The head of the Pennsylvania Board of Education this week joined a growing list of protesters urging Lincoln University to reconsider the tenure of a professor who has questioned the Holocaust and urged the overthrow of Israel's government.
Calling professor Kaukab Siddique's recent statements "disgraceful," board Chairman Joseph M. Torsella called on the Chester County school to repudiate the instructor's views and investigate whether campus resources have been used to support his cause.
"They really ought to take pains to determine to what extent the university - and by extension, public resources - have been used to support this," Torsella said Wednesday. "I'm confident that at the end of the investigation, they will appropriately denounce the substance of the views."
Siddique, 67, found himself in the middle of a media maelstrom last week when video of a speech he gave at an anti-Israel rally went viral on the Internet.
Backed by crowds of chanting demonstrators, the associate professor of English urged people to "unite and rise up against this hydra-headed monster which calls itself Zionism."
His statements at the Washington rally, and nonacademic writings that have surfaced in which he questions the significance of the Holocaust, have drawn scrutiny from the likes of Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly - both of whom recently featured the professor on their Fox News programs.
Lincoln officials quickly responded that they were not aware of any instance in which the professor had shared those views in the classroom or at a university-sponsored public forum.
Torsella said that response did not go far enough. In a letter sent to Lincoln President Ivory V. Nelson late Tuesday, he urged the university to investigate whether Siddique had used campus resources to support the Baltimore-based version of the group Jamaat al-Muslimeen, which he leads in support of Muslim communities around the world, or its online newsletter, New Trends Magazine. The magazine's website proclaims that the publication is against racism, Zionism, and imperialism, but also declares that it does not endorse violence of any kind.
Recent writings in the magazine that have been attributed to Siddique refer to the Holocaust as a "myth" and a "story," and articles by other authors express support for the regimes of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, the Taliban in Afghanistan, and Hezbollah in Lebanon. That should raise questions in the minds of university administrators, Torsella said.
"A professor expressing personal opinions (even extraordinarily objectionable ones) on current events is one matter," Torsella wrote. "Denying the Holocaust - a tragic historical fact - is another matter entirely."
Siddique has maintained that his critics have taken his views out of context.
"I am against Israel, not against Jews," he said in an interview with The Inquirer last week. He did not respond to calls or e-mails seeking comment Wednesday.