Newspaper turns to York’s Buturovic for story on Islam

Islam shares roots with Christianity and Judaism, wrote the Toronto Sun June 8 in an article about the religion in the wake of recent arrests of 17 people suspected of terrorism. “It’s the same God, revealing Himself in three different ways,” says Prof. Amila Buturovic, who teaches Islamic studies in York’s Division of Humanities, Faculty of Arts.

“To the extremists,” says Buturovic, “95 per cent of people who call themselves Muslims are not Muslims, because they are not Muslim enough.” The professor, who is from Bosnia, is among that 95 per cent. “It’s a myth,” says the prof, “that somehow all Muslims are more Muslim than Christians are Christian. “Most Muslims define their relationship to Islam in very arbitrary, personal terms.” Besides, there is no central authority to clarify rules. No Pope or Dalai Lama or Archbishop of Canterbury. No one to order the extremists to cut that out.

“Sharia has never been codified. There are different schools of thought.” One school of thought is terrorism. Thankfully, it is a small school and few Muslims attend. How do we shut it down? “A lot of internal housecleaning,” says Buturovic. “Muslim organizations need to understand when hate speech happens in their midst, they have to deal with it. “Others need to know the problem is not with the overall Muslim population.”

Academic-bashing overlooks larger concerns about responsibility

There’s nothing like kicking the profs while they’re down, wrote columnist Andrew Potter in Maclean’s June 8 about a dispute among professors in the UK over Middle East politics. This is academic-bashing season, after all, with York University in Toronto having hosted the annual Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, a meta-conference that brought together 8,000 scholars from more than 70 disciplines and scholarly associations across the country. It’s also one of the few occasions on which the mainstream media pay any attention to what the country’s academics are up to.

The usual sport around this time is to scan the list of scheduled presentations, pick out the dumb-sounding ones, and stir up a piece (two parts mocking to one part outrage) denouncing it all as a fraud and a waste with no legitimate role in a pluralistic, democratic society, wrote Potter. But behind this lightly mocking anti-intellectualism lies the important question of to what – and to whom – academics are responsible. If the standard worry is that professors are too aloof from reality, there is also the obverse concern, that they sometimes involve themselves too much in mundane matters. As a result, academics are in a bit of a bind: when they work on stuff like socks and doors, we accuse them of triviality and money-wasting. But if they tackle the big serious stuff, we tell them to stick to their knitting and get back in the library.

Little-known MP and York graduate aims for the big time

He lacks basic name recognition and one national newspaper columnist included him on his list of Liberal leadership B-team members. But York alumnus Maurizio Bevilacqua (BA ‘85) doesn’t see any of this as an impediment to his leadership quest, wrote a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press June 8. “Canadians are looking for a new face,” he told me over coffee at a downtown cafe. “It’s hard to find a new face in politics with experience.” And besides, the next federal Liberal leader will be chosen by party delegates who know who he is, Bevilacqua said.

But what Bevilacqua really likes to talk about is himself as an embodiment of the Canadian Dream. The 45-year-old immigrated to Canada with his family when he was 10 years old and his father built a trucking company. It was the classic immigrant-makes-good story and Bevilacqua sees his family story as Canada’s story – a land of opportunity for all. Bevilacqua said he is proud of his humble roots, having grown up in a working-class family. He received a bachelor of arts degree at York University and was president of York’s student union. Afterwards, he began working for the Liberal party before finally being elected himself.

York’s Paul James weighs in with World Cup comments

Hopefully, Paul James is not among a passing breed: a man who can say he represented Canada in a myriad of ways in the World Cup, wrote the Edmonton Sun June 8. James conducts clinics, coaches the men’s and women’s soccer teams at York University, and is a TV analyst on The Score’s “Sportsworld”, a calm, studious voice alongside the manic Brian Budd. Brazil could probably field “three squads that would do well,” James said. But they’d better be on it. “I could see along the way, they could potentially trip up. In a one-off game, whether it’s a combination of over-achieving and great tactical preparation to play Brazil, you could see that possibility.”

Top grads say honour didn’t come easy

Excellence in scholastic achievement was recognized Wednesday at the Kamloops-Thompson School District’s 28th annual honours reception, reported The Daily News (Kamloops) June 8. The night was particularly special for NorKam Secondary School graduate Emma Ste. Marie, who co-emceed the event at Thompson Rivers University’s Grand Hall. Emma and her co-emcee were nervous prior to the 7pm start. However, the butterflies were overshadowed by the honour of being recognized. “It’s been worth it. It’s tough, a lot of hard work,” Emma said, explaining she spends hours on homework after school, during lunch and on weekends. “I did it for myself. The hard work got me into York University [Faculty of Fine Arts] for dance.”

