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Lincoln professor says he will not hold back on inflammatory remarks

Kaukab Siddique doesn't regret calling Pamela Geller and like-minded anti-Muslim commentators "dirty Jewish Zionist thugs." "I would say it again," the Lincoln University associate professor of English said defiantly.

Kaukab Siddique, standing in front of University Hall on Lincoln University's campus. (SusanSnyder / staff)
Kaukab Siddique, standing in front of University Hall on Lincoln University's campus. (SusanSnyder / staff)Read more

Kaukab Siddique doesn't regret calling Pamela Geller and like-minded anti-Muslim commentators "dirty Jewish Zionist thugs."

"I would say it again," the Lincoln University associate professor of English said defiantly.

Geller, Siddique said, committed the equivalent of "cultural genocide" by running a contest that encouraged people to draw cartoons of the prophet Muhammad.

"She did the worst, other than killing us," he said of Geller, whose group, the American Freedom Defense Initiative, is labeled an anti-Muslim hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. If she violates what is "most sacred to us, we can talk about her, that she is Jewish and she is white and she's a supremacist and she is doing this to us."

In an interview in his office at Lincoln, Siddique, 72, discussed the controversial views that have led critics to call for his dismissal.

Most recently, Siddique drew ire for Facebook posts that included the remark about Geller, suggested that one reason Bill Cosby's accusers did not come forward sooner could be that "many women are sluts" and opposed a "homo uprising."

Siddique, a Muslim who is a native of Pakistan, defended his right to speak his mind on his own time.

"If you can't talk and you can't express yourself at a university," he said, "then you can't express yourself anywhere."

In 2010, some legislators called on Lincoln, a historically black university in Chester County, to fire Siddique after he spoke against Israel at a Washington rally and said he doubted elements of the Holocaust. As a "state-related" university, Lincoln receives about $13 million in state funds.

Siddique said he visited then-Lincoln president Ivory Nelson, who had a pile of mail criticizing the remarks. He said he offered to resign, but Nelson would not accept.

"He said 'We have to stick to academic freedom,' " Siddique recalled.

That's not the way Nelson remembers it.

"I would have accepted it in a heartbeat," said Nelson, now retired.

Siddique's remarks hurt Lincoln, he said.

"There's no way in the world people are going to look at you and disassociate you from the institution," Nelson said.

He said he did not fire the tenured professor because his work was adequate, the remarks were made off campus on his own time, and he has the right to free speech.

Lincoln condemned the remarks in a statement, much the same as it did last month after the inflammatory Facebook posts came to light, first reported in the Daily Beast.

As unpalatable as some of these remarks may seem, professors have the right to speak about public matters without fear of repercussion, said Gregory F. Scholtz, of the American Association of University Professors.

"I think the underlying principle is you want to have a great deal of latitude so that the truth will never be suppressed," said Scholtz, the group's associate secretary and director of the Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure and Governance. "The idea is that good ideas eventually defeat bad ideas. But that's not going to happen if you suppress ideas."

The association recently censured the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for reneging on a job offer to Steven Salaita, a professor of American Indian studies who criticized Israel on Twitter.

Scholtz said the university shouldn't have rejected Salaita without a hearing to prove a lack of fitness for the job.

One of Siddique's most controversial stances is his skepticism about the Holocaust. He points to the work of David Irving, a Holocaust denier who has said there was no evidence that Jews were killed in gas chambers.

Irving's views have been discredited by mainstream historians. Ruling in a libel case Irving filed against a detractor, a British judge called him anti-Semitic and said he associates with neo-Nazis.

"I have read things from both sides," Siddique argued, "and therefore I think that for any study of the Holocaust, we need to know what the critics say."

"Were there ovens?" he asked. ". . . If you study the pictures of Auschwitz, there are no ovens there."

In a letter to Lincoln president Richard Green, State Rep. Mark Cohen, a Philadelphia Democrat, called Siddique's comments "hateful" and said the university should dismiss or discipline him. He said the school's contract with faculty requires professors to be "accurate in their utterances."

The Anti-Defamation League also condemned Siddique's remarks.

Siddique held firm in his views. In the interview, he railed against the U.S. military, which he said has "fallen below Hitler" in its treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and in Iraq.

"Every day, they go and bomb people, saying suspected Taliban," he added. "You kill someone because you suspect they are Taliban?"

Siddique said he doesn't share his political views with students or talk to them about his doubts about the Holocaust.

"My policy with students is help them to think, not tell them what to think," he said.

Born in 1943 in Lahore, the capital of the Pakistani province Punjab, Siddique earned his academic degrees from the University of Karachi and received a scholarship to Dalhousie University in Halifax for his Ph.D. in English, he said.

He came to the United States in 1975. At the time, he said he was writing critically about the Pakistani government, which he saw as "tyrannical." Friends warned him not to return, he said.

Siddique said he worked for publishing houses in Indiana and Virginia before arriving at Lincoln. He felt welcome there.

"I'm not prejudiced but I think African Americans are more open minded," he said. "They are willing to listen to many things which other people would not be willing to listen."

He added: "They know that human beings can be treated very badly and lies can be told about them."

Slavery, he noted, lasted longer than the Holocaust.

"Every day in our lives we have this racism emanating from slavery," he said. ". . . We have our own problems. We can't just be talking about Schindler's List and stuff like that."

He said he has not had pushback from students or his Lincoln colleagues.

Linda J. Stine, a longtime professor in the master of human services program, said she disagrees with most of Siddique's views.

But "as a colleague, I have found him unfailingly polite and helpful," she said. "If one did not read his writings outside Lincoln, there would be no question or problem."

Siddique, who has three grown children, lives in Baltimore with his wife, who works in the pharmaceutical industry.

"She's from Texas, believe it or not," he said of his American-born wife, who is more than two decades his junior and whom he declined to identify.

In addition to his work at Lincoln, Siddique teaches at a mosque and community center in Baltimore and publishes an Islamic magazine. He said he visits Pakistan, but doesn't say he has traveled there from America.

"We have stirred up such hostilities, it's unbelievable," he said. He blames the American government and commentators such as Geller for rising tensions around the globe.

Siddique shrugs off the criticism of his Facebook posts and provocative views. He said his comments about the women who have accused Bill Cosby of drugging and sexually assaulting them have been misinterpreted.

"I'm sure that Cosby did this, but why did women take so long to come out against it?"

In a Facebook post, he posed five possible reasons, including his observation that "many women are sluts."

In the interview, he mused further about that, saying, "This could be one reason that they would go and meet someone who was very well to do, alone, have drinks with him, and then might have sex with him and then claim they were raped.

"I'm not saying that happened," he said. "What I'm saying is that a possibility?"

He will continue to speak out, he said.

"What I want to achieve," he said, "is that I should die in a condition of virtue, that I should not have violated my sense of justice and goodness."