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FAYETTEVILLE -- The director of a Middle East studies center at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville was suspended Wednesday from his administrative duties after canceling a Skype presentation from a speaker known for remarks critical of Islam.

Tom Paradise, a geosciences professor who joined the university faculty in 2000, dropped scholar Phyllis Chesler from an academic symposium on honor-based violence in Western countries held April 13-14 at UA, university spokesman Mark Rushing said.

"The decision to disinvite a participant for his or her views is not reflective of the values and practices of our institution," Rushing said in a statement Wednesday. "The decision, made without informing leadership, has resulted in the director's responsibilities for administrative and operational control being suspended pending an internal review focused on the circumstances that led to this decision."

Rushing said in a phone interview that Paradise is not suspended as a faculty member. His faculty salary of $114,512 is unaffected, but his compensation as director of the King Fahd Center for Middle East Studies -- which over the course of a year would be an additional $28,628 -- is being withheld pending a review done by the dean's office of UA's J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, Rushing said. Todd Shields is dean of the college.

Chesler, a professor emeritus of psychology with City University of New York, has written about honor killings and violence for outlets including the New York Post and Breitbart.

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A report published by the U.S. Department of Justice defined honor-based violence as "a mechanism to maintain or regain a family's honor by punishing or eliminating girls and women whose actions invite rumors of sexual impropriety or disobedience."

Chesler was to give a lunchtime talk titled Worldwide Trends in Honor Killings, according to materials prepared in advance of the symposium sponsored by UA's King Fahd Center for Middle East Studies and the UA School of Law.

Emails released in response to a public disclosure request from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette show UA faculty before the event asking that the center withdraw its sponsorship of the symposium. An email states that faculty members earlier had asked the center to "provide, via Skype, a qualified speaker to follow Chesler's remarks," with the request "deemed not feasible," according to the email.

In an email, faculty members cited Chesler's writings on "the ultra-right Breitbart forum." They also cited her role as co-author of a pamphlet, The Violent Oppression of Women in Islam, noting that the other co-author, Robert Spencer, has been described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as "one of America's most prolific and vociferous anti-Muslim propagandists."

Three UA faculty members with the center -- Mohja Kahf, Ted Swedenburg and Joel Gordon -- wrote in an April 7 email that they "cannot countenance official Center endorsement (without some protest noted) of the participation on campus in an academic forum of the kind of hate speech that has been included and therefore tacitly accepted as part of the discourse."

Chesler contends in her writing on honor-based violence that Islam plays a key role in attacks taking place in the United States but that some scholars have ignored this.

"The whitewashing of Muslim honor killings in America has seeped into academia," began an opinion essay from Chesler published last year in the New York Post.

Breitbart last week reported that the university canceled Chesler's presentation, and an April 26 note from Gordon, Kahf and Swedenburg to Shields, the college dean, and others stated: "We wish to note that we stand by our decision to protest Chesler's participation and our request that the KFC disavow formal support for her inclusion."

The email, with the subject line "Honor Symposium Blowback," went on to cite "the blog storm that resulted" as well as "a wave of emails," including "abusive" messages.

The note, written before the suspension, concluded: "We salute the KFC and the UA for taking a courageous stand supporting reasoned academic discourse. We are glad to be part of a faculty that does not shy away from complex, controversial issues while insisting that such issues be addressed by real experts, those who search for nuance rather than those who castigate religious, ethnic, or national communities in broad smears."

Rushing, in his statement announcing the suspension, said: "We believe that the cancellation was an isolated incident and not indicative of a broader approach toward one ideological viewpoint. However, in an abundance of caution, we are actively working to reinforce an inclusive approach to special events with the goal of maintaining an environment where a diversity of ideas is welcomed."

Metro on 05/04/2017

Print Headline: Mideast studies chief at UA suspended over canceled speech


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Archived Comments

  • merlin749
    May 4, 2017 at 8:55 a.m.

    they also need to suspend, and censure, those 3 faculty members that want to suppress free speech. They don't care about women and how Islam treats them, apparently, and don't want to hear the truth, or even someone's opinion contrary to theirs.

