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UI to host politician who said 9/11 was conspiracy

BY NINA EARNEST | FEBRUARY 08, 2011 7:10 AM

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University of Iowa officials have not altered their plans to host an upcoming lecture, despite an international organization’s letter decrying the speaker’s stance on the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Richard Falk, a former Princeton professor and U.N. Special Rapporteur on Palestinian Human Rights, is scheduled to be the keynote speaker at the College of Law symposium “Ten Years After 9/11: Rethinking Counterterrorism” on Thursday.

But his upcoming appearance is causing a stir with U.N. Watch, an international human-rights group. The group has requested that UI officials withdraw their invitation.

Falk recently published remarks on his blog, in which he called the lack of media or government interest in an independent investigation into the 9/11 attacks “disturbing.”

“Don’t connect dots without evidence,” Falk wrote on Jan. 11. “Don’t turn away as soon as the words ‘conspiracy theory’ are uttered, especially if the evidence does point away from what the power-wielders want us to believe.”



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Hillel Neuer, the executive director of the Geneva-based U.N. Watch, said the group’s request marks the first time his organization has urged a university to reconsider hosting a speaker.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in response to a letter from Neuer about the former professor’s claims, condemned Falk’s remarks as an “affront to the memory of the more than 3,000 people who died in the attack.”

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice later criticized Falk in a Jan. 25 press release, saying Falk’s comments regarding 9/11 were “despicable and deeply offensive.”

Falk responded to the comments in a Jan. 27 blog post, claiming he did “not endorse doubts” about the attacks but rather acknowledged an objective examination of the events.

Neuer, who called The Daily Iowan from Geneva, Switzerland, said he became aware of Falk’s lecture after receiving an e-mail from a concerned student at the UI.

Zakir Durumeric, the head of the University Lecture Committee, declined to comment on the issue, deferring all questions to UIspokesman Tom Moore.

Moore said the university welcomes a broad range of ideological viewpoints, even if they’re controversial.

“As a public university, the University of Iowa has the obligation and commitment to uphold the constitutionally protected right to free speech and to serve as a forum for rich and lively open exchange in the civil debate of ideas,” Moore said.

Neuer said he recognized Falk’s First Amendment right to visit the university but said he did not support the decision.

“It doesn’t mean a college of law … has to give the soapbox to someone who has despicable views about what happened on Sept. 11,” Neuer said.

Neuer sent a letter to UI President Sally Mason on Feb. 4 but did not receive a response. Moore said the university received the letter and officials are aware of its contents.

According to a U.N. Watch press release, one of the lecture’s corporate sponsors has withdrawn support.

Michael Ariely, a second-year UI law student, said he became concerned no one on the symposium panel would challenge Falk’s “extreme” views.

Ariely said no one is trying to deny Falk his freedom of speech.

“But at the same time, is it in the best interest of the University of Iowa, in the reputation of the University of Iowa?” Ariely said. “I don’t think it is.”


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