Columbia Jewish Students Call for Protection Ahead of Speech by Anti-Semitic Malaysian PM

“This is not a matter of free speech, or of scholarly freedom,” the petition notes. “It is a matter of basic academic decency.”

By Algemeiner Staff

A Change.org petition protesting an upcoming Sept. 25 speech at Columbia University by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad — who has a long record of anti-Semitic statements — had received more than 800 signatures by Friday afternoon.

“Universities should present divergent and radical opinions, but they are not environments in which absolutely anything goes,” the petition — an initiative of the Students Supporting Israel (SSI) chapter at Columbia — says. “A language that encourages racism, bigotry and hate speech has no place in academic discourse,” it states.

“Free speech is an important fundamental right to any individual living in a free society,” it continues. “Mohamad can say anything he wants, of course — that is free speech. But being able to speak at Columbia University — or at any university, for that matter — is a privilege, not a right.”

“This is not a matter of free speech, or of scholarly freedom,” the petition notes. “It is a matter of basic academic decency.”

The petition concludes by urging Columbia President Lee Bollinger to “undertake immediate measures to ensure the safety and well being of Columbia’s Jewish students.”

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“Such measures should be canceling Prime Ministers Mohamad’s expected speech at Columbia, or at the very least, denouncing, on stage, the Prime Minister’s vile and antisemitic remarks,” it demands.

SSI — joined by fellow campus groups Aryeh and J Street U — also penned a letter to Bollinger, calling for such action.

The 94-year-old Mahathir’s most recent anti-Semitic outburst occurred in June, during an appearance at Cambridge University in the U.K.

The event moderator asked him, “Why do you say that the Jewish people, in general, are inclined towards money? There are lots of Jews who care about human rights, care about social justice, care about democracy.”

Mahathir answered: “I have some Jewish friends, very good friends. They are not like the other Jews, that’s why they are my friends.”