  • TimberTopper
    May 4, 2017 at 9:55 a.m.

    merlin, did you read and understand what you read? Or do you have a problem with one or both?

  • RaylanGivens
    May 4, 2017 at 10:05 a.m.

    She might have upset some snowflakes who might not find it back to their safe place, so this is probably a good idea

  • Packman
    May 4, 2017 at 10:11 a.m.

    Typical f'ing libs. When they have no intellectual basis to debate a differing point of view, they scream "hate speech" from the top of their lungs and run with their tail tucked between their legs. Typical f'ing libs.
    And do we really need a Middle East studies center? How many of these study centers are taxpayers helping fund? Is there a Ugandan studies center? A Caribbean Islands study center? An Underwater Basket Weaving studies center? A GBLTQIAXYZ studies center? Inquiring minds want to know.

  • PopMom
    May 4, 2017 at 11:22 a.m.


    Some of us feminist snowflakes also do not like how women are treated in most Muslim countries. There are many well respect journalists and feminists who have written on the issue. This person was disinvited because she co-wrote a book with a somebody who has been accused of religious slurs against all Muslims. The mistreatment of women should not be whitewashed, but we also should not paint all 1.6 billion Muslims as the same. It is a tricky issue.

  • NoUserName
    May 4, 2017 at 11:38 a.m.

    Seems to me universities have dis-invited commencement speakers for particular messages/beliefs before. Is there some manual I can go to for when it is correct to dis-invite and when it is not?

  • haphog
    May 4, 2017 at 12:39 p.m.

    TimberTopper always seems to attempt to talk down to anyone else's comments. I agree with Merlin. I read of the idiotic behavior at UC Berkley; this must not be allowed at our state university. The lib snowflakes can't stand free speech or anyone who may enlighten them or at least have the opportunity to enlighten them.

  • mrcharles
    May 4, 2017 at 1:36 p.m.

    They say the hoofprint of the magic flying horse is on the dome of the rock. Who am I to question a sincere religious belief in a country of religious tolerance. They do respect Jesus and have their own chapter on his mother.

    As to dress codes and religion , I do note the females of the giant churches On the Highway, seem to have a manner of dress that you can tell they are well respected by their head of their family. This is not irreverence, for if you do not have rules of what you wear , like clothes of two thread types or plow in the wrong way, or allow dwarfs and damaged genitalia men into the lords place their will be no place safe from anarchy.

    Boy just think of the furor if Billy Graham was not allowed to speak after his views on jews were known. Or Rev Floyd of springdale was denied to talk after saying gays were with the devil.

    I will call the UA and ask to speak , being a follower of teapot that circles the sun .

    I do commend him though for taking this action. He got the fking cons to wet their britches and make up their usual fake truth . There a tip of the hat and the way of the usual finger to him.

  • Packman
    May 4, 2017 at 2:55 p.m.

    Would someone, anyone, fluent in Crazy please translate mrcharles?
    Hey Pop - Nah, you're wrong. This person was disinvited because some doofus on a power trip made an attack of the 1st Amendment.
    It's truly, truly sad that colleges and universities, once places where open discussion of various and varying points of view were championed, are now places where the 1st Amendment is under major assault. Even Bernie Sanders is saying it's wrong and must stop.

  • 3WorldState1
    May 4, 2017 at 3:05 p.m.

    How many "liberal" people do you hear invited to conservative or religious universities? Almost none. Many people from different views speak at these "snowflake" universities. But sometimes outrageous speakers are strongly opposed. Not a big deal. Personally, I think you should let them speak.
    But, until Liberty university or the other "colleges" (i.e. Bible schools), allow other viewpoints, and extreme viewpoints, other than the ones that validate their own beliefs, you little crybaby republicans can quit crying the croc tears. Such little babies. You are moaning about something "liberal" colleges are doing 1% percent of the time, when your own kind won't allow the same thing 99% of the time. Hello!!!!
    Make America Smart Again.