Thursday, July 30, 2009

L'affaire Hassan Diab: B'nai Brith responds

B'nai Brith's energetic Frank Dimant strikes back in today's National Post, defending the notion that tearing up Carleton University's teaching contract with Hassan Diab was right and proper.

[T]he Canadian Association of University Teachers is decrying Carleton for caving in to "external pressure." Which leads me to ask: Are the general public, parents and students themselves, who are most directly affected, to be dismissed as merely "external" players and denied a voice?

Dimant's self-imposed mandate, it seems, goes well beyond that of his own organization. Now he presumes to speak for "the general public, parents and students," who have inconveniently remained silent on the subject thus far.

He suggests that Diab's bail conditions are sufficiently onerous to raise a red flag about his "potential danger to Canadians," but somehow misses the fact that those self-same bail conditions permitted Diab to teach at Carleton in the first place. But what is this "potential danger?"

We get a flurry of apples-and-oranges comparisons. All of them refer to people charged with committing various harms who are prudently denied the means and opportunity to do the same kind of harm, pending a trial. There are accused hit-and-run drivers on his list, and police officers and teachers, not to mention wife-beaters and pedophiles. But to make these comparisons work, Dimant would have to show that Diab posed a danger to the students he was teaching.

He is not suggesting--at least I don't think he is--that Diab was about to wear a suicide belt to class. Here, instead, is the nub of his concern:

Were he permitted to teach, he would be in regular, ongoing, daily contact with students, some of whom are Jewish and already feel the stigma of being marginalized on campus.

Somehow, his theory seems to run, an introductory course in sociology might be transformed into a mental weapon of some kind. Worse, Diab, who has never been cited by anyone as having uttered a single anti-Semitic remark, would be teaching Jewish students.


Common sense...would seem to dictate a cautionary route that does not expose the public, especially vulnerable and impressionable young persons, to individuals facing possible conviction unless and until they are exonerated. The student population at Carleton certainly falls under this category. [Emphasis added]

And there you have it. The threat that Diab allegedly posed was not physical, but intellectual. How reassuring to have nice folks like Frank Dimant around to protect us just in case we might be exposed to troubling thoughts and ideas. Not that Diab showed signs of proffering anything more destabilizing than a sociology course--but best take no chances. Those things can go off.

[H/t reader Marky Mark]

UPDATE: (July 30) The Ottawa Citizen suggests that Diab is a physical danger to his students, and that hiring him in the first place was an anti-Semitic act. I believe this is what psychiatrists call "communicated insanity."

Meanwhile, my department is up in arms.

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