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The New Arab Staff

Bisexual academic claims he was fired by Oxford to 'appease Saudi backers'

Saudi Arabia's Prince Turki al-Faisal sits on the centre's board of trustees [OXFIS/Oxford University]

Date of publication: 8 October, 2020

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Dr. Kevin Fogg alleges the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies dismissed him due to his sexuality.
A former fellow at Oxford University has accused its prestigious Centre for Islamic Studies of firing him over worries his sexuality could clash with the department's powerful Saudi backers.

American academic Dr. Kevin Fogg alleges that the centre let him go due to him being in a same-sex partnership, British media reported.

Fogg will address an employment tribunal on Monday, claiming his career was ruined by "continuous and ongoing indirector sexual orientation discrimination" at the prestigious university, where he spent five years as a research fellow.

The centre's director, Dr. Farhan Ahmad Nizami, harboured a "long intention" of dismissing him due to his bisexuality, Fogg alleged in a witness statement seen by The Guardian

In it, Fogg describes Nizami ordering books on women's leadership in Islam and sexuality in Islamic societies to be removed from public display in the centre's library.

The American academic claims the decision to let him go was linked to the centre's prominent foreign backers, who include Saudi Arabia's Prince Turki Al-Faisal and Malaysian Sultan Nazrin Shah. 
"The key donors... include many states in which homosexuality is punishable under law, in some cases including by capital punishment," Fogg will state on Monday. 

"Many of these states are also represented on the centre's board of trustees, the supreme decision-making body of the centre's governance, where they direct all decisions including oversight of personnel decisions," he will say.

Read more: How the LGBT community rallied against a 'homophobic' Tunisian influencer

The presitigious institution also receives funding from Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, with former and current officials from Malaysia, Indonesia, Nigeria, Kuwait, Turkey and Saudi Arabia serving on the centre's board of trustees. 

Homosexuality is illegal in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Nigeria and the UAE. Same-sex relations are also outlawed in Indonesia's Aceh state.
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"The leadership made several references to my age, which I believe to have been coding language equivalent to calling me a 'confirmed bachelor'," Fogg told The Daily Telegraph.

The Centre for Islamic Studies denies the "wild allegations" made by Fogg.

"In 2018, after an extensive process of review of his work, Dr. Fogg's request for a yet further period at the centre was declined," the centre said in a statement.

"It was only after, and it would seem a result of, the centre turning down his request for a second extension that he has made this allegation of indirect sexual orientation discrimiantion," the statement reads.

Fogg claims his dismissal by the centre led to a "irreprable" damage to his career and earning prospects, which in turn has "had a significant and adverse impact on my mental health".

"I believe it is unlikely that I will ever in the future be employed in the field for which I trained," the Virginia-born specialist in South Asian Islamic studies said.

Fogg is now Associate Director of the Carolina Asia Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The academic has published a book titled "Indonesia's Islamic Revolution" in 2019.

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