“When a member of the Moslem community is a victim of terrorism, there is no coverage,” complained Dorval reader Chawki El Minyawi. “But you (the media) choose to print news that portrays Moslems as terrorists.”
El Minyawi said that The Gazette had not reported the killings of Ismail al Faruqi, a 65-year-old Islamic scholar, and his wife, Lois, 59, in their Philadelphia suburban home early May 27. The couple’s daughter, Anmar el Zein, 27, eight months pregnant, had been left bleeding from the chest and arms. She survived. Police described the weapon as a 15-inch, survival-type knife. Deaths were by multiple stabbings and slashings.
Another daughter, 21, hid in a closet with the 18-month-old son of the pregnant woman. They were unharmed.
Associated Press news stories from Wyncote, Pa., said Faruqi, a native of Jaffa in British-run Palestine (since incorporated into Tel Aviv) and a U.S. citizen, had taught since 1968 at Temple University, Philadelphia, and kept in touch with Islamic universities in Libya, Iran, Lebanon, and elsewhere. His U.S.-born wife was an art scholar with a PhD in Islamic art.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation had been called in because of al Faruqi’s Islamic connections, although associates said he was not involved in politics.
El Minyawi said that this news, of interest to Montreal’s Moslem community and from “virtually on our doorstep,” had been deliberately left out of The Gazette.
Not satisfied with an explanation that many news stories must be tightly compressed and that some do not appear at all because each day’s news exceeds the space available, el Minyawi turned to the Muslim Community of Quebec. Its president, Mohammed Amin, wrote that local Moslems were agitated about the lack of coverage and considered it part of a pattern of “biased reporting of the media in general and of The Gazette in particular.”
He termed the al Faruqis “as important to the Moslem community as are the Sakharovs and Shcharanskys to the other communities” – references to Anatoly Shcharansky, a Soviet Jewish dissident freed last February after 13 years’ imprisonment, and Andrei Sakharov, a Soviet nuclear scientist internally exiled for his opposition to his country’s weapons program.
The complaints were referred to The Gazette’s managing editor, Mel Morris, who, after reviewing the news agency material said, “I can understand the story being left out of the paper. The general news story . . . identified al Faruqi as an Islamic scholar and nothing more. That’s not much to get excited about.”
Morris’s comment, if frank, also seemed fair, in the context of a general interest newspaper read by an estimated 592,000 people each weekday and 807,000 on Saturdays. (Amin estimated Quebec’s Moslems at 22,000 of whom 20,000 are in the Montreal area, 60 per cent of whom use English instead of French. The 1981 census reported 12,120 in Quebec and 98,160 in Canada. The world Moslem community exceeds 550 million, with more than 2 million in North America.)
The killings weren’t on Montreal’s doorstep – except, perhaps, as viewed from the perspective of the Middle East. Nor were the al Faruqis international newsmakers.
So, while the readers’ disappointment is understandable, this incident did not support an allegation of anti-Moslem bias. (What seemed little more than a pair of suburban killings in the U.S. rated only four paragraphs in the New York Times, widely regarded as a newspaper of record and closer to Philadelphia than is Montreal.)
But investigation shows that al Faruqi lived in Ville St. Laurent from about 1958, when he joined McGill University’s Institute of Islamic Studies at the invitation of the institute’s founder, Wilfred Cantwell Smith of Toronto, until 1967. From 1964 to 1968 he was also an associate professor in the religion department at Syracuse University, where he met and married his wife.
Al Faruqi helped found the Islamic Centre of Montreal, in small, rented quarters on Sherbrooke St. near McGill. Today, named the Islamic Centre of Quebec and located in Ville St. Laurent, it is the province’s largest mosque.
But al Faruqi was more than just a religious academic. Smith and Charles Adams, professor of Islamic studies, former head of the institute and a native Texan, told of the son of wealthy Jaffa orange growers. While studying axiology – the theory of values – at Harvard University, he was cast adrift in 1948 in the United States by the formation of the state of Israel and the ruin of his family.
Determined to restore his means and then to return to academia within 10 years, al Faruqi turned to real estate. He built houses and shopping centres in the Indianapolis area, sank his profits into municipal bonds and completed his PhD at Indiana University, Bloomington, Ind.
He is remembered as a charming, irrepressible dynamo of original thought, extremely intelligent, informed about the collapse of Palestine and an ardent advocate of the Palestinian cause. He loved the give-and-take of intense debate, usually dominated university discussions and published two volumes of a four-volume work on ‘urubah – what it means to be an Arab. He was asked to join the department of divinity (today, religious studies) to heat up the level of controversy among students of Christianity and other religions.
He was extravagantly hospitable in his rented house, where the cooking and homemaking skills of his wife, a professional pianist, matched the grandness of his style.
In those days he served whisky and drank, but as he grew older he became more conservative and more religious. He once walked out of a Middle Eastern restaurant in Edmonton in protest against the staging of a belly-dancing act.
In recent years he had received sums from the Middle East, perhaps Saudi Arabia, to support Islamic and Arabic studies. From Temple University he founded American Islamic College in Chicago in 1983 and was its first president.
The couple was well enough known for an estimated 700 people to turn out for two memorial services at the Ville St. Laurent mosque, said Shafi Hosain, secretary.
“Who killed the Faruqis?” is the July cover story in Arabia, the Islamic World Review, a quality monthly English-language magazine published in London whose 49,550 copies sell in North America (9,000 in the United States), Europe, the Middle and Far East, India and Africa.
Significant developments of the FBI investigation would be worth following for Montreal readers.
If you have a question, comment or complaint about fairness or accuracy of news coverage in The Gazette, write to our ombudsman, Clair Balfour, at 250 St. Antoine St. W., Montreal H2Y 3R7, or telephone 282-2160.