Queen’s University conference on Charlie Hebdo ‘cancelled’

Journalist invited to speak at event says he received email saying ‘security risk’ behind decision

A conference about the satirical French publication Charlie Hebdo that was set to take place at Queen’s University Belfast has allegedly been cancelled because of a potential security risk.

The conference, “Understanding Charlie: New perspectives on contemporary citizenship after Charlie Hebdo Symposium” was due to take place on June 4th and 5th.

Jason Walsh, a journalist and academic who was due to speak at the conference said he received an email on Monday which said the event was cancelled on the grounds of a “security risk” .

“I’m actually from Belfast, so I find the idea of security risk somewhat puzzling,” Mr Walsh said. “There were no shortage of security risks during the Troubles and I’m sure no university decided that merely speaking on an issue was too dangerous.


“I can’t speak to the nature of the apparent risk, but it seems more likely to me that the subject matter was simply considered too toxic to touch, which is in itself puzzling, as I would hardly expect particularly strong viewpoints from academics.”

He added: “On another level, as a journalist myself, I’m disturbed by what I see as an increasing tendency on the part of institutions to close down avenues for debate which could themselves be productive and are an essential part of civil society.”

A spokesman for Queen’s University said he had “no comment” when asked about the matter.

Two brothers forced their way into the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris in January and opened fire killing 11 people and wounding 11 others. A police man was killed as the men, who identified themselves as members of al-Qaeda’s Yemeni branch, left the building.

The publication has been noted for its irreverent tone and for following a secularist, antireligious, and left-wing agenda that has mocked Catholic, Jewish, Islamic, and other world views.

Professor Maxim Silverman of the University of Leeds and Dr Brian Klug of the University of Oxford are listed on the events page of the university's website as keynote speakers.

Powerful divisions in global opinion deepened with the publication of a follow-up issue of the magazine, which depicted the Prophet Muhammed forgiving the perpetrators

“The aim of this symposium is to invite the disciplines of the humanities and social sciences to respond to these new ruptures - whether relating to the attacks themselves, to the je suis Charlie’ movement that followed them, or to the broader debate on freedom of speech that has emerged,” the event’s description reads.