A police investigation. A rally. A condemnation from the Israeli Consul General.
Hot dog vendor Jerry Reddick, a.k.a. Dawgfather PhD, is at the centre of all these after posting a series of Holocaust jokes on Twitter in an self-declared exercise to test the limits of free speech.
“How does freedom of expression look when it’s not Prophet Muhammad, s.a.w. Lets send ovens to all the Jews.#Hitler,” read one.
“What does one Jew say to the other Jew when they walk by a hot oven? Do you recognize anyone? #FreedomtoinsultMohammedandtheJews,” read another.
The ten tweets from January 14 were a response to widespread support for French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo’s publication of cartoons depicting Muhammad in the wake of a terrorist attack that resulted in 12 deaths.
The remarks, which also mentioned 9/11 and alleged a Jewish role in masterminding the transatlantic slave trade, were immediately met with condemnation from Jewish community leaders and students at Dalhousie.
“What he sent around, the vilest of the vile, cannot be ignored by the Jewish community or by people of good conscience,” says Jon Goldberg, executive director of the Atlantic Jewish Council.
“If he really wants to do this with impunity, he should go back to Saudi Arabia, or the [Islamic State], where he’d feel more comfortable,” he added.
Israeli Consul General to Eastern Canada Zev Nevo Kulman heard the news at an exhibit marking the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
“I’m shocked and saddened to see there are still people who think that way,” he told Global News.
In response to the remarks, many students are planning to vote with their feet when Dawgfather returns for business in February. Within a few hours of the appearance of the Tweets online, second-year student Asrar Haq organized a boycott which garnered over 300 participants on Facebook before condemnations and a formal police inquiry drew an apology from Dawgfather.
“I used a sledgehammer to get my point across about the double standard in free speech. I was wrong and I apologize,” he wrote on Jan. 16.
“I’ll be back to work next month and completely willing to give a pound of flesh if that’s what it will take to receive your forgiveness,” he added.
In response, Haq rescinded the boycott. In a private reply, however, Dawgfather criticized Haq, himself raised Muslim, as a “hypocrite,” writing, “If you read my Tweets you will see I never once apologize and never will, for the point I was making about the double standard.”
Haq has since restarted the boycott and is now organizing a rally. Dawgfather insists the boycott is actually about certain tenets of Islam the protesters find objectionable.
“They’re trying to turn it into ‘Dawgfather is anti-gay, is homophobic’,” Dawgfather said.
Haq insists that is not the case.
To me it’s completely irrelevant what your religious beliefs are,” said Haq. “If you do something wrong, I’ll bring attention to it, because I believe that’s the duty of society.”
“If [someone] holds views and presents them in such a way that could potentially put the community at dis-ease, I think the community should stand up and do something about it.”
Since the boycott was reintroduced, Dawgfather has publicly criticized Haq, and continues posting links to content alleging Zionist conspiracy. He defends his original tweets as a demonstration of the hurtful effect of unrestricted free speech.
Despite public opposition, Dawgfather is unlikely to get in any legal trouble over the tweets, says Mike Scott, a criminal lawyer who specializes in hate crime legislation.
“It’s got to be very, very extreme and very, very clear before you go issuing a charge to anyone,” said Scott.
“Is the purpose of him saying these things to get you to galvanize against Jewish people? Or, is his purpose reasonably, taken at face value, to be offensive to the point of making social commentary?”
For some students, the matter is more grey than black and white. “[The situation] is really complex,” says Camella Farahbakhsh, an administrator at the South House sexual and gendr resource centre. “It’s about race and class and it’s not just as simple as a tweet.”
“It’s really easy to condemn someone who we don’t understand.”