Campus Watch Research
Terrorist in the Ivory Tower? [on Hassan Diab; incl. John Esposito, Zachary Lockman, Juan Cole, et al.]
by Cinnamon Stillwell
Do the ranks of Middle East studies professors include terrorists? If the allegations against University of Ottawa professor Hassan Diab are proved true, the answer will be yes.
Diab, a Lebanese-born dual Canadian citizen and author of Beirut: Reviving Lebanon's Past, is a lecturer in sociology at the University of Ottawa and until recently taught a part-time summer introductory sociology course at Carleton University in Ottawa. His job ended last month following allegations by French authorities that Diab was the leader of a commando team that perpetrated the 1980 bombing of the Rue Copernic synagogue in Paris. The bombing, which was attributed to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - Special Operations (PFLP-SO), a splinter group of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), killed three Frenchmen and an Israeli woman and wounded 20.
At the request of French authorities, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrested Diab in November, 2008. He's since been granted bail on numerous conditions, including wearing an ankle bracelet and only leaving his house escorted by one of the five people who posted his $250,000 bail.
French authorities who seek to extradite Diab for trial in France accuse him of making and planting the bomb used in the attack. According to Canwest News Service:
Diab maintains his innocence. As reported in a National Post editorial:
Furthermore, Diab's friends and colleagues insist that he is a peaceful, non-violent man who has never shown anti-Semitic or anti-Zionist leanings.
Predictably, Carleton University's decision to terminate Diab has caused an uproar among his academic peers. The Canadian Association of University Teachers issued a statement condemning Diab's "unjust termination" "in the strongest possible terms." An August 1, 2009, Ottawa Citizen op-ed signed by 30 members of Carleton's Department of Sociology and Anthropology described Diab's firing melodramatically, labeling it "an attack on widely held democratic values, and on the need to achieve justice through the law and due process" and "a bleak chapter in the story of injustice and discrimination in the dark shadow of 9/11." The op-ed stretches credulity by blaming the allegedly repressive, post-9/11 political atmosphere in "George W. Bush's America" for the firing—of a Canadian.
But Carleton University only employed Diab to teach a single course for several weeks during the summer while the regular instructor was on leave. Diab taught a similar course at Carleton earlier and was reinstated even after his arrest in November, 2008. It wasn't until July, 2009, that Carleton terminated his contract, citing a desire to provide students with "a stable, productive academic environment that is conducive to learning." Carleton was under no obligation to continue employing Diab and, as the authors of the op-ed themselves admit, "reasonable restrictions are, and should be, placed on those accused of violent crimes." Given that Diab is charged with murder and attempted murder, Carleton's decision to end his employment would seem to be a "reasonable restriction." Moreover, it's difficult to imagine any other profession in which an employee would not face similar consequences under such circumstances.
The op-ed's authors deploy another common tactic of the academic left: blaming purportedly omnipotent Jewish organizations for Diab's firing. His termination happened to follow a B'nai Brith press release objecting to his employment at Carleton. His defenders cast this fact in a sinister light, accusing the university, without evidence, of "succumbing to political pressure." They imply that B'nai Brith was out-of-line for expressing concern that Diab might be a threat to "the safety and security of the community," ignoring that the terrorist attack at hand targeted a synagogue. If such charges had involved an attack against another minority group, it's doubtful these academics would object to such concerns.
Diab has yet to stand trial, but the reaction of his academic peers has been revealing. It demonstrates a knee-jerk opposition to authority, an arrogant rejection of accountability, and a dangerous naiveté towards the dangers of Islamic terrorism. Rather than expressing shock and horror that one of their own may have been involved in a heinous crime, they immediately jumped to his defense. But what will they do if the allegations against Diab prove true?
A look at the past may prove instructive. This isn't the first time the Middle East studies establishment has rallied around a beleaguered professor accused—or even convicted—of terrorism charges. Nor is it the first time such academics have acted as cohorts or apologists for those with proven Islamist sympathies. Consider these past examples:
Viewing the Middle East studies establishment's support for Diab against this background reveals a disturbing pattern. The presumption of innocence is one thing. Blindly throwing one's support behind any colleague accused of terrorist ties is another.
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