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Compare and Contrast: Hassan Diab in Ottawa; Mahmoud El-Qemany in Cairo

This is a post by Terry Glavin. Really, this time.

Carleton University’s refusal to hire a professor who is under strict bail conditions while he awaits charges related to the hate crime of a Paris synagogue-bombing that resulted in four deaths has earned the administration a shrill scolding from 30 of its anthropology and sociology professors. Replacing Hassan Diab is “an attack on widely held democratic values. . . a bleak chapter in the story of injustice and discrimination in the dark shadow of 9/11” and proof that the ‘war on terror’ has gone too far. It’s all about basic freedoms, the unseemly influence of Jewish advocacy organizations, George W. Bush, a dangerous lesson about a bigger picture, and so on.

Professor Ian Lee offers a dissenting view, calling the uproar over Diab’s non-hiring “nonsense on stilts.” Diab’s departmental supporters are clueless, Lee writes: “To retain an instructor in the classroom charged with such profoundly serious crimes would express a callous contempt for our students and their parents.”

Andrew Potter takes a similar view, noting that Diab’s elevation to “something of an anti-imperialist folk hero on a par with Fidel Castro or Hugo Chavez” says something rather more about Carleton’s anthro-soc department than its profs might like. Department chair Peter Gose put his foot in it with his weird comment about Carleton’s “large Muslim student population,” and if it’s a bigger picture you want to put the Diab hubbub inside, Potter suggests it’s “the usual internal force of anti-Israel ideological conformity that infects virtually every department of humanities and social sciences in the country.”

Not to be too cynical, but somehow I can’t imagine the brave champions of academic freedom that have rallied to the barricades on Diab’s behalf will be paying too much mind to the case of Mahmoud El Qemany, who is facing something rather more than an interregnum in his academic engagements at the moment. He’s not facing multiple murder charges, either. El Qemany’s crime: He recently received the Egyptian State Award for Social Sciences and at the same time is not a koran-thumping lunatic. For this, he is facing death.

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