SPME member Professor Eric Lawee, Department of Humanities, York University, sent us his correspondence with Sean Riley, president of St. Francis Xavier on the participation of a Canadian Scholar in the of Holocaust Conference in Teheran last week. Please find below Prof. Lawee's information and his letters of concern to President Riley and to the Canadian National Post.
Shiraz Dossa, a political science lecturer at St. Francis Xavier, was the lone Canadian at a two-day event in Tehran that attracted some of the world's most notorious Holocaust deniers, including neo-Nazis and a former leader of the Ku Klux Klan.
The conference that ended Tuesday was the brainchild of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has previously called for the state of Israel to be wiped out and called the Holocaust a "myth."
The university was given no advance notice of Dossa's plans to attend the Tehran conference. The president of St. Francis Xavier, Sean Riley, said, "there's been a real sense of shock and regret that the university's name should be associated in any way with the conference in Tehran."
In an interview with the [Canadian newspaper] Globe and Mail published Wednesday, Dossa said he did not realize beforehand he would be part of an exercise in anti-Semitism, and repeatedly stated his belief that the genocide of six million Jews during the Second World War is a historical fact. Dossa called anyone who disputes the slaughter of Jews during the Second World War a "lunatic."
In the interview, he defended the paper he read at the conference as an essay "about the war on terrorism, and how the Holocaust plays into it." He said the Jewish loss at the hands of the Nazis was used as "a political construct" to "justify certain policies by people, some of whom are Zionists. And now that whole issue plays into the war on terrorism, which is essentially a war on Islam."
Riley said that professors attend conferences all the time, but the political climate in Iran should have suggested to Dossa that perhaps "this was not a normal academic conference."
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay said he was troubled that any academic would attend the conference.
"Particularly if in fact this individual saw the list of attendees and saw that the subject matter was going to touch upon Holocaust denial or anything else that takes on such a provocative and inflammatory tone," he said.
Letter by Prof. Lawee to the President of St. Francis Xavier University
Dear President Riley,
I am subjoining my letter published in this morning's NP.
I wrote it in part because I want people to see that we have here not just of problem of a Canadian professor hobnobbing with genocidal psychopaths (bad enough) but that such professors are the ones from whom students are supposed to learn in the classroom. So the damage, at least in terms of the model Prof. Dossa sets (I obviously don't know what he teaches in the classroom), goes beyond one person. It yields influential offshoots in your university, the academy at large, and beyond.
I have read that you plan to talk to Prof. Dossa about this scandal. In this case, even if you mean to issue a stern rebuke (that was not clear from the newspaper account that I read), I doubt that is enough. To my mind, a professor's participation in a gathering (I won't call it a "conference" so as not to besmirch the word) such as this calls into doubt his capacity for sound academic judgments of any sort and not just his capacity to be left alone safely in a room full of students.
Eric Lawee, Humanities
Friday, December 15, 2006
Re: Professor Sparks Uproar Over Holocaust Conference, Dec. 14.
St. Francis Xavier professor Shiraz Dossa's participation in Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's anti-Semitic love fest recalls the Talmudic saying that "hatred perverts proper conduct."
Hatred of the Jewish state among some North American and European academics is so intense as to make academic and moral depredations like Prof. Dossa's tacit endorsement of Holocaust denial and President Ahmadinejad's announced wish to see Israel wiped off the map almost inevitable.
Most disturbing of all is that Prof. Dossa will soon be back in the classroom purportedly teaching the academic values he has perverted to students, some of whom may become the next generation of Canadian professors.
Eric Lawee, Humanities, York University,