The decision has been branded ‘baffling’ and ‘an act of cowardice’
A conference discussing the impact of the Charlie Hebodo murders has been cancelled by Queens university Vice Chancellor Paul Johnston.
The conference, “Understanding Charlie: New perspectives on contemporary citizenship after Charlie Hebdo”, was due to be hosted by QUB’s Institute for Collaborative Research in the Humanities in June and was to feature academics from other Universities in the UK and Ireland.
However shock news yesterday revealed delegates received an email telling them:
“The Vice Chancellor at Queen’s University Belfast has made the decision just this morning he does not wish our symposium to go ahead.
“He is concerned about the security risk for delegates and about the reputation of the university.”
Twelve people where shot dead on January 7th this year by two brothers at the Charlie Hebodo offices in Paris, claiming the murders were in response to published cartoons satirizing the prophet Muhammad.
There has been strong criticism of the cancellation by some of the delegates involved and members of the press.
Oxford University philosophy professor Brian Klug was due to speak at the event and is “baffled and dismayed” by the VC’s decision to cancel it.
He said: “I don’t understand either of his concerns. The second – the reputation of the university – strikes me as ironic, as his action does not exactly reflect well on Queens.”
Jason Walsh, the Irish correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor and a philosophy doctoral candidate at University College Dublin, was also due to present a paper at the symposium.
Walsh also criticised the VC. He said: “There was no security risk, unless the potential for hurt feelings after a bit of shouting is now considered a matter of security.
“The real reason for the cancellation was given away with the mention of reputation.
“I’m actually from Belfast, so I find the idea of security risk somewhat puzzling,”
“There were no shortage of security risks during the Troubles and I’m sure no university decided that merely speaking on an issue was too dangerous.”
Nick Cohen of the Spectator simply called it an “act of cowardice”.
Queen’s have told press outlets the university will make no further comment.