After the publishing of my article last week, I was informed that The Telegraph article on which I based my own, which was picked up from The Daily Mail, was a gross misrepresentation of SOAS Student Union’s campaign. Reading the official SU statement, I am here to retract my previous article and to write an apology.
After reading the article in the Telegraph, I went on the SOAS Student’s Union site to find any news article about this topic. A cursory glance at the front page, where I had expected it to be highlighted, gave me no result, so I assumed that The Telegraph was a respectable and accurate source to use.
Instead of the supposed aim to ban white philosophers, the BA World Philosophies programme wants to simultaneously teach about hitherto little known thinkers: the great Arabic minds like al-Fārābī, Avicenna and Averroes, the Indian thinkers Nāgārjuna, Dińnaga, Uddyotakāra, Gańgeśa etc. and African philosophers like Kwami Anthony Appiah, Franz Fanon, Achille Mbembe, Valentin-Yves Mudimbe, Enrique Dussell and Walter Mignolo. The teaching of European philosophy is to be done by exploring the context of how they developed and how Enlightenment ideas of liberty, human rights and equality developed alongside the contemporary colonisation and imperialism. There is no intention to ban European philosophy, seeing how the intention of the course is to learn how different intellectual traditions interacted and developed. SOAS students had voted to make “Decolonising the University” the top priority of the Student Union, with the focus on reviewing the curriculum and developing Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) academic staff and students as a form of reparative justice. Whatever my personal views on the wider movement of decolonisation, as I believe that all actions in history should be viewed in context with the contemporary environment and not through a modern lens, this is the choice of the students involved and must be accepted.
I apologise for my writing and the condemnation I had heaped on the SOAS Student Union and retract the following lines. They do not hate white people, white knowledge or white civilisation. They are not snowflakes and do not epitomise hate, bigotry, ignorance and racism. They do not want to create racist, narrow-minded, brainwashed, and hateful idiots, rather to develop themselves through a more critical understanding of philosophy. Lastly, they are not intolerant. Lastly in response to my point about colonialism, I was not making a moral or supportive case for it, but rather to state that instead of being a zero-sum game, to see colonialism for its contemporary context and that it had led to good and bad outcomes, whatever the morally dubious basis it stems from. Though it’s coloured by my own personal benefit from British colonialism in Malaysia and the subsequent development of the nation after independence, I sought to challenge the prevailing narrative surrounding colonialism.
This has been an interesting topic to cover and I welcome future opportunities for learning.