Disciplinary hearing of Vincent Geisser

Open letter to Madame Catherine Bréchignac, Présidente du CNRS 


We write on behalf of Middle East scholarly associations in Europe and North America representing academics and independent scholars across the world to express our concern about the disciplinary hearing convened by the CNRS on June 29, 2009 regarding our colleague Vincent Geisser. Many of our members are scholars working on France and/or the  Muslim world, and we believe that Dr. Geisser has made valuable intellectual contributions to  the study of Islam, the Maghreb, and Muslim minorities in France. Regardless of whether our  members agree with his scholarly conclusions or political positions, all of us are united in the  belief that Dr. Geisser’s academic freedom and freedom of expression be respected.   We are concerned that Dr. Geisser is the subject of a disciplinary commission in large  part because of his work on Islam in France, an issue already publicly addressed by numer ous colleagues of Dr. Geisser in France, including many at the CNRS. If this is the case, Dr.  Geisser’s disciplinary hearing and the charges against him, accusing him of a lack of political  neutrality in public discourse (le manquement grave … à l’obligation de réserve) constitute a  form of ideological surveillance, a deeply disturbing occurrence that is contrary to the spirit  and laws of a democratic republic that claims Human and Citizen Rights (Droits de l’Homme  et du Citoyen) as its founding principle.  

Intellectuals in a free society best serve the public interest when left free to make criti cal judgments, especially unpopular ones.. Liberty of thought, of opinion, and of expression is  indispensable to critical thinking, and absolutely necessary to modern democratic societies..  We support the call for the immediate revocation of the disciplinary procedure against  Dr. Geisser, and echo the statements of the open letter of the Collectif pour la sauvegarde de  la liberté intellectual des chercheurs et enseignants (http://petition.liberteintellectuelle.net/)  in underscoring the importance of academic freedom, which is foundational to international  research and intellectual and scientific legitimacy. 


Virginia H. Aksan, Professor of History, McMaster University, Ontario, Canada   and President, Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) 

Guenter Meyer, Professor of Geography, University of Mainz, on behalf of 

German Middle East Studies Association (DAVO), 

European Association for Middle Eastern Studies (EURAMES), representing all Middle East studies associations in 23 European countries, 

International Association for Middle Eastern Studies (IAMES), 

Council of the World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies (WOCMES)

Harold Walker, President, British Society for Middle Eastern Studies (BRISMES)

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