An Italian academic appeal to boycott Israeli universities succeeded in obtaining 336 signatures. Of these teachers and researchers, a tenth come from the University of Bologna. But in this oldest university in Europe, no one has shown enough concern to raise a moral issue about the big deal that the Alma Mater Studiorum of Bologna has just signed with Saudi Arabia.
Not only that, but some of the protagonists of this academic pact appear in the appeal against the Israeli teachers. It should have been enough to read the report of Freedom House on Saudi universities to figure that maybe needed a little extra caution was in order because at stake is not oil, but our culture: “Academic freedom is limited, informers monitor classrooms for compliance with regulations, such as the prohibition of teaching secular philosophy and religions other than Islam.”
The pact with the Saudis, which will last five years, was launched by the former rector Ivano Dionigi and enshrined under the new one, Francesco Ubertini, both silent on their colleagues who ostracized the Jewish State. In the pact with Riad, we read about “promoting dialogue,” publishing Islamic texts, investing in literature, philology and music, through conferences and seminars, as well as the exchange of professors and students.
It is not the first exchange agreement with the Saudis. In 2014, the rector of Bologna flew to Riyadh to attend an educational seminar in the presence of Khalid bin al Angari, Minister for Saudi Education. On October 10, 2015, the then rector, along with the Saudi ambassador to Italy, participated in a conference entitled “Tolerance in Islam and coexistence between religions”. Did he know that in Saudi Arabia you can not wear a robe showing the cross, nor open a church and that Christians are persecuted?
Among the supporters of the agreement with the Saudis there is Giulio Soravia, director of the Center of Islamic Sciences at Bologna’s University. The name of Soravia, who in 2011 was sent by the rector to attend a conference in Saudi Arabia, also appears in the academic document against Israel.
While the university was signing this shameful pact with Riyadh, the Saudi Grand Mufti stated that “women who drive are prey of the devil”. What do the feminists from University of Bologna think of that? In addition to submitting to one of the most obscurantist regimes in the world, these professors could prove a bit of solidarity with the only democracy in the Middle East, Israel.
Meanwhile, in Riyadh, an intellectual named Raif Badawi is waiting in prison for the next cycle of lashes, guilty of “insults to Islam” and of being a “liberal”. Much more a liberal than these Italian professors with their double standards and morality.