A Nottingham University student and a staff member were detained for nearly a week under British terrorism laws for attempting to print 'controversial' documents on campus. Politics student Rizwaan Sabir was arrested after downloading an edited version of an al-Qaeda handbook from a US government website and sending it to an administrative member of staff, Hashim Yezza, for printing. Sabir is writing his MA dissertation on Islamic extremism and international terrorist networks, and many academics regard the downloaded material, which is publicly available, as a relevant piece of research.
Academics from the Universities and College Union have been accused of attempting to revive the intensely controversial academic boycott of Israel by calling for lecturers to consider their links with Israeli institutions and lobby contacts over the Israeli occupation.
During his recent visit to America, Pope Benedict XVI told leaders of Roman Catholic colleges and universities that academic freedom was of upmost importance - but did not justify promoting positions that violated the Catholic faith. The Pope said that church teaching should shape all aspects of campus life and that Catholic educators had a profound responsibility to lead the young to truth. Benedict reaffirmed academic freedom values but said attempts to use academic freedom to justify positions that contradicted the teaching of the church would betray the university's identity and mission, Time Magazine reported. Benedict's talk contained no concrete policy directives but emphasised the compatibility of faith and reason.
The second conference on academic freedom in Arab universities took place in Amman, Jordan, at the end of March and agreed to establish a permanent committee to deal with academic freedom issues in Arab countries. The event was organised by the Amman Centre for Human Rights Studies, the Network for Education and Academic Rights (NEAR), the Scholars at Risk Network, and the United Nations University International Leadership Institute. The Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the UK also participated.
Academics in countries around the world endure attacks on their freedom to conduct research, to speak out publicly on political and social issues, and to teach students through their own examples how to become independent-minded. In many places, academics have been imprisoned or even killed because they offended the government. In Iraq, the number of assassinations and kidnappings of academics continues to grow. Figures obtained from the London-based Council for Assisting Refugee Academics and other sources reveal that more than 300 Iraqi academics have been killed since the invasion in 2003.