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SOAS lecturer elected as MEP for far-right party


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SOAS lecturer Dr Gunnar Beck will represent the far-right party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) in the European Parliament.

Image credit: Ian Holton via Flickr

Earlier this month, staff in the SOAS Law Department released a statement condemning his actions, given the party's ultra-nationalism, islamophobic and reactionary policy proposals.

The AfD previously called for "Islam-free schools" whilst one of its leaders sparked controversy for antisemitic remarks about the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin.

The decision to run was met with criticism from people who condemned Dr. Beck's political views and questioned his continued employment with SOAS.

Dr Beck, who teaches EU law and serves as the departmental careers tutor, was accused of exaggerating his academic credentials in his European election campaign.

Ballot papers for the European elections on 26 May identified him as 'Prof Dr Gunnar Beck,' despite not holding the title of 'Professor' in the UK.

Speaking to the Guardian, a spokesperson for the AfD said it translated Dr Beck's title of "reader" as "Professor" as it considered the two to be equal, citing Oxford University's definition of "reader" as a “post at an intermediate level between that of full professor and associate professor."

The claim, however, has been rejected by the Ministry for Science in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, where the ballot paper states Dr Beck is based.

Dr Beck denied exaggerating his credentials, stating in an email to the Guardian that the prefix may have been added by mistake.

“I can’t imagine I ever used the prefix ‘Prof’ or ‘Prof Dr’ in writing, let alone in introducing myself, just as I practically never sign as ‘Dr’ or introduce myself as such. Others in Germany and possibly elsewhere must have taken it upon themselves to add those to my name, thinking this either appropriate in my case or customary in Britain too.”

In a statement, SOAS said it found "the policies of the AfD on a range of matters to be abhorrent" and to "conflict with the fundamental values we hold as an institution".

Yet, the university defended Dr Beck's right to stand as an AfD candidate, saying:

"However, as an academic institution, we are committed to the rights of academic freedom of speech within the law, despite the painful choices to which it gives rise. We encourage members of our community to tackle these issues through robust debate."

SOAS Students' Union also issued a statement, criticising the lecturer:

"The AfD is known to be anti-immigration, anti-asylum, anti-abortion, homophobic, Islamophobic and Anti-Semitic. It also wishes to reinstate conscription for men aged 18 and is sceptical of climate change. The party stands for everything SOAS stands against.

"Though we are forced to respect people’s political freedom, we can call into question why an academic who stands with a party with such hostile views wants to be a part of the SOAS community and teach students who hold and support so many of the identities he wants to see diminished."

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