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British academia joins protest against Trump order

Hundreds signed a petition in solidarity with colleagues who are unable to travel to the US, pledging not to attend conferences there.

world Updated: Jan 31, 2017 16:30 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
HIndustan Times, London
Protesters demonstrate against US President Donald Trump outside Downing Street in London on Monday.(AFP)

Leading lights of academic institutions have called US President Donald Trump’s order related to refugees and immigrants an “affront to one of the most fundamental human freedoms”, and have called for a boycott of conferences held in the United States.

As thousands took to the streets in Britain and elsewhere on Monday evening, hundreds of academics signed a petition in solidarity with colleagues who are unable to travel to the US for conferences due to Trump’s order, pledging not to attend conferences there.

The petition said: “The order institutionalises racism, and fosters an environment in which people racialised as Muslim are vulnerable to ongoing and intensifying acts of violence and hatred.”

“Among those affected by the order are academics and students who are unable to participate in conferences and the free communication of ideas… We question the intellectual integrity of these spaces and the dialogues they are designed to encourage while Muslim colleagues are explicitly excluded from them.”

“We the undersigned take action in solidarity with those affected by Trump’s Executive Order by pledging not to attend international conferences in the US while the ban persists,” the petition, whose signatories included Indian-origin academics, added.

University of Cambridge vice-chancellor Leszek Borysiewicz on Tuesday recalled his own background as the son of refugees welcomed by Britain after the Second World War and called Trump’s order an “affront”.

“As the head of a university whose staff is actively engaged in research collaborations around the world, I cannot accept a policy that undermines academic freedom, disrupts partnerships, and blocks the pathways to understanding between peoples, faiths and nations,” he said.

“While we acknowledge that a country must have the right to manage its own borders, this ban is fundamentally at odds with the values of openness, tolerance and evidence-based decision-making that the University of Cambridge stands for.”

The implementation of the executive order, he said, may curtail some of the ancient university’s researchers’ ability to attend academic events, work with colleagues, and in some cases even meet with their families in the United States.

First Published: Jan 31, 2017 16:30 IST