WPK 220622 Mohammed El-Kurd and Mohammed Hanif-1655911548228
Combo image shows Mohammed El Kurd (left) and Mohammed Hanif.

Islamabad: Well-known British-Pakistani writer Mohammed Hanif has withdrawn from a conference by Germany’s state-run cultural centre after the institute revoked an invitation to Palestinian activist Mohammed El Kurd.

Hanif said in a Twitter post that the Goethe Institute first invited and then disinvited Palestinian journalist and poet Mohammed El Kurd from a discussion at its Hamburg conference.

“Reason is even more offensive. Apparently, Kurd is not respectful enough towards Israel. How do you say bugger off in German?” Hanif said in a tweet.

The award-winning Pakistani author said that he was supposed to speak about the dynamics of right-wing structures and asked how one could have a conversation after silencing someone like Mohammed El Kurd. He also suggested that the German institute should have a “good look at itself.” In a separate tweet, he shared the link to El Kurd’s poetry collection and asked the public to decide “who is being disrespectful ... Kurd or Goethe?”

German institute called out

The German cultural centre has been accused of racism and discrimination on social media after it revoked its invitation to the Palestinian activist.

El Kurd is a prominent activist and award-winning writer from Jerusalem, whose work has been featured in multiple international outlets. In 2021, he published his debut poetry collection ‘Rifqa’, named after his late grandmother. His poems are a powerful homage to the lives and struggles of Palestinian people.

He was invited to take part in the conference to be held in Hamburg but the organisers later cancelled his invitation. The panel in which the 24-year-old was scheduled to speak was to be hosted by artist Moshtari Hilal and essayist Sinthujan Varatharajah. Both have pulled out of the event over discrimination.

“Goethe-Institute’s veto against El-Kurd calls into question the very purpose of this conference … his disinvitation by Goethe needs to be understood as an intentional deplatforming, adding to a climate of anti-Palestinian racism,” Varatharajah said on Twitter.

Goethe responds to criticism

In response to allegations on Twitter, the German institute said that it decided after some consideration that “Mohammed El Kurd was not an appropriate speaker for this forum.”

The institute’s official account said that the Palestinian activist in previous posts on social media “had made comments about Israel in a way the Goethe-Institute does not find acceptable, especially since the upcoming forum aims to discuss, among others, possibilities and ways to improve social discourse.”

Goethe Institute is Germany’s cultural institute which promotes the study of the German language abroad and encourages international cultural exchange.