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Friday, July 11, 2014

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Madrassah barred from Toronto public schools

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David Spiro

TORONTO — A Toronto Islamic school has been told it can no longer use Toronto public school facilities while police conduct a hate crimes investigation.

The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) revoked the permit of the East End Madrassah after news reports showed the school was using materials that called Jews “treacherous,” “crafty,” accused them of conspiring to kill the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, and in a section on jihad, compared the beliefs of the Jews with those of Nazis.

The madrassah had contracted with the TDSB to hold its classes at the David and Mary Thomson Collegiate Institute, a public school in the Lawrence Avenue and Brimley Road area. The madrassah is run by the Islamic Shia Ithna-Asheri Jamaat (ISIJ), located in Thornhill.

TDSB spokesperson Shari Schwartz-Maltz said the board is asking for a meeting with representatives of the madrassah to ensure its teachings comply with the board’s policies.

“We’ve had a relationship with the organization for about 30 years, and in that 30 years, we’ve had no complaints whatsoever,” she said.

The madrassah issued a statement backing away from the materials: “We unreservedly apologize to the Jewish community for the unintentional offence that the item has caused.

“Our curriculum is not intended to promote hatred towards any individual or group of people, rather the children are taught to respect and value other faiths, beliefs and to uphold Canada’s basic values of decency and tolerance,” it said in the statement.

Jewish organizations applauded the TDSB for rescinding the madrassah’s use of public school facilities.

“We commend the TDSB for moving to suspend the East End Madrassah’s permit as an excellent first step, in accordance with the terms of the permit which allow the board to revoke such arrangements with or without cause. Given the presence of antisemitic passages in the curriculum, and the dubious activism of its religious leadership, it is clear that the madrassah has disqualified itself as a partner with the school board on any level. We are hopeful that the board comes to this conclusion in due course and that the madrassah is not welcomed back into our public schools,” said David Spiro, Greater Toronto co-chair of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA).

“We are pleased to note the TDSB has taken action in response to the alarming antisemitic hate taught to Muslim schoolchildren at Toronto’s East End Madrassah,” said Avi Benlolo, president and CEO of Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC).

“We hope the school board will now go one step further and put a plan in place to ensure no group is ever targeted as the Jewish community has been, and that ancient hatreds are never again endorsed and encouraged in Toronto classrooms,” he added.

FSWC said it remained concerned that this type of anti-Jewish material might be taught in other Islamic facilities in Ontario. It welcomed any initiative by school boards to investigate all forms of racism and intolerance in the education system.

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