TORONTO - Officials at one of Canada's most prestigious law schools are publicly apologizing for an article in the student newspaper that condemned the Islamic faith as "oppressive, backwards and brutal," and have launched a disciplinary investigation against the student who wrote it.
The article, published last month in Obiter Dicta, the student newspaper at Osgoode Hall Law School of York University, brought a flurry of complaints, apologies from the school's dean and the university's president, and attention from an Islamic lobby group based in Washington, D.C.
Peter W. Hogg, dean of Osgoode Hall, said he was embarrassed by the article."The article was essentially a criticism of Islamic law but it also made some unjustified criticisms of the Islamic belief system. It was very offensive to Muslim students," he said. "I started to get just a torrent of e-mails from Muslims all over North America."
The article was highlighted by the Council on American-Islamic Relations as being particularly "Islamophobic."
Written by Demitry Papasotiriou, a law student, the article was a response to a series of articles in the newspaper written by a Muslim student on shariah, the Islamic law. Mr. Papasotiriou did not like the publishing of what he called religious propaganda, and called Islam an affront to basic human dignity, adding it contained absolutely nothing spiritual. He summarized the religion as being a hybrid of "the worst elements of communism and fascism co-existing in a monstrous symbiosis."
Riad Saloojee, executive director of the Canadian office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said it is difficult to believe the article was penned by a future lawyer. "I have seen a fair amount of discrimination, but the tenor of his argument and the whole tone of his article is something that I have never really seen before," he said. "It is one of the worst, grossest, bigoted commentaries I have ever seen. We take it very seriously."
Mr. Papasotiriou could not be reached for comment, but in an article written in the last issue of the newspaper, he said he regretted causing such grief. "I am therefore disheartened and brought to tears when I am confronted with accusations ranging from cultural intolerance to outright bigotry," he wrote. However, his "reaction [to Islamic law] still remains unchanged," he wrote.
Lorna Marsden, president of York University, wrote to CAIR to inform them proceedings against the student have begun because of the complaint.
Mr. Hogg said the university is investigating complaints that the article breached the school's code of non-academic conduct that prohibits hatemongering. "That is being investigated and, if appropriate, he will be disciplined. If the complaint is found to be justified, there will be a hearing before a university tribunal," he said. Punishment could include expulsion, he added.
In response to the criticism, editors of the Obiter Dicta published a number of letters, essays and apologies in its last issue of the academic term.
Calls to the newspaper's office were not returned yesterday."The second issue of the magazine, where there is a lot of answering material, went a long way to deal with the offence that had occurred," said Mr. Hogg. "However, the final piece of the puzzle—because a complaint has been brought against the student—is the disciplinary process."