Somerville History Society has been condemned for sending out provocative emails advertising a talk on Islamic extremism.
The talk was delivered by Dr Faisal Devji, a St Anne’s Reader in South Asian history, and focused on Jihad and militant Islam.
In an email advertising the talk, the Society claimed it would be “explosive” and accompanied this with a picture of a bomb.
Continuing this theme, the Presidents of the History Society referred to themselves as ‘Ayatollah’, ‘Caliph’ and ‘Mullah’.
This apparent joke attracted the ire of many Somerville History Society members. Mathew Tansini, a Somerville historian, took to Facebook lambasting the email as “inappropriate”. Tansini claimed that the presidents were “just using their to authority” to fill the email with “not-really-ok jokes about the speaker’s subject”.
The historian went on to argue that Somerville History Society emails ought to “take into account the suggestions and requests of its recipients”. It seems other History Society members agreed with 11 ‘liking’ Tansini’s comments and others commenting in agreement.
Tansini refused to comment further on the matter.
Lucy Gaughan, a Historian fresher, thought that the email’s ‘jokes’ were “just a cheap ploy to get more attendees”.
Another critique of the Somerville History Society came from Vitan Blagotinšek who criticised “the fact that free wine is available is seemingly more important than the occasion itself”.
A senior member of the Society hit back on Facebook saying “I can assure you all…that no offence was intended”. They claimed that “tonight’s talk will only be explosive in the historical/academic sense” and asserted that there would be no “physical” explosions. With 12 people liking this comment, the Society’s leadership evidently still has support.
When asked for comment, the co-president of the society assumed full responsibility for the email, explaining that the email’s co-signatories were not involved in its authorship. They also claimed that the email has drawn ‘little attention in college’ and that the History tutors have not reprimanded him for it.
Dr Faisal Devji had not seen the email but when the OxStu showed it to him he responded “I think it’s meant to be funny, but as you know humour doesn’t always translate from intention to the written word”. Dr Devji stated “there were no such jokes at my talk, which was followed by a serious discussion with students in the audience”.
Somerville JCR President, Rachel Dickenson, did not respond to requests for comment.