Author of the “12 Rules for Life” and self-proclaimed professor against political correctness Jordan Peterson has opened up on the Cambridge University decision to rescind his visiting fellowship offer upon learning about an image of the academic posing with his arms around a man wearing an “I’m a proud Islamophobe” tee.
“I glanced at it. I don’t like the word Islamophobia, so there’s that. I think it’s a propagandistic word. I don’t have a dress code for my lectures. He had a right to wear the damn T-shirt if he felt like wearing it. I’m a free-speech guy”, he told The Times.
He found out about Cambridge’s cancellation via Twitter, and said that he felt “sorrow” and “shock”: “It was unprofessional to a degree that was almost incomprehensible to me. I can’t believe how it was handled”.
The photo of him and the fan was circulated on social media in the aftermath of the deadly Christchurch shooting in two mosques, which prompted a large New Zealand bookstore chain to briefly pull his book from the shelves.
“Was that anti-Muslim prejudice? Was that anti-immigration prejudice? Was that anti-pluralism prejudice? He [the shooter] obviously had an agenda, his agenda was to divide people. He stated this forthrightly. He was anti-immigrant. To think of that as an example of Islamophobia is a radical and dangerous oversimplification of something that was actually far worse”, Peterson said.
Peterson, an ardent free speech proponent who rose to fame thanks to a series of Bible lectures as well as his opposition to new rules requiring people to use gender-neutral pronouns, is not exactly the public’s favourite:
“The left don’t just oppose free speech. They oppose the very idea of free speech. You don’t speak on your behalf, because you’re angry white middle-aged man speaking on behalf of your status. There’s no free speech there, it’s impossible on principle. You have to be the mouthpiece of your group”, he said.
The Canadian professor likewise challenged his critics to prove that he has spoken “a single phrase that marks me as a prejudiced person regarding sex, race, ethnicity or, indeed, any of the multiplicity of the identities that have become so quickly and strangely dominant in our culture so recently”.
Once news of the rescindment was made public, Peterson wrote an extended response, in which he severely criticised the university for its decision.
“I think that the Faculty of Divinity made a serious error of judgment in rescinding their offer to me (and I’m speaking about those unnamed persons who made that specific decision). I think they handled publicising the rescindment in a manner that could hardly have been more narcissistic, congratulatory and devious. […] I think that it is no bloody wonder that the faith is declining (and with it, the values of the West, as it fragments) with cowards and mountebanks of the sort who manifested themselves today at the helm”.