Saturday, February 14, 2009

Blocking the hole in the wall

A Dutch legend tells about a little boy,

"who upon passing a dyke on his way to school noticed a slight leak as the sea trickled in through a small hole. Knowing that he would be in trouble if he were to be late for school, the boy pocked his finger into the hole and so stemmed the flow of water . Some time later a passerby saw him and went to get help. This came in the form of other men who were able to effect repairs on the dyke and seal up the leak. "

This story is meant to illustrate the idea that a quick small action taken early and with determination, in spite of other demands, can prevent a major disaster from developing. In this story, if little Hans did not stem the small trickle of water, it would soon have become a stream "and the stream a torrent and the torrent a flood sweeping all before it, Dyke material, roadways and cars, and even railway tracks and bridges and whole trains."

I was reminded of this story when I read the following post on "Islam in Europe" blog:

Vienna's Muslim community has voiced its anger over the sacking of a Islamic religion teacher by the federal government for distributing anti-Semitic leaflets to pupils.

Social Democrat (SPÖ) Education Minister Claudia Schmied ordered the city school council yesterday (Thurs) to bar the teacher who had been teaching at the Cooperative Secondary School (KMS) on Brüßlgasse in Wien-Ottakring district. She said "delay would be dangerous."

The leaflets contained a list of allegedly "Jewish" firms from which, the man told the students, they should not buy anything.

A Muslim Teachers Association spokesman claimed today the man had said: "Every form of racism and anti-Semitism contradicts the ethnics of Islam and my own ethical principles."
The spokesman added the man felt bewildered, considered himself the object of persecution and had denied he had distributed such leaflets to his students.

The man had claimed the students themselves had drawn up the list of supposedly Jewish firms and sent them to one another as SMS, the spokesman said.*

The banning of the man from teaching, the spokesman added, "without examination of the evidence and without having heard from both sides was an overreaction."

The education ministry, however, said today the man had confessed to distribution of the lists, and school director Karlheinz Fiedler told ORF Radio Wien the students had told him the teacher had distributed the lists.

The city school council said today it had become aware of the teacher's activity on 21 January after a district inspector and the school director had informed it the teacher had been engaging in political agitation in the classroom.

The council added the teacher had been informed in a document he might face disciplinary proceedings. The council said the teacher had returned the document with his signature on it, which, the council declared, constituted an admission of improper behaviour.

The Islamic Believers Denomination informed the teacher on 28 January it would take disciplinary action against him.

Imagine doing something like that in Austria, with its history and its lingering animus against Jews. As the sea howls outside the dam of law, order and the democratic ethos, it remains to be seen yet whether the swift action by the Ministry of Education to remove this man from teaching would indeed be enough to stem the pressure of the dark tide on the other side of the wall.


* The man had claimed the students themselves had drawn up the list of supposedly Jewish firms and sent them to one another as SMS, the spokesman said.

This claim by way of self exculpation
would have held water had the teacher had tried to dissuade his students from compiling such a list, explaining to them, as teachers are supposed to do, the wrongness of such actions. Furthermore, he should have informed his school authorities that these activities have been taking place among the students. So even his official line of defense admits to unbecoming conduct and dereliction of his pedagogical duties.


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