Some Inquisition

  • June 4, 2007
Dr. Shiraz Dossa, a Muslim professor of St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, N.S., protests a little too much. In an essay published in the June issue of the Literary Review of Canada , he accuses his Roman Catholic employer of authorizing “a small Spanish Inquisition” and sanctioning “a crusade against a Muslim Holocaust scholar” (that would be Dossa).
{sidebar id=1}It’s worth recalling that the 16th-century Spanish Inquisition featured various non-Christians being horrendously tortured and executed in barbarous ways for heresy. The Crusades involved bloody warfare, massacres, raping and pillaging and the other usual antics of medieval conflict.

So what ill treatment has so unnerved the St. F.X. professor that he would liken his treatment to violent torture and death? Criticism, it appears.

Dossa made headlines across Canada in December when he disappeared from his classroom in tiny Antigonish and reappeared at a conference in Iran called “The Review of the Holocaust: Global Vision.” This conference had been heralded by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a way to set the West straight on what really happened during the Holocaust. Ahmadinejad has suggested that the number of Jews slaughtered during the Holocaust — some six million documented — was grossly exaggerated. He also has mused that the world would be better off without the “occupation regime over Jerusalem,” meaning the state of Israel.

At the conference itself, internationally known Holocaust deniers David Dukes, Frederick Töben, Patrick H. McNally and Robert Faurisson provided much of the entertainment. By Dossa’s own admission, six “academic” papers were presented that defended the Holocaust. The rest merely criticized how it had been used by Zionist Jews to promote their own interests, he says.

It was hardly unexpected when Dossa’s colleagues in the political science department at St. F.X. raised a stink over their workmate’s attendance at this suspect — to say the least — academic conference. No surprise, either, that the university’s chancellor, Antigonish Bishop Raymond Lahey, would distance his institution from Dossa’s deed in a letter to the Globe and Mail. Or that a significant portion of the faculty would sign a petition expressing embarrassment at Dossa’s action — while defending his academic freedom.

Yet today Dossa purports to have been appalled and shocked by this reaction. It was, he explains, an example of Christian Islamophobia, all the more deplorable since it arises in a Catholic university.

But what kind of crusade is this? Dossa, a tenured professor at St. F.X., still has his job. He was not sanctioned in any way by his employer. He admits that senior university administrators treated him fairly throughout the controversy. Some colleagues and administrators criticized his actions.

To sum up: Living in a free country, Dossa practised his freedom of association and freedom of speech to go to a conference featuring Holocaust deniers. In this same free country, he was roundly criticized. And that’s it.

In other words, this is academic life as it should be in Canada. What was his beef again?

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