Pennsylvania state legislators are pressing the administration of Lincoln University for more information on a literature professor who has called for the destruction of Israel and who, according to the lawmakers, has promoted denial of the Holocaust.
The Pakistani-born Kaukab Siddique is a tenured professor at Lincoln, an historically black college in Chester County that receives state funding.
Though some in the community have been aware of his speeches and writings for several years, Siddique has gained notoriety recently as a video of a speech he gave on Labor Day in Washington has circulated on the Internet.
In the video, posted by www.investigativeproject.org and aired on the Christian Broadcasting Network, Siddique tells a crowd at an anti-Israel rally: "We must stand united to defeat, to destroy, to dismantle Israel — if possible by peaceful means."
In the speech, Siddique also called the Sept. 11 attacks a Zionist plot and said that "settlements are only the tentacles of the devil that reside in Tel Aviv."
State. Sen. Daylin Leach (D-District 17), whose Montgomery County district does not include the university, said that an aide had brought the footage to his attention. The Jewish lawmaker, along with State Sen. Anthony Williams (D-District 8) of Philadelphia, drafted a letter to Lincoln president Ivory V. Nelson pressing for more information about the instructor.
The letter also cites writings by Siddique that denies the Holocaust and lauds scholars such as David Irving who have questioned the historical veracity of the Shoah.
The letter asks whether the administration was aware of Siddique's views, whether they have been expressed in the classroom and "what steps are being taken to ensure that Mr. Siddique is not teaching students at Lincoln University that the Holocaust is a myth, and is not perpetrating false and derogatory information regarding people of the Jewish faith."
As of Thursday morning, Leach's office was still circulating the letter to colleagues. Leach said he hoped to have about 20 co-sponsors before officially sending it to the university.
"The Pennsylvania legislature does not tolerate hate speech or anti-Semitic speech on the part of state employees and state supported universities," stated the letter.
Lincoln University spokeswoman Ashley Gabb said that Siddique does have a history of making controversial comments outside the classroom.
"There is no evidence of his personal views being presented or articulated in the classroom," Gabb said.
She added that Siddique has every right to exercise his first amendment rights outside the classroom.
Siddique did not answer an e-mail requesting comment. But in an e-mail to the Christian Broadcasting Network, he wrote: "When I refer critically to the 'Jews,' I am referring to the current leadership of the 'State of Israel' and to their major supporters, not to the Jewish race as a whole."
Leach said that, at this point, he is only seeking more information and that there's been no discussion of reviewing the university's funding status.
"If there was some evidence that these views were viewed as a positive in terms of his hiring or tenuring decision or if they were known about, that that would raise some very serious concerns," he said. "If it's an isolated incident that the school knew nothing about and is mortified about, that would be a bit more reassuring."