The investigation of Shahd Abusalama and cancellation of the class she was scheduled to teach
Dear Professor Sir Chris Husbands,
We write on behalf of the board of the European International Studies Association
(EISA) to express our concern about the suspension of Shahd Abusalama from her
teaching post at Sheffield Hallam University (SHU). Her suspension followed a
racialised smear campaign, including defamatory accusations of antisemitism and the
use of the IHRA working definition of antisemitism by the University against Ms.
The EISA is a leading academic organisation for the study of International Relations
and Global Politics, and we are committed to protecting the academic freedom of our
members and constituencies. We are concerned about the climate of fear manifest in
SHU’s response to a libellous claim against one of its members of staff drawing upon the
IHRA working definition on antisemitism. The EISA has previously spoken out against
the IHRA definition, which has proven not to be fit for purpose in an educational con–
text by legal scholars, criticised by scholars working on antisemitism and has been re–
peatedly instrumentalised to silence voices in support of Palestine and those committed
to anti-racist and decolonial work. The dismissal of Shahd demonstrates the difficult
environment that scholars of colour, and particularly Palestinian scholars are facing in
UK higher education.
Shahd was not notified by her university that she was being brought under investiga–
tion, rather days after taking up her new post she was instructed that her classes will be
cancelled until further notice and her students would be notified.
We, the EISA Governing Board, considers this a breach of Academic Freedom and, we
support the statement issued by the British Society for Middle Eastern Studies
(BRISMES) and call on the university to:
I. immediately inform Ms Abusalama of any accusations against her; of the evidence
of any such accusations; and give her the right in consultation with her union to
respond to those accusations;
II. to uphold Ms Abusalama’s right to freedom of expression such as it is guaranteed
under the law, particularly when it comes to speaking about her experiences as a
Palestinian refugee from Gaza;
III. to publicly apologise to Ms Abusalama for the breach of confidentiality committed
against her when the university informed the media of an investigation into her social media posts;
IV. to uphold its duty of care towards Ms Abusalama both as a student and member of
staff at Sheffield Hallam University;
V. to rescind the use of the IHRA definition of antisemitism as a tool in complaints
and disciplinary procedures.
— The Governing Board of the European International Studies Association.