest of Swamy for his “extreme xenophobic right-wing thoughts.” State Minorities Commission Vice Chairman Abraham Mathai urged the Mumbai police chief to bring criminal charges against Swamy.

For now, the university appears to be standing by Swamy’s right to express his viewpoints. “As an institution of research and teaching, we are dedicated to the proposition that all people, regardless of color or creed, deserve equal opportunities, equal respect, and equal protection,” a Harvard spokesperson said in an email statement.

“Recent writings by Dr. Swamy therefore are distressing to many members of our community, and understandably so,” the statement continued. “It is central to the mission of a university to protect free speech, including that of Dr. Swamy and of those who disagree with him. We are ultimately stronger as a university when we maintain our commitment to the most basic freedoms that enable the robust exchange of ideas.”

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