ACT News

ANU academics withdraw from IS forum after member of Hizb ut-Tahrir invited to speak

The Australian National University has defended a decision by several of its academics to withdraw from a public debate on terrorism after they found out a representative of radical Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir had also been invited to speak.

ANU's student newspaper Woroni organised the panel, The Rationality of Terror, to discuss current events in the Middle East and the rise of Islamic State.

The ticketed event, which organisers said would "dispel myths and provide answers to complex questions", was due to take place at The Haydon-Allen lecture theatre on Monday night.

But organisers were forced to cancel the discussion after five ANU academics pulled out when they learned controversial Hizb ut-Tahrir spokesman Wassim Doureihi had been invited to join the panel without their knowledge last week.

Mr Doureihi garnered national attention after he refused to condemn the actions of Islamic State extremists in Iraq and Syria during a combative television interview with ABC Lateline host, Emma Alberici, earlier this month.

Hizb ut-Tahrir, meaning "Party of Liberation", calls for the creation of a global Islamic state, or caliphate, under strict sharia law.

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The political group has been banned in many Arab countries but not Australia, Britain or the United States.

Organisers said they invited Mr Doureihi to take part in the event to ensure diversity of opinion, and he had agreed to join the panel last week. 

The scheduled speakers from ANU were Kevin Boreham and visiting Professor Clive Williams of the College of Law, Professor Amin Saikal from the Centre for Arab & Islamic Studies, Dr Mathew Davies of the university's College of Arts and Social Sciences and Dr Andrew Carr from the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre. 

Muslim blogger Amne Alrifai would also be part of the discussion.

In a statement posted on Woroni's website on Tuesday, its editors claimed that the academics had bowed out of the panel following discussions with the university's public relations arm.  

They said the university's actions had "stifled the capacity for ANU staff and students to engage in a constructive dialogue about the rationality of terror, the complex situation in the Middle East and the implications it has for Australia". 

But the university stood by the academics' decision to withdraw from the forum, with a spokesman saying staff had raised concerns that the event was not as advertised and would no longer allow for "reasoned and academic consideration" of the discussion topic.

"The addition of a representative of Hizb ut-Tahrir on the panel, without prior notice to the academics, changed the nature of the event from an open academic discussion into a political discussion about the actions of ISIS," the spokesman said.

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