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Sunday, June 13, 2021

How Academic Freedom Can Be Enriched in Arab Universities

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The conclusion, therefore, is that anyone who thinks of the relationship between academic freedom and Arab cultural policies knows that such policies are based on the principle of teaching the lessons and educational attainment, which realizes that they are the product of the Arab mentality that draws from a transfer approach in the collection of knowledge, based on the “traditions” principle. Every student, accordingly, sits in front of a sheikh who preceded him to reduce wisdom, without critical examination, and over the centuries a public culture was established based on hostility toward all free thinking and built on the atonement of the violator of the Sultan’s decrees and rose to the burning of the books of these violators.

Therefore, getting out of the restrictions on the transmission of knowledge that are hostile to freedom of thought necessitates the work to establish a counter-culture of enlightenment that allows the liberation of the mind away from taboos. It is also concerned with establishing the right to disagree and freedom of opinion. The Arab academic mind accordingly can establish a new system that allows free exchange of ideas and positions, regardless of the degree to which they conflict with the collective opinion, so that the academic community becomes its own master and not an obedient servant of those who pay them.

This article is intended to be a contribution with others to establishing an international consensus on academic freedom. Thus, I propose  a set of recommendations that are the result of long research experience, including the management and administration of one of the governmental institutions of Tunisia.

My first recommendation is to stop legal prosecution against any university professor who plays his role within the framework of his responsibilities and commitment to professional conscience, which is guaranteed by international conventions, including those on human rights.

I also call for excluding universities from ideological, racial and ethnic conflicts and making the quality of teaching a supreme goal. This includes not binding the curricula with justifications that only serve their owners and undermine any creative academic effort.

Further, I call for the launching of an international solidarity campaign against all forms of physical and verbal violence and legislation that undermine the academic freedom of students and professors, while ensuring the establishment of a fair international academic system, which is not based on providing opportunities for university students from the richest countries at the expense of marginalizing the academics of poorer countries. The university accordingly will have the ability to benefit from self-amendment in the area of academic freedom so that it is in a middle position without excess or negligence.

Mohamed Saad Borghol is the dean and a professor at the Higher Institute of Applied Languages of Moknine, of the University of Monastir. Phd in Arabic studies Author, journalist, columnist, social activist.

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