BIGOT DONs of the Left; as an Oxford Professor Is Denounced by Colleagues for Saying the British Empire Was Both Good and Bad, We Reveal How Our Most Eminent University Is Home to Foul-Mouthed, Tory-Loathing, Anti-Israel, Corbynista Academics Who Believe Only THEY Should Have Freedom of Expression

Daily Mail (London), December 23, 2017 | Go to article overview

BIGOT DONs of the Left; as an Oxford Professor Is Denounced by Colleagues for Saying the British Empire Was Both Good and Bad, We Reveal How Our Most Eminent University Is Home to Foul-Mouthed, Tory-Loathing, Anti-Israel, Corbynista Academics Who Believe Only THEY Should Have Freedom of Expression


Byline: Guy Adams investigates

THE Reverend Canon Nigel Biggar, Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology at Christ Church, Oxford, is a gifted orator who has published eight books during the five decades of his career.

A leading authority on religious ethics and an Anglican priest, he is also a senior adviser to the Vatican.

With a gift for explaining complex moral concepts, he is much in demand as a public lecturer and commentator on current affairs.

Among topics he has recently addressed in newspaper articles have been voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide (both of which he opposes), military action in Syria (which he supports on moral grounds), Israel's treatment of the Palestinians (he has criticised aspects of it) and Scottish independence (he is against).

Although 62-year-old Professor Biggar is generally conservative, his views, like those of most intellectuals, cannot be pigeonholed. Indeed, people of all political persuasions have in recent times taken issue with some of his opinions.

For example, he was criticised by many on the Right for an article about the murderous attack by Islamic extremists on journalists at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, in Paris, which published cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed. It argued that the journalists had 'neglected their moral duty' not to cause gratuitous offence to Muslims. He has also, by way of another example, offended many on the Left by supporting the killing of Osama Bin Laden by U.S. soldiers, arguing that 'rough justice is still justice'.

Having provocative opinions that challenge orthodoxy is what we expect from our great academics and thinkers. Equally, it is an axiom of liberalism that those who disagree should engage in forthright but fair debate.

Sadly, that no longer appears to be the case. For Professor Biggar has become the target of a hysterical social media mob for expressing his views on the British Empire.

In an article for The Times, he wrote that we must 'not feel guilty about our colonial history' and rebuked those who believe that 'apologising for empire is now compulsory', stressing that such attitudes will not help tackle the problems of the modern world. Inevitably, he attracted an avalanche of odium on Facebook and Twitter as keyboard trolls called him 'racist', 'bigoted', a 'gob*****' and an 'idiot' whose work is 'illinformed' and recalls 'Hitler and the Nazis'.

But some of his fellow Oxford academics were also vehement critics, and this week it emerged that 58 of them had signed an open letter declaring their 'firm rejection' of his 'agenda'.

They vowed to boycott Professor Biggar's next research project, accusing him of being 'breathtakingly politically naive' and engaging in 'very bad history'.

So what exactly did they find so offensive? Biggar's article had argued that society ought to take a more 'balanced' view of the rights and wrongs of the British Empire, rather than simply treating it as something to be ashamed of.

While acknowledging that 'atrocities' had occurred under colonial rule, he said the British Empire had provided law and order to other countries, which many citizens had valued.

Accepting that the Empire's legacy was 'morally mixed', he went on to say that our current Government might feel too afraid to intervene to stop human rights abuses overseas if policy were dictated by 'unwarranted guilt' about what Britain had done in the past.

Note his use of the words 'balanced' and 'mixed'. He was not celebrating colonialism or excusing the crimes carried out in its name. He was merely pointing out that it should be viewed in context and analysed with intellectual rigour.

Yet here, and elsewhere in modern academia, questioning orthodoxy and engaging with uncomfortable ideas appears to represent heresy.

Instead, as Biggar's recent experience illustrates, intellectual debate is shut down and other academics are attacked online for expressing any views that are even mildly contentious. …

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BIGOT DONs of the Left; as an Oxford Professor Is Denounced by Colleagues for Saying the British Empire Was Both Good and Bad, We Reveal How Our Most Eminent University Is Home to Foul-Mouthed, Tory-Loathing, Anti-Israel, Corbynista Academics Who Believe Only THEY Should Have Freedom of Expression
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