Ayatollah of the RAF: Academic 'university' head is Muslim convert who claims Nazi gas chambers were British propaganda and criticises Libya air strikes
Last updated at 11:42 AM on 7th August 2011
The head of studies at the Royal Air Force pilot training college is a convert to Islam who has criticised Nato air strikes on Libya in a Muslim magazine.
Dr Joel Hayward is dean of the college at Cranwell, the RAF's equivalent of Sandhurst, and has taught many of the pilots spearheading the military operation against Colonel Gaddafi.
But, to the dismay of defence chiefs, he has cast doubt on the widely held belief that the Nato actions averted the mass killing of civilians in Benghazi. He also warned against the RAF becoming 'the air corps of a rebel army'.
Dr Hayward has previously expressed remorse after appearing to claim that far fewer Jews were killed by the Nazis than generally thought and that the gas chambers of the Holocaust were British propaganda.
In another article recently he likened Churchill to Mohammed.
The magazine article on Libya was published under the headline 'The West runs the risks of its good intentions (and inconsistencies) leading to distrust'.
Dr Hayward wrote: 'When western aircrafts began to destroy tanks and a downpour of missiles wrecked Libya's air force and air defence system, various leaders congratulated themselves for preventing an "atrocity" or "slaughter" - evocative words which conjured up images of a Srebrenica-style massacre [the 1995 killing of Bosnian Muslims].
'Yet we do not know that his army would have "slaughtered" civilians in a Srebrenica-style massacre.'
Dr Hayward also takes issue with the UN Security Council resolution authorising 'all necessary measures' to protect civilians from the dictator's forces.
Describing the resolution as 'elastic', he says: 'Strangely, that resolution condemned human rights abuses and torture to which the world (and the UN) had turned a blind eye for decades.'
His views and behaviour have caused disquiet among senior officers at RAF Cranwell, Lincolnshire, where he is the most senior academic and taught Prince William.
In a letter to The Mail on Sunday entitled The Air Force Ayatollah, one senior officer expressed concern that Dr Hayward was focusing more on 'Islamist activities that are nothing to do with the RAF'.
He also accused him of giving Muslim cadets preferential treatment and making other students take a 'softly, softly line when writing about Muslim terrorists/Islamist extremists'.
Another officer claimed cadets and lecturers 'are in fear' of expressing anything that might be construed as anti-Muslim sentiment. 'Anyone who fails to follow the line that Islam is a peace-loving religion is hauled into his office for re-education,' he said.
Last night Dr Hayward said he did not 'recognise' the allegations.
The Mail on Sunday understands that Dr Hayward's views have embarrassed RAF chiefs, who feel that while he is entitled to his opinions, it was unwise for him to air them in a Muslim magazine.
Conservative MP Patrick Mercer, former chairman of the Commons counter-terrorism sub-committee, said: 'I am delighted that the dean is not restricted in what he can say, as he would be in Islamist societies.
'However, I very much hope that his views don't conflict with any of his professional duties when teaching Her Majesty's officers.'
It is not the first time the New Zealand-born academic has attracted controversy. In 2000, he was accused of denying the Holocaust after the publication of a thesis he had written in 1993 questioning the number of Jews killed. He claimed the idea of gas chambers being used was propaganda invented by Britain, the US and Jewish lobbyists. He has since expressed remorse over the 'mistakes I made as an inexperienced student'.
Dr Hayward has frequently challenged claims of Islamic aggressiveness. Most recently, he wrote on the subject for the Cordoba Foundation, described by David Cameron as a front for the Islamist group, the Muslim Brotherhood. In that article, Dr Hayward likens the prophet Mohammed's inspirational qualities to that of Sir Winston Churchill. He said Mohammed had to go to extra lengths – just as Churchill did in the Second World War - to exhort his people to believe in victory and fight for it.
Dr Hayward was appointed to RAF Cranwell in 2007, but was investigated the following year over complaints of 'harassment and bullying'. It is not clear what became of the investigation. He is employed not by the RAF but by King's College, London, which runs academic courses at Cranwell.
Dr Hayward defended his article on Nato airstrikes and said he wants a free Libya without Gaddafi. He added: 'I write articles on a range of subjects for various scholarly journals and consistently the publications are anti-extremism, anti-terrorism and encouraging of a closer bond between the West and the Arab world.
'In no sense am I anti-Western, I am proud to be Western, I strongly believe in the value system that we have in Britain. I believe in equality, democracy, freedom, plurality, human rights, women's rights.'
An RAF spokesman said: 'Dr Hayward writes for a number of publications. These activities are conducted in his own time and do not impinge on his duties in support of the RAF.'