‘Dynamic’ York professor to talk about architecture in PEI

During an architectural convention in Charlottetown in mid-June, one of the presenters, Malcolm Thurlby, will give a special presentation on church architecture on PEI, wrote The Guardian (Charlottetown) June 8. Thurlby is a professor in York’s Department of Visual Arts, Faculty of Fine Arts, and is a dynamic teacher anxious to share his enthusiasm for the architectural gems found in Island churches of various denominations, more than 40 of which he has carefully viewed.

Investors’ optimism/pessimism doesn’t match their needs, says Milevsky

In a story about speakers at Morningstar Canada’s 2006 annual conference in Toronto in the National Post June 8, Moshe Milevsky, finance professor at York University’s Schulich School of Business, described how advisers can reposition clients from accumulating wealth to managing risks, including longevity and inflation. He noted that people with low life expectancy tend to be overly optimistic, while those with high life expectancy tend to be overly pessimistic. This provides financial advisers with an opportunity to “add value” by correcting these expectations, he said.

Was this the work of terrorists or ‘totalitarian cowards’?

Eric Lawee, humanities professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, replied to a fellow academic’s comments in a letter to the National Post June 8: Prof. Jordan Peterson suggests that we should not call the 17 people arrested for planning attacks on Canadian politicians and citizens “Muslim terrorists,” but instead “totalitarian cowards” or “boneheads”. To do otherwise, he says, is to romanticize these men and give them the notoriety that they seek. But use of the terrorist label should be considered not just in terms of its effect on the 17, wrote Lawee, but also in terms of its impact on their would-be victims: innocent Canadians, most of whom have been sleepwalking through the Islamist assault on Western civilization, not to mention innocent Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

For us to receive the wake-up call that we need, it is important to realize that these would-be attackers are cut from the same cloth as the 9/11 mass murderers, the Madrid mass murderers and the mass murderers who bombed London’s transit system. Somehow, to describe those men as “totalitarian cowards” or “boneheads” just doesn’t cut it, said Lawee.

 Once upon a time there was a boy who loved books

York alumnus Doug Miller (BA ‘95) was featured in a Toronto Star story June 8 about the upcoming 2006 Book-Expo at the Toronto Convention Centre. As with many good stories, Miller’s serendipitous journey into the world of children’s books began pretty much by accident. When Miller was a young boy in Newmarket, he saw his mother read constantly. By the time he was 7, he had a collection of books she’d bought him. Before long, he was a paper boy for the Star. He’d bank some of his earnings, use the rest to buy books. He’d even begun haunting garage sales. At those, he’d buy books he liked. But what caught his eye were the ones he didn’t.

In bookstores, “I’d see books I could have bought for a quarter that someone was selling for $15.” A seed was planted. “I thought to myself, if I buy that for a quarter and sell for $2 I can make more money and buy more books.” One day, when he was about 18, by then majoring in English at York University, he was walking by a house. “A man was throwing out 10 or 12 boxes of books. He yelled out, ‘If you want ’em, just take ’em.’ I said, ‘Could you call me a cab?’ He called me a cab. “I got the books home and started looking for people to buy them. Nobody was interested because they were all horse books. Finally, I found someone out in the country. He gave me $1,500. I put half in the bank, used the other half to buy more books. That’s how it really started.”

It’s not a calling, of course, in which many get rich. “It’s a lifestyle,” he says. When people come in saying they’d like to run a bookstore, he has two speeches for them. “One to encourage you, and one to discourage you. Both of them have very good arguments. “Basically, I laugh and say, ‘If you want a house and a car and vacations, don’t become a bookseller.’ But the good thing about it is it’s wonderful to be surrounded by all these books. You get to see a lot of things you don’t see in new bookstores.” And when you hold a little book in your hand signed by Beatrix Potter, and the hair on your neck rises, it is easy to understand how Miller can say “it’s just an amazing business to be in.”

On air

  • Raymond Mougeon, professor in Glendon’s Department of French,  was interviewed about the spoken French of Franco-Ontarians on the Radio Canada (Vancouver) program “Le Telejournal” and on CBC French TV June 6.
  • James Stribopoulos, a criminal law professor who is joining the faculty at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School this summer, spoke about Canada’s terrorism legislation on CTV June 7.
  • Joe Baker, professor in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science, spoke about the phenomenon of “boomeritis” – the physical problems members of the baby boom generation can bring upon themselves by participating in competitive sports activities – on Global TV June 7.
  • Patrick Monahan, dean of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, spoke about the recent arrest of 17 suspected terrorists in Toronto, on TVO’s “Studio 2” June 7.