Professor accused of racism

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The dean of the University of Stavanger has called in one of its professors to question him about a comment he wrote on social media that has set off accusations that he’s racist. Professor Nils Rune Langeland’s post on Facebook referred to the “damned Pakistani” who was serving him at a restaurant, and claimed he “hated him with good reason.”

Professor Nils Rune Langeland is in trouble over comments he wrote on Facebook about a Pakistani waiter. PHOTO: University of Stavanger

Professor Nils Rune Langeland is in trouble over comments he wrote on Facebook about a Pakistani waiter. PHOTO: University of Stavanger

The comment has sparked more than 80 comments in return, and a wave of sharp reaction from both a former justice minister in Norway and an adviser to Norway’s Anti-Racism Center.

“I tried to go out to a restaurant here where I live,” Langeland, a professor at the University of Stavanger’s Department of Cultural Studies and Languages, wrote late Thursday night on his Facebook page. “Naturally ridiculously expensive. The Pakistani restaurant owner sneered contemptuously at me. You, you damned Pakistani, don’t have great-great grandparents who fought for Norway.”

Langeland went on to suggest that the Pakistani who was the target of his remarks “came here as an illiterate. I hate you with good reason.”

It didn’t take long for the comment to grab attention, and generate strong criticism, including a rebuttal from Shoaib Sultan of Norway’s Anti-Racism Center. It’s not the first time that Langeland has landed in trouble for his remarks on Facebook, including one in 2012 in which he wrote about the “immigration of genetically weak illiterates from Punjab.”

Langeland ended up deleting his latest offensive post and wrote a follow-up post on Friday: “OK, I said something stupid about Pakistanis yesterday. Everyone who knows me knows that I’m no political extremist. Sultan should find himself a real enemy. And a simple test. You won’t find me in any debate on Facebook that’s involved with this theme.”

‘Unacceptable’
That didn’t stop the dean at the university, Elaine Munthe, from reacting herself to the professor’s written remarks. “We distance ourselves strongly from the unacceptable posts he has written on social media,” Munthe told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Friday afternoon. “We will call him in for a conversation and we’ll take the case from there.”

Munthe wouldn’t comment on what consequences Langeland’s comments may have for his employment at the University of Stavanger, but she noted that “we have internal rules for how employees of the University of Stavanger shall appear on social media. We will now go through them again.”

‘Game over’
NRK reported that Marte Michelet, a commentator for newspaper Dagbladet, has criticized Langeland on earlier occasions, attacking one of his articles in which he referred to the Holocaust as “a moral tale.” She thinks he’ll now have trouble regaining credibility with academia.

Anne Holt, a high-profile Norwegian author who once served as Norway’s justice minister, wrote on Twitter that unless Langeland’s comments on Facebook were falsified, “it’s game over for Nils Rune Langeland in the public sphere.”

‘Harassed’
Langeland himself told NRK that he thinks he’s being harassed by those calling him a racist. “That is undocumented and contemptible,” Langeland told NRK. “I, for example, have never taken part in any debate threads on the Internet where I have criticized Islam. My Facebook post was thoughtless and dumb, and I distance myself from it. There were just some impressions of nightlife in Oslo that boiled over for me. But I am personally acquainted with many Pakistanis.”

He denied his comments about people from other nations were racist. “I’ve never said a word about race,” Langeland claimed.

Asked whether he feared losing credibility as a historian, he said he saw the possibility. “At the same time I have loads of colleagues who have some very strange opinions on everything from the World Cup in football to Gaza that haven’t been thought through either,” he told NRK. “That’s why I think this (the controversy around him) is unfair.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund