Two letters in defence of Dr Miriyam Aouragh

Two letters have been written in defence of Dr Miriyam Aouragh, who we are very pleased to have speaking at ORF this year, against allegations brought in the Cherwell newspaper:

1. A letter from fellows of the Middle East Centre, St Antony’s College, Oxford, published in the Cherwell on 3 March 2017.

2. A second letter signed by over 80 academics and Oxford alumni, which was published in shortened form with an abbreviated list of signatories in the Cherwell on 3 March 2017. We publish it in full below.


Letter 1:

To the Editors:

We write as the Fellows of Oxford’s Middle East Centre to condemn the groundless allegations of anti-Semitism that have been printed repeatedly in Cherwell against our friend and colleague Dr Miriyam Aouragh.

Unlike the student societies who have been making allegations against her, and the Cherwell journalists who have covered the story, we know Dr Aouragh personally. She has been an active member of our teaching and research community since 2009. We can assert with confidence that the allegations of anti-Semitism are completely false and groundless.

As scholars committed to promoting and environment for the free exchange of critical thought, we condemn absolutely all expressions of hate speech, and anti-Semitism in particular. However, we believe anti-Semitism to be too serious an accusation to level without clear and certain evidence. Neither the students who have criticized Dr Aouragh nor Cherwell have provided any evidence of words or deeds to substantiate this charge.

In our view, it is the exercise of one’s freedom of expression to attend protest meetings, as it is to write critically about sensitive subjects, as long as one does not cross the boundary into hate speech. It is a pernicious form of censorship to use accusations of anti-Semitism to deny intellectuals their freedom of speech.

We urge Oxford students to drop their baseless accusations against Dr Aouragh, and Cherwell journalists to understand what it means to publish such grave allegations without verification, in order to preserve our University as a forum for the free exchange of all views – a privilege all the more precious in the current age of intolerance.


Walter Armbrust, Tony Matthiesen, Laurent Mignon, Philip Robins, Eugene Rogan (Director), Tariq Ramadan, Michael Willis, Avi Shlaim (Emeritus Fellow)


Letter 2:

2 March 2017

Dear Editors

Defamation of Dr Miriyam Aouragh

In the last two weeks you have published three articles which defame Dr Miriyam Aouragh, a speaker at this year’s Oxford Radical Forum, by suggesting that she has, in your words, “anti-semitism ties”, and by publishing a picture of her underneath a headline using those words. The only ‘evidence’ you produce for this outrageous allegation is a reference to the fact that in 2004 Dr Aouragh participated in a demonstration against Israel’s killing of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and nine bystanders (an atrocity that was condemned by the UN Secretary General and UK Foreign Secretary at the time). It should be self-evident that this in no way corroborates the allegation of anti-semitism.

Unlike those who are setting themselves up as her accusers we have the privilege of knowing Dr Aouragh. She is a respected anthropologist and media scholar, and a valued member of the academic and activist communities in Oxford and abroad. She has a proud record of anti-racist activism and a long history of close collaboration with Jewish scholars and activists – including some of the undersigned.

The attacks on the speakers at Oxford Radical Forum are yet another attempt to shut down critical voices in our universities. This does not happen in a vacuum. The UK Government’s Prevent strategy is the most alarming example, but forms of censorship are manifold. They include the use of false accusations of anti-semitism to discredit or silence critics of Israeli policies, a tactic that has a long history and which is on the rise – as is evident in this case and in current attacks on Israeli Apartheid Week events across the country (“Free speech on Israel under attack in universities”, Guardian, 27 February 2017). We condemn all of these forms of intimidation and censorship.

Your articles state that this baseless allegation of anti-semitism has been advanced by Oxford University Jewish Society. Regardless of who originated this attack upon Dr Aouragh’s character the Cherwell has a responsibility to maintain basic journalistic standards by refraining from publishing wholly unsubstantiated slanders on its front page. We demand you take action to remedy the damage you have done, by retracting your defamatory articles and publishing a prominent apology to Dr Aouragh.

