Stefano Allievi and the Freedom of Expression
Stefano Allievi, Professor of Sociology, scholar and expert in Islamic matters, cited by Adel Smith, a controversial Islamic figure, famous for his radical opinions and fiery gestures on various subjects (especially his polemic against the crucifix), has been sentenced to six months, as well as a monetary fine of 3,000 euros, for the opinions he expresses about Smith and his actions in his book Italian Islam, published by Einaudi. This sentence is even more surprising if we think of how often Professor Allievi has taken a stand for the guarantee of freedom of speech and expression of Muslims themselves, to studying and understanding whom he has dedicated over fifteen years of research.
Here we publish an open letter by Professor Stefano Allievi.
Those of you who have already heard about my situation, will find further information on the site http://184.108.40.206/petition_allievi (a link is available also from the site of the Department of Sociology of the University of Padua: www.sociologia.unipd.it ) where you will be able to do something really practical to help me. Those who do not know anything about this case will find information on the same site. However the main facts are as follows. I have been sentenced on a serious libel charge to six months imprisonment, as well as a financial penalty of 3000 euros, following on a libel action by Adel Smith. Those of you who know him, already know what sort of person I am referring to. For those who don’t know him, just write his name into Google and you will find all the information about the case, as well as much stronger positions than mine.
I consider this sentence defamatory of my whole career of research, a sentence that vilifies my life-long research into the realities of Islamism in Italy. But it is even more serious in terms of principle: I have been condemned for opinions, expressed inside a serious book, published by a serious editor, which seriously attempts to describe the world of Islam in Italy, as part of a path of research activity that has extended over the last three decades, dedicated to the same subject and always with the same involvement. I believe this to be a serious precedent precisely at the level of principles, which strikes a blow against freedom of academic research and the manifestation of opinions, including the right to criticize, and reveals itself to be a grave act of censorship, also preventive, against those who may wish to continue dealing with this subjects, which are so difficult to treat today with equanimity.
Naturally, in agreement with my lawyers and with the editor, I shall apply to the appeal court, for a sentence the motivations of which I eagerly await, but which I shall have to unfortunately await for some time, given the bureaucracy involved. The general pardon approved in the meantime, between the moment when I allegedly committed the offence and the judge’s decision, will ensure that I avoid having any taste of prison. Having a clean record, apart from being a reason for pride, is an added guarantee for me today. But the precedent remains, and it is very serious. Various cases before the public these days show how it has become more and more difficult to do any research today, and take any stance, on religious subjects. And the difficulty is all the greater when the subject is Islam. As far as I am concerned, from the other side, I have had to undergo threats from Far-Right political splinter groups just because I had invited a famous Muslim intellectual to come and speak at my university. And my ideas and opinions, and those of my colleagues, have occasionally been the object of malevolent and ill-informed journalistic attention, just because they do not fit in with received opinions or do not underwrite the biased notions of certain opinion leaders.
My request to you all, if you agree with me, is to sign the petition that you find on the site, and to spread it among those who may be interested, in Italy and abroad, given that the problem exists in other places too, in Europe, and not only. I would also ask those of you who can to intervene with letters and declarations, to be published on the site. Nothing more remains than to thank you for the attention you have dedicated to me.
Prof. Stefano Allievi
Dipartimento di Sociologia
Via Cesarotti, 10/12
35123 - Padova