MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku


Thursday, April 25, 2024

UM didn’t need to apologise for Gilley invite, says don


Tajuddin Rasdi n Bruce Gilley
UCSI University’s Tajuddin Rasdi said the cancellation of today’s forum with US professor Bruce Gilley ran contrary to academic rigour which promotes open dialogue and the exchange of ideas.

PETALING JAYA: There was no need for Universiti Malaya to apologise for its decision to invite an American professor despite the contentious nature of his recent remarks, said an academician.

Tajuddin Rasdi, a professor at UCSI University, said it is “common practice” in academia to invite controversial figures for discourse.

“No restrictions should be placed on the practice as it impinges on academic freedom,” he said.

Tajuddin pointed out that local public universities have themselves on occasion organised “sensitive” events.

He said public universities had in the past organised various seminars and conferences which were seen as pro-Malay, anti-Christian and anti-LGBT and had upset minorities and moderate Malaysians at large.

On Tuesday, Bruce Gilley, a political science professor at Portland State University, delivered a keynote address at UM in which he claimed that Malaysia was pushing for a “second Holocaust against the Jewish people”.

In his talk titled “Will Malaysia Become an Active Middle Power”, Gilley also played down Malaysia’s ties with the US.

He then posted similar comments on X, but deleted them and expressed regret for “the harm caused to my academic colleagues”.

In a statement, higher education minister Zambry Abd Kadir ordered the immediate cancellation of all programmes and activities involving the academic.

Gilley had been scheduled to give three talks at UM as a visiting professor.

He later claimed he had left Malaysia due to safety concerns caused by an “Islamo-fascist mob whipped up by the government there”.

UM has apologised for the controversial statements Gilley made.

However, Tajuddin said Gilley was entitled to his opinion.

“Obviously, he’s going to say something that ordinary people consider controversial.

“He should have been given the opportunity to debate the matter with local professors, as scheduled for today, because that is part of academic rigour.

“Academic rigour means doing things carefully and thoroughly in academic settings, like schools and universities.

“It involves making sure that research, learning and discussions are done with high standards and accuracy,” he said.

Tajuddin said the cancellation of today’s forum was not proper, as academic rigour requires open dialogue and the exchange of ideas.

He also said there is a need for “respectful dialogue” and “critical thinking” in Malaysian universities.

“The correct balance between academic freedom and society’s sensitivities should be achieved through debates, not through censorship or marginalisation of certain viewpoints.”

Tajuddin also said the higher education minister’s claim that universities must “align with the government’s policies and stance” was wrong, as it threatens the freedom of academic discourse at large. - FMT

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