Jesus, Marx & Darwin would be banned from UK universities today – Oxford academic

© Jon Nazca
Figures like Jesus, Charles Darwin and Karl Marx would all be banned from British universities today due to the rise of counter-extremism legislation and US-style ‘safe spaces,’ an Oxford professor has claimed.

Oxford Professor of European Studies Timothy Garton Ash told an audience at the Hay literary festival on Monday that pressure groups and the state are carrying out a double-pronged attack on free speech.

As well as Marx, Darwin and Jesus, he warned that philosophers like Rousseau and Hegel would today be banned from campuses.

Referring to the UK government-led Prevent scheme, intended to keep extremism out of educational institutions, Garton Ash warned that “securocrats in the Home Office” are imposing bans which would “prevent even non-violent extremists speaking on campus.

Now non-violent extremists? That’s Karl Marx, Rousseau, Charles Darwin, Hegel, and most clearly Jesus Christ, who was definitely a non-violent extremist,” the academic said. The Home Office “wouldn’t want him preaching on campus,” he added.

But state intervention is only one side of the coin, Garton Ash said, arguing that the impact of US-style “safe space” politics, in which causing offense is held to be a grave sin, were also limiting freedom of speech.

He said there is a “certain push from below from our own students demanding so-called safe spaces” which involved “no platforming” people simply on the basis that particular students disagreed with them.

It’s one group of students censoring another,” he said, warning this resulted in free speech being “salami sliced” away.

Garton Ash said the UK, “which in a way invented the modern version of free speech in the 17th century, is in my view much too feeble when it comes to standing up for free speech.