Universities should screen programmes without stifling debate - Expert

University faces scrutiny after foreign lecturer's offensive speech

26 Apr 2024 08:48am
Photo for illustration purpose only. - Photo credit: Canva
Photo for illustration purpose only. - Photo credit: Canva

KUALA LUMPUR - Universities should implement screening processes for the programmes they conduct, but not to the extent of compromising their autonomy and openness, according to an expert.

Senior Lecturer at the Department of Quran and Sunnah Studies, Faculty of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences, International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM), Dr Abu Hafiz Salleh Hudin, believes this should be done to avoid controversies, especially involving sensitive issues and national policies.

"In my opinion, all universities have autonomy and we need to respect their authority, especially regarding academic matters... heavy screening is not necessary, but sufficient screening to avoid unnecessary controversies," he said when contacted yesterday.

On Wednesday, a foreign lecturer made controversial statements that did not respect public sentiments, especially regarding Malaysia's efforts to defend the Palestinian people's rights, in a programme organised by the University of Malaya (UM).

Following the incident, the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE) directed UM to cancel any programmes and activities scheduled to be attended by the involved foreign lecturer, and the university was also asked to investigate the matter and provide further details immediately.

Abu Hafiz believed that the university should have acted decisively when the speaker made statements that sneered and criticised the stand of the Malaysian government directly or indirectly during the programme.

"In my opinion, at the university level, they should be firm at that moment, asking him not to continue his speech and escorting him out of the hall. The organisers need to understand the impact, not only on the lecturer, but also on the university and MOHE.

"This is a big lesson when it comes to a very sensitive matter like inviting those with a pro-Zionist background, to not repeat it. It's a lesson, and it shouldn't happen again in any university in Malaysia," he said.

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Meanwhile, Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) Centre for Media and Information Warfare Studies Senior Lecturer Dr Noor Nirwandy Mat Noordin disagreed with the actions of the foreign lecturer, which could skew the thinking of academics and students in the country with biased arguments.

"Malaysia has good relations with the United States, and any action or statement that can skew the stance or understanding of the public, including students and certain groups in Malaysia, needs to be carefully evaluated.

"As an academic, he should be more careful when presenting an argument and any expression of thoughts should be based on modernisation and discipline within the framework of the Federal Constitution and Rukun Negara," he said.

Furthermore, Noor Nirwandy said the speaker's statement that Malaysia ‘wanted a second Holocaust’ was unacceptable, suggesting that academic corpus on issues of national interest within the framework of thought, civilisation, and culture in Malaysia should be developed immediately.

"Because it is clear that there is a situation where scholars abroad are trying to create a misconception on the stance of Malaysia - which clearly supports peace - to the extent that it can affect Malaysia's image in the eyes of the world.

"This academic corpus should focus on Malaysia's efforts as a peaceful, sovereign and prosperous country, always ready to condemn acts of injustice that occur worldwide," he said. - BERNAMA

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