On Thursday 27 October, Filip Dewinter, Flemish MP for Vlaams Belang, gives a lecture in an auditorium at the University of Antwerp. Rector Herman Van Goethem explains why that lecture may take place at the university.
Dear colleagues and students
I am receiving petitions and reactions against a lecture organized by students this evening, in an auditorium of our university.
In this matter, UAntwerp maintains the line it has always taken, which is in line with the policy of the other Flemish universities, and, above all, in accordance with the legal rules on freedom of speech.
Freedom of expression is the foundation of democracy. Activities such as lectures organized by students or student associations are a concrete expression of freedom of speech. This freedom has limitations in criminal law, but preventive censorship is not possible, as it is prohibited by the Constitution. Students can therefore organize a lecture at the University of Antwerp, provided that there is also dissenting debate. This is so when there is a proper opportunity to ask questions.
Those who take offence at the propositions that might be defended in this lecture are thus urgently invited to present and, during or after the lecture, bombard the speaker with all possible critical questions. The university as an institution (e.g. rector, vice-rector) will obviously not be present, as this could be interpreted as a sign of appreciation. But students and colleagues can of course attend the lecture.
Colleagues and students write to me that "repopulation" is a theory involving incitement to racial hatred, violence, and so on. In the past, the term was certainly sometimes used in this sense. However, the question is whether this evening's speaker will use the concept of repopulation in this sense semantically and in terms of analysis. Since preventive censorship is not possible, it remains to be seen what the speaker this evening will communicate in his speech and in his answers. The deliberate and public incitement to discrimination, hatred, violence or segregation is punishable under Belgian law. If, after the lecture, anyone believes that this was indeed the case, they can always file a complaint free of charge via unia.be.
Some are concerned about security that evening. Those present can express their dissatisfaction but this must always be non-violent. Of course, there was consultation with the city of Antwerp's police, who will also be present. Also in the past there have been very disputed lectures at UAntwerp I am counting on the fact that this evening will be non-violent.
Herman Van Goethem