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MIT host BJP politician with a ‘record of hate speech’ despite protests

29th Mar 2019

Harun Nasrullah

One of America’s most prestigious university has allowed a nationalist Indian politician with a record of anti-Muslim remarks to talk in one of its conferences on February 16, despite protests from faculty members.

Economist Subramanian Swamy, 79, addressed the annual Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) India ConferenFor Canada’s Muslims the terror attack on a New Zealand mosques had a terrible resonanceENNce as a keynote speaker despite a decision by Harvard faculty to discontinue his summer school courses.

Swamy, a member of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has drawn controversy for his long history of outbursts against Muslims and other minorities.

More than 400 Harvard students signed a petition demanding Swamy’s dismissal from the school after he had penned an op-ed n an Indian publication recommending destroying mosques, banning Hindus from converting to any other faith and barring non-Hindus from voting until they acknowledge Hindu ancestry. Swamy also suggested Hindu nationalists should be inspired by Jews, who in 10 years were “transformed from lambs walking meekly to the gas chambers to fiery lions.”

Nine MIT faculty members launched a petition calling for MIT President Rafael Reif to revoke the University’s invitation.

“Commitment to diversity and inclusion are fundamental values of MIT and it’s disheartening to see MIT openly endorsing a person who not only engages in divisive hateful rhetoric but openly calls for violence against marginalised groups,” the petition states.

“It’s evident that Swamy’s participation in MIT India Conference is not commensurate with the core values of MIT or with broader humanitarian values of inclusion, diversity, and respect for life.”

The MIT petition, which has gained 2000 signatures has also been endorsed by Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus, the North American Indian Muslim Association, Boston-based Indian media company BDC TV, Muslim Peace Coalition USA, the Indian Minorities Advocacy Network and the Indian American Muslim Council, which led a phone campaign to push MIT to drop Swamy.

Syed Ali, Vice President of the Indian American Muslim Council, said Swamy “has openly called for the disenfranchisement of Muslims in India, and said they should be second-class citizens… It’s not about free speech. It’s about saving lives in India. His party’s hate rhetoric has incited violence and lynchings of many innocent civilians.”

In a letter to Reif MIT’s Muslim chaplain, Nada Miqdadi El-Alami said Swamy’s participation in the conference makes “many groups on campus feel alienated” and questions “MIT’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.”
“MIT cannot deny that they know about this,” said Arif Hussain, a Boston political analyst and Harvard alumnus who co-wrote a column about the controversy for MIT’s student newspaper. “The people here are familiar with him. How can you have a person like this on your campus? Hate speech is not free speech, and the Supreme Court has said so.”

MIT also hosted Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman last year despite student-led protests over the Saudi bombardment and blockade of Yemen.

The controversy also comes just days after MIT drew heat for its decision not to cut its close ties with Saudi Arabia, an association that brought the prestigious school $7.2 million last year, even after condemning the country for its role in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and other “brutal human rights violations.”

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