Concordia denies culling books from student library
On Feb. 27, TVA news network aired a report about Concordia’s Muslim Student Association’s (MSA) library, which is said to contain content from controversial Islamic authors who the report claims advocate wife beating and death to apostates and homosexuals.
The report mentioned three authors in particular: Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips, and Abdur Raheem Green.
Concerns were raised by the Quebecor media outlet about the effect the books could possibly have on members of the MSA and students that read them.
Since then, the MSA has replied by saying they would accept the help of Concordia’s librarians in processing their collection and seeing if anything should be of concern.
“We’re getting some help in just cataloging the books and to draw a procedure of the purposes of the library,” said Ibrahim Abou Arab, MSA’s vice-president of external affairs. He went on to explain that at the majority of the above-mentioned authors held PhDs and were academics in Islamic studies and other departments.
“These books by Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips and Yusuf al-Qaradawi are found at McGill University, they are found at university of Toronto, University of Ottawa, even at Harvard University,” said Abou Arab.
He said some books may be more controversial than others but it does not mean that they should be removed. He says having “a book arguing a point and another book right beside it arguing a different point [is] the beauty of academics.”
He mentioned Hitler’s Mein Kampf as an example of a controversial work available to students in universities across Canada, including Concordia.
He stressed that the MSA was not defending in any way authors broadcasting extremist ideas. If future material considered “too extreme” was present in their library, there would not be a problem with removing it.
In the aftermath of the TVA report, media reactions criticized Concordia’s response and raised questions about the university censoring books.
Chris Mota, Concordia’s director of media relations, said that the university in no way whatsoever asked the MSA to remove any books from their library, as suggested in some media reports.
“The university will not be calling for the removal of any book from the MSA library. The MSA will decide the library’s contents. Media references to “culling” and “purging” are erroneous, and it is possible that nothing will be removed. We will let the process take its course.”
Concordia Student Union President Benjamin Prunty told The Concordian that in his opinion, the way the news was treated was an extension of some form of “Islamophobia in the media, and in other mediums,” and that “TVA is kindof adding to that very destructive tendency.”
His official statement called the university’s response too complacent for an unfair attack in an atmosphere of tension over religious accommodation.
Mota disagreed, saying that Concordia was quick to contact and discuss the matter with members of the MSA.
“We have been quite supportive of the MSA, we’ve reached out to them right away after the initial report and when they asked us for a meeting with our administration we did that, and we offered them whatever help we could give them,” she said.
Moving forward, Abou Arab hopes that this coverage will not give the wrong impression about his group or the students who frequent it: “If you’re looking for radical people, the MSA is the wrong place to look,” he said.