Yours sincerely

Dr Anne Alexander, Research Associate, University of Cambridge
Diana Allan, Assistant Professor, McGill University, Canada
Dr Jamie Allinson, University of Edinburgh
Dr Seda Altug, Bogazici University, Istanbul
Sarah Bracke, Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Amsterdam
Dr Pepijn Brandon, Assistant Professor, VU Amsterdam and Senior Researcher at the International Institute of Social History
Paula Chakravartty, Associate Professor, Department of Media, Culture and Communication and the Gallatin School, New York University
Professor Maurice Crul, Erasmus University Rotterdam
Dr Michael Dahan, Sapir College, Israel
Dr Anouk de Koning, Department of Anthropology and Development Studies, Radboud University, the Netherlands
Dr Marina de Regt, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Dr Chihab El Khachab, Junior Research Fellow in Anthropology, Christ Church, Oxford
Nadia Fadil, Assistant Professor, Anthropology, KU Leuven, Belgium
Dr Simon Faulkner, Senior Lecturer in Art History, Manchester School of Art, Manchester Metropolitan University
Dr Layal Ftouni, Utrecht University, the Netherlands
Dr Paolo Gerbaudo, Lecturer in Digital Culture and Society, Director of the Centre for Digital Culture, King’s College London
Dr Peter Goodwin, Principal Research Fellow, Communication and Media Research Institute, University of Westminster
Dr Erella Grassiani, University of Amsterdam
Dr Seda Gurses, KU Leuven, Belgium
Jaap Hamburger, Chairman A Different Jewish Voice, Amsterdam
Zahera Harb, Senior Lecturer, City, University of London
Sune Haugbolle, Associate Professor in Global Studies, Roskilde University, Denmark
Dr Sami Hermez, Northwestern University in Qatar
Dr Peter Hill, Junior Research Fellow in Oriental Studies, Christ Church, Oxford
Ashley Inglis, Writer; alumnus, St Anne’s College, Oxford
Russell Inglis, Solicitor; alumnus, St Hugh’s College, Oxford
Dr Adel Iskandar, Simon Fraser University, Canada
Dr Omar Jabary Salamanca, Ghent University, Belgium
Dr Peyman Jafari, University of Amsterdam
Dr Barak Kalir, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Amsterdam
Dr Athina Karatzogianni, Associate Professor, Department of Media & Communication, University of Leicester
Anastasia Kavada, Senior Lecturer, Westminster School of Media, Arts & Design, University of Westminster
Dr Michelle Kelly, University of Oxford
Prof. Laleh Khalili, SOAS, University of London
Dr Shifra Kisch, Department of Anthropology, University of Amsterdam
Dr Arun Kundnani, Scholar-in-Residence, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library
Dr Adi Kuntsman, Senior Lecturer, Department of Languages, Information and Communications, Manchester Metropolitan University
Frans Lelie, Blauwe Aanslag, Netherlands
Dr Nancy Lindisfarne, SOAS, University of London
Rima Majed, Assistant Professor of Sociology and University of Oxford alumnus
Dr Winston Mano, Reader and a Director of the Africa Media Centre at the University of Westminster
Professor Upamanyu Pablo Mukherjee, Warwick University
Yasser Munif, Assistant Professor, Emerson College
Professor Annelies Moors, Department of Anthropology, University of Amsterdam
Dr Jonathan Neale, Writer, Oxford
Mohamed-Salah Omri, Associate Professor of Modern Arabic Literature, Tutorial Fellow, St John’s College, University of Oxford
Nicola Perugini, University of Edinburgh
Dr Winifred R. Poster, International Studies/International Affairs Program, Washington University, St Louis
Vijay Prashad, Professor of International Studies, Trinity College
Dr Mezna Qato, Cambridge University
Kamran Rastegar, Associate Professor, International Literary and Cultural Studies, Tufts University
Srirupa Roy, Professor of Political Science and Modern Indian Studies, University of Göttingen, Germany
Tarik Sabry, Reader at Communication and Media Research Institute, University of Westminster
Dr Rosemary Sayigh, Anthropologist and historian, Beirut
Dr Yezid Sayigh, Senior Fellow, Carnegie Middle East Center
Sherene Seikaly, Associate Professor, Department of History, University of California, Santa Barbara
Paul A. Silverstein, Professor of Anthropology, Reed College, US
Rachel Spronk, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Amsterdam
Helga Tawil-Souri, Associate Professor, New York University
Dr Rebecca Stein, Duke University
Professor Thijl Sunier, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Daniel Swain, Pianist; alumnus, St Anne’s College, Oxford
Dr Mandy Turner, Visiting Senior Fellow, Middle East Centre, London School of Economics
Dr Farida Vis, Faculty Research Fellow, Information School, University of Sheffield
Dr Mayida Zaal, Professor of Education, New Jersey US