9/11 Conspiracy Kook Cleared to Teach Islam
University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Kevin Barrett, a convert to Islam who believes the World Trade Center towers were brought down by controlled demolition and Al Qaeda is a CIA front, has been cleared to teach at the University despite his (in the words of the provost) “politically unpopular” ideas: Provost review clears Barrett to teach class on Islam. (Hat tip: Mark.)
The school is trying to portray it as a courageous stand for free speech, when it’s really a victory for sheer lunacy.
Following a thorough review, University of Wisconsin-Madison Provost Patrick Farrell today announced that lecturer Kevin Barrett will teach, as scheduled, a class titled “Islam: Religion and Culture.” …
“There is no question that Mr. Barrett holds personal opinions that many people find unconventional,” Farrell says. “These views are expected to take a small, but significant, role in the class. To the extent that his views are discussed, Mr. Barrett has assured me that students will be free - and encouraged - to challenge his viewpoint.”
Farrell says that Barrett told him that the semester-long course will spend a week examining current issues, including a brief discussion of various views on the war on terror. Barrett told Farrell that he plans to base the discussion on readings from authors representing a variety of viewpoints.
“I am satisfied that Mr. Barrett appreciates his responsibility as an instructor. I also believe that he will attempt to provide students with a classroom experience that respects and welcomes open dialogue on all topics,” Farrell says. “And I fully expect that the vast majority of his teaching will involve aspects of Islamic culture and religion wholly unrelated to his controversial views of the events of 9/11, which we know had a profound impact on the world and many members of our campus community.”
Farrell notes that a broader issue at play in the Barrett case is the UW-Madison’s long tradition of protecting classroom expression and encouraging students’ critical thinking by allowing analysis of even the most controversial ideas.
“We cannot allow political pressure from critics of unpopular ideas to inhibit the free exchange of ideas. That classroom interaction is central to this university’s mission and to the expansion of knowledge. Silencing that exchange now would only open the door to more onerous and sweeping restrictions,” he says.
“It is in cases like this - difficult cases involving unconventional ideas - that we define our principles and determine our future,” Farrell adds. “Instead of restricting politically unpopular speech, we will take our cue from the bronze plaque in front of Bascom Hall that calls for the ‘continual and fearless sifting and winnowing’ of ideas.”