I wish I had never looked at Kaukab Siddique's Facebook page.
But I couldn't help myself—I got curious when I saw that the Lincoln University professor was making headlines across the country for remarks that included phrases like "dirty Jewish Zionist thugs." "Well, that sounds intriguing," I thought, not really taking it seriously. See, I often forget that people think horrible things about Jews. It's 2015, for god's sake, and I rarely encounter blatant anti-Semitism or discrimination due to my being Jewish. And unlike past generations of my family, my life is not significantly more difficult because I am a Jew. It is sometimes socially uncomfortable, and I do sometimes hide the fact that I'm Jewish, but I am not treated like a pariah.
So it's easy for me to live in a bubble of denial, especially now that I no longer subscribe to publications from the Anti-Defamation League.
But Professor Siddique's Facebook page has opened a whole new world of Jew-haters to me. There are apparently many people who trade anti-Semitic commentary and posts and images, each boosting the other's notions of the Jewish-controlled universe. They consistently conflate the right-wing government of Israel and its geopolitical strategy with all American Jews, a fatuous oversimplification that's nonetheless quite damaging. Though the majority of American Jews haven't ever been to Israel and don't feel emotionally attached to it, anti-Semites have long used the word "Zionist" and "Jew" interchangeably. Some anti-Semites are smart enough to obfuscate this linkage by not putting them in the same sentence, but Siddique is not savvy in this way. For example, speaking of Sandra Bland:
What a brave woman. How many women can stand up to such bullying, or even men. This government has no honor and no shame. So degraded that woman.! And that Zionist Jewish dog Derschowitz was teaching: just don't resist. In other words the Jew was implying that it was the woman's fault!
Now they say she was DEPRESSED a YEAR BACK, therefore she committed suicide. Hitler never treated Black people like this. Israel's system has been imposed on America.
These are today's rantings, and they're nutty and silly, but they're nothing new, as a recent Daily Beast article points out. The piece—which cites other outrageous Facebook comments that demean women and gays—had one friend of Siddique's railing against the "Jewish press." (The top editors at the Daily Beast are not Jewish, incidentally. People who complain about the Jewish press never consult a masthead.)
He has a history
Siddique has been in hot water before, and the question of academic freedom was central to the case back then too. In 2010, he spoke at a pro-Palestinian rally in Washington, D.C., and called for the destruction of Israel. Prior to the rally, he'd referred to the Holocaust as a "hoax," a position he defended in an interview with Inside Higher Ed. Naturally, this caused an enormous backlash against him, and Lincoln's administration made it clear that they disagreed with his position but could not fire him because his personal views were just that—personal. This is the same position they are taking now; they released this statement yesterday:
The Lincoln University Associate Professor Kaukab Siddique, in a July 8 post on his personal Facebook page, appears to defend ISIS fighters and makes derogatory comments about women and rape among other things. His latest comments, like his earlier writings, statements and activities, are an insult to women and other groups he singled out. Dr. Siddique's statements and assertions are his own, and they in no way represent the views of Lincoln University, its administration, faculty or students.
Dr. Siddique is a tenured member in the Department of Languages and Literature. Like all faculty members, he is entitled to express his personal views in conversation or in public forums, as long as he does not present such opinions as the views of the University.
This policy is consistent with the norms on academic freedoms established by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), which characterizes it this way:
Academic freedom is the freedom to teach, both in and outside the classroom, to conduct research and to publish the results of those investigations, and to address any matter of institutional policy or action whether or not as a member of an agency of institutional governance. Professors should also have the freedom to address the larger community with regard to any matter of social, political, economic, or other interest, without institutional discipline or restraint, save in response to fundamental violations of professional ethics or statements that suggest disciplinary incompetence.
Emphasis mine, because that's what we're really talking about here: what professors are free to say. The AAUP encourages universities to create their own social media policies, but within reason.
Maureen O. Stokes, Lincoln University's Associate VP for External Relations, Marketing and Communications, says that Lincoln does have a social media policy, but it does not currently address Facebook rants from wacky professors. "It is written more along the lines of how social media pages (official for university use) can be created and how they are maintained," says Stokes. "We are reviewing it in light of this situation." She says that all faculty members are expected to adhere to the AAUP polices, which Siddique has done.
What to do?
While I'm mildly distressed by Siddique's own points of view, he's just one person, and as the Beast piece notes, his views don't even seem consistent. In interviews, he's less strident, and backs away from some of the positions he takes online. (I reached out to him for comment, but didn't get a response as of press time.) What bothers me, instead, is the dialogue he's part of, and the people I "met" by looking at his Facebook page.
Given that Siddique's Facebook page is making headlines now, these "friends" will garner extra scrutiny. I'm not sure that's entirely fair to him. I mean, I'm horrified by some of what my cousin posts on Facebook, but I don't block him. Siddique isn't necessarily responsible for what every person posts to his timeline. But he does engage with some of these folks, and his own rhetoric encourages a reality that I'd rather not acknowledge: There are people going back and forth on Facebook about "the Jews." In groups. Groups of people with hate in their hearts? That frightens me.
If I started posting racist and homophobic drivel to my personal Facebook page, I'd be fired quickly; my employer would say that my points of view were not representative of the company's values, and that my behavior sullied the company's brand. But I work for a private company, not a public university. And academic freedom is essential.
So I would not want Kaukab Siddique to be fired, though I believe—given his Facebook writings—that he hates Jews, which (I gotta admit) I take a little personally. From now on, though, I think I'll steer clear of his social media accounts. Living in denial was easier.