University of Malaya apologises after US professor Bruce Gilley accuses Malaysia of advocating ‘second Holocaust’ during lecture

“UM has taken note of the recommendation by the higher education minister by cancelling all scheduled programmes and activities involving the foreign guest speaker,” it said in a statement on Thursday.

The school also said it would prepare a full report on the controversy surrounding the talk and enhance procedures and implement stricter guidelines, particularly for background checks on individuals or parties it collaborated with to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.

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Meanwhile, amid the escalating row, Gilley announced on X (formerly Twitter) that he was leaving Malaysia.

Gilley said he had safely departed from the country and was one step ahead of the “mob” whipped up by the government and would issue updates later.

On Tuesday, the political science professor from Portland State University reportedly downplayed Malaysia’s ties with the United States and was criticised on social media after he purportedly claimed that Malaysia had pushed for a “second Holocaust against the Jewish people” during a talk in UM.

In his talk titled “Will Malaysia Become an Active Middle Power” at the university, he was quoted as saying: “A country whose political leaders advocate a second Holocaust against the Jewish people will never be a serious player in world affairs, and will certainly never be a friend or partner of the US.”

Explaining the matter on X, Gilley said he had removed the post containing the quote from his keynote address for the safety and well-being of his colleagues at UM, whose leadership has responded to the student outcry.

US professor Bruce Gilley delivers a lecture at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur. Photo: BruceDGilley/X

He also added that the quote reflected his views alone, and that he regretted any harm he had caused to his academic colleagues.

Following the controversy, Higher Education Minister Dr Zambry Abd Kadir ordered that all programmes and activities scheduled involving Gilley were to be cancelled with immediate effect.

UM was also ordered to investigate and report on the details to the ministry.

Zambry reminded all agencies under his ministry to be alert and conduct background checks before inviting speakers to an event, and their decisions must take into account sensitivities and align with the government’s policies and stance.

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“Although institutions of higher education are given autonomy to decide on intellectual programmes, it does not mean they have complete freedom to ignore the sensitivities of Malaysia’s majority,” he said.

Malaysia, which has no diplomatic ties with Israel, has repeatedly condemned the country for its numerous attacks on Palestine, including the war in Gaza that resulted in the deaths of more than 34,000 people.

This story was first published by The Star

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