A British university professor has come under mounting criticism over what students described as his “Islamophobic” remarks and taught content.
In a statement last week, the University of Bristol’s Islamic Society (BRISOC) said it was “alarmed by multiple complaints against Professor Steven Greer of the Law School for his reported use of discriminatory remarks and Islamophobic rhetoric”.
Law students have claimed Greer “frequently expressed views in class that can be deemed Islamophobic, bigoted and divisive”, said the statement, which was signed by several other student societies.
Although Greer’s accusers have gone public, he has been barred by the university from making any comment on the allegations because they are subject to an ongoing investigation and he is bound by a duty of confidentiality.
He did however tell Al Jazeera he rejects the allegations.
A law student at the university told Al Jazeera he filed an independent complaint about Greer last year.
BRISOC is demanding an official apology from Greer and the removal of content it considers to be problematic, in a human rights module.
The society also seeks an apology from the university for “funding, supporting and promoting” Greer’s work and for its “delayed updates” since the complaint was made, said the statement.
The university told Al Jazeera it has launched a process to address the issue.
The principle complaint against Greer relates to a human rights module he teaches, titled Human Rights in Law, Politics and Society.
BRISOC highlighted several lines in lecture slides they provided to Al Jazeera from the module.
One of Greer’s students described them as painting an overall “misinformed and bigoted view of Islam”.
In a section discussing “Islam and human rights”, Greer listed freedom of expression as a “key challenge”, and highlighted “insult to Islam was punishable by death”.
The slide gave the deadly Charlie Hebdo attack as an example.
Gunmen killed at least 12 people when they attacked the French satirical magazine in 2015 over cartoons of Prophet Muhammad they deemed offensive.
A student who attended Greer’s class said he was shocked by some of the content, which gave the impression that Islam was “essentially bad” and “incompatible with freedom”.
“The Charlie Hebdo killing was a terrorist attack. Muslim leaders not only condemned the killings, but the fact that the professor actually used it as proof of Islam’s stance on freedom of expression was absolutely appalling,” the law student, who wished to remain anonymous, told Al Jazeera.
“The professor cherry-picked his examples to put Muslims in such a negative light when there are examples of the contrary – he just chose to not talk about them,” he said.
On the same slide, Greer listed several other human rights challenges related to Islam, including freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and the position of non-Muslims in Muslim countries.
Another section related to the position of women in Islam, said students, referring to lines that said Muslim women experienced “physical chastisement by husbands” and “women who wear hijab [were] less likely to work outside home or be involved in higher education”.
A law student who attended the same module during the previous academic year said she felt “extremely uncomfortable, othered and hurt” on several occasions during Greer’s classes.
“Initially, I was interested to share an academic discussion on Islam, but I was left shocked and antagonised,” said the student, who also wished to remain anonymous.
“He singled out Islam as a sort of threat. It was another Islamophobic, misinformed and bigoted understanding of Islam. Not something I expected in a university and especially, a human rights module,” she added.