Op-ed: Students are right to reject Islamophobia and racism from their lecturers

Students should question the beliefs and statements of DCU lecturer Mark Humphrys, despite his insistence that he has “three lives”

Controversial blogger and Dublin City University (DCU) lecturer Mark Humphrys has been frantically updating his blog the last few days. As well as recently added “statements” on the homepage doubling down, refusing to apologise and threatening to sue for libel – a rookie move considering that his would be libellers are students and therefore broke – he also really wants us to know that he has three lives. Like a really unlucky cat. Listing computing, history, and politics as his three lives, he tells us that his politics blog “has nothing to do with my other 2 lives”.

Like most on the far-right, principled thought and critical thinking isn’t Humphrys’ strong point: he demands for himself what he never affords others. George Floyd is never offered the opportunity of dividing his life into neat segments – a past with a criminal record, the fact he was of an ethnicity that made him most vulnerable to police violence, the day he was just trying to buy something at the store in May 2020

Humphrys is determined not to afford him that opportunity: “Floyd was another useless criminal who dug his own grave,” he writes. “It is no wonder [the police] did not listen to his ‘I can’t breathe’ after 10 minutes of relentless bullshit and gibberish.”

He writes gleefully that George Floyd yelled, “I’m not that kind of guy!” while officers assaulted him, reminding the reader that Floyd had served 5 years in prison for armed robbery. Ironic, given that Humphrys now cries “I’m not that kind of guy” at anyone who’ll listen whilst his students uncover more and more problematic material on his blog every day.

Many of us here in Ireland have been subjected to the Humphrys treatment too – even when we don’t have other “lives” we need to keep separate. I don’t flatter myself by assuming that I’m a household name in Ireland. But it’s probably fair to say that most people involved in activist, community and voluntary work in Ireland would have at least some familiarity with the work I and my team do at the Irish Muslim Peace & Integration Council (IMPIC). We work every day for a pluralistic, tolerant and intersectional vision of Islam. But this is not enough for Humphrys.

Despite a long and well-documented career standing against Islamist extremism in all its forms – not just violent extremism, but also the misogyny and homophobia that is a feature of non-violent Islamism – Humphrys assumes me to be guilty until proven innocent: “Al-Qadri’s mosque was inaugurated by Minister for Justice Brian Lenihan in January 2008. Did Brian Lenihan ask a single question about Islamic extremism at this mosque?”

Humphrys paints himself as a common sense kinda guy – he calls it as he sees it. Except, of course, when it affects him or people like him. “Did the cops mean to kill [George Floyd]? Of course not,” he writes, in a move that looks a lot like a blind leap of faith for a self-proclaimed atheist. The judge and jury got it wrong, the 22 years imprisonment Chauvin was sentenced to is “insanely high” in his mind.

He’s also not keen on consequences for himself. He “warns” DCU students “if you try and drag my third life into my other two lives I will block you”, while also believing in (very lenient) due process for cops but not for black people, or that Muslims are violent extremists until they prove otherwise.

Sadly for him, these students have taken their discomfort with him being in that position to a realm where he can’t simply block them. Over 200 students gathered for a Black Lives Matter protest on the DCU campus recently, whilst Dublin City University Students’ Union (DCUSU) has supported their principled stance and many activists and groups online have added the voices in solidarity with the students. DCU students have good reason to be worried: despite him “yelling” that he shouldn’t face any consequences, his blog makes clear that he holds some deep-rooted prejudices and doesn’t apply his principles fairly across the board.

The pandemic, lockdowns, online college, and much more has left students already anxious and stressed. The last thing they need now is to worry about being treated (or worse, graded) differently by a lecturer because of his dislike for their ethnic or religious background, or his belief that “Western culture is superior”. Irish students are, of course, students, but they are also consumers paying the highest fees and amongst the highest rents and costs of living in the European Union (EU) for their qualifications. As consumers, they have every right to reject Humphrys as a lecturer and expect the market to react to demand. As someone who is proudly “pro-free market”, Humphrys will surely understand.

A Trinity graduate, Dr Umar al-Qadri is a leading Irish Muslim religious and social thinker and commentator. A qualified theologian and jurist, he works for cohesion, integration and a fairer society from his positions as Chairperson of the Irish Muslim Peace & Integration Council and Head Imam at the Islamic Centre of Ireland.