A tenured professor at Canada’s University of Calgary said he left the school after it ignored his concerns about students spreading radical Islamist views, the National Post reported on Thursday.
Aaron Hughes, an author on religion who holds a PhD on Islamic studies, said he once found an Arabic message written on his classroom’s chalkboard endorsing terror groups Islamic Jihad and Hamas. The professor and researcher, who is Jewish, said he considered the message to be anti-Semitic and that the university refused to remove the offending student from his class.
“Ultimately, the reason I left the University of Calgary is because my colleagues gave me no support,” he said.
“I would have to go teach this class as a victim staring my aggressor in the face,” he said.
The university also failed to act when Hughes reported that he was uncomfortable teaching religion in what he called a hostile environment, he told the National Post. Hughes also became concerned when he heard students in his Islamic studies classes promoting a view of Islam that denounced scholars as heretics and certain fields of study as non-Muslim.
When Hughes requested to be allowed to teach another subject officials declined, he said.
He left the university in 2009 and now teaches at the University of Rochester.
The University of Calgary claims it promotes the free and open debate of ideas while providing a safe environment for students and faculty on campus, the National Post noted. A written statement by the university said its student code of conduct along with a new office of diversity and protected disclosure are designed to help people who feel harassed or threatened.
“Campus security steps in when there is an issue of safety and work directly with Calgary police,” the statement read. “To ensure the fastest action, we also encourage anyone with concerns regarding illegal or terrorist activity to contact Calgary police or the Canadian Security Intelligence Service directly. These agencies are in the best position to assess and act on any perceived risks to public safety.”
Calgary Muslim leader Riyaz Khawaja told the National Post that the message Hughes found on his blackboard is not in line with the doctrines of his religion. He said a misinterpretation of his religion has also resulted in a number of Calgarians traveling abroad to fight alongside extremist groups, which Khawaja said concerns him.
“It could be classroom, it could be a private room where a bunch of people misinform the other groups about Islam and teachings,” Khawaja said.
Hughes, on the other hand, said he is not surprised Calgarians have joined extremists in battle, given what he experienced at the University of Calgary. He wondered whether radical Muslim influences on university campuses are helping encourage youths to support jihad in Syria and Iraq.
Hughes said he once saw a young Muslim stand up during a University of Calgary memorial service for the 9/11 terrorist attacks and say, “Islam will always stand up for those who are dispossessed.” Later, he saw a Calgary student wearing a Hamas headband.