By Clara Gaspar
A Senior Research Fellow at Durham University has had his fellowship revoked after comments he made online were revealed earlier this week.
Dr. Stephen Pax Leonard, a Senior Research Fellow at St Chad’s College, had stated that “tens of millions of Muslims support ISIS,” and said that the Mayor of London “just wants London to be a Mecca for Muslims”.
On his personal twitter account, @stephen_pax, he had written: “With so few Jews, it is extraordinary that the [Swedish] print media is largely owned and edited by Jewish families.” However, these Tweets have since been deleted.
Leonard had also recently withdrawn from speaking at a conference for the far-right Traditional Britain Group (TBG).
In an email explaining St Chad’s College’s decision to strip Leonard of his fellowship to members, the Principal of St Chad’s College, Dr Margaret Masson stated:
“St Chad’s College is fully committed to free speech. However, as Principal, I believe that Dr Leonard’s comments – as reported – were objectionable and ill-judged. I have therefore withdrawn Dr Leonard’s research fellowship (which is an honorary, unpaid position).”
She added, “These are very difficult issues, bringing into sharp juxtaposition two values that St Chad’s College holds dear – that of being a diverse inclusive community which welcomes and supports people from a wide range of backgrounds, ethnicities and beliefs, while also being an academic community absolutely committed to freedom of expression – even when that is challenging; this has provoked careful scrutiny of our policies and values and much rigorous discussion.”
“We appreciate that there are will be a variety of strongly held views on this, both within the St Chad’s community and beyond. We hope that discussion will be thoughtful and respectful as well as robust.”
In a statement published on his website, Dr Stephen Pax Leonard said: “I am aware of recent accusations made against me by student journalists claiming that I hold Far-Right, anti-semitic and Islamophobic views. I wish to rebut these libellous accusations which are absurd, totally unfounded and deeply upsetting. None of these commentators have read any of my published works. Instead, they are basing their allegations on ‘replies’ to tweets taken completely out of context and manipulated to make a case against me.
My latest book ‘Ideology of Failure’ makes the case for the freedom of speech and alerts people to the dangers of group-think, political correctness and zero-sum identity politics. On page 2 of the book I explain clearly why I reject the alt-right identitarian movement and abhor identity politics of any kind. In this book and in my previous collection of essays, I make it very clear that I support a green conservatism à la Zac Goldsmith that repeals hate-speech legislation and preserves the freedom of speech at all costs.
There has also been some fake news circulating about this issue. I have never been ’employed’ by St Chad’s College and thus have not been ‘sacked’.”
Photograph: Reading Tom via Flickr