Police refuse to lay charges against madrassah

York Regional Police will not lay hate promotion charges against an east end Islamic school, despite a curriculum that “suggested intolerance” and “challenged some of Canada’s core values.”

In a report on the East End Madrassah released last week, York police concluded that while the school’s syllabus was problematic, it was “non-criminal.”

“The manner of teaching remains unknown and as such there is no conclusive proof to reasonably believe the hurtful and offensive text was promoted in a manner that would qualify as hate propaganda,” stated the report by Det.-Const. Mark Topping.

 The police report, however, acknowledged that the content of a paragraph headed “End of Jewish Plots and Treacheries” employed language that “is of concern” and targeted “the impressionable mind of a 13-14-year old.”

The East End Madrassah is one of the several affiliated organizations linked to the Islamic Shia Ithna Asheri Jamaat of Toronto (ISIJ), which is located at 9000 Bathurst St. in Thornhill. Its website, Jaffari.org, which hosts ISIJ, refers to several affiliated Islamic schools, including the East End Madrassah.

The material in question was used for several years and taught to at least 80 students. The East End Madrassah rented space in the David and Mary Thompson Collegiate in Scarborough, a public school operated by the Toronto District School Board (TDSB). The TDSB has subsequently revoked the Madrassah’s permit and the school has relocated elsewhere.

In a section headed “the Purpose of Jihad,” the material contrasts Islam with the “beliefs of the ancient Romans, the Jews and the Nazis.”

A section headed “End of Jewish Plots and Treacheries” calls Jews “treacherous” and “crafty.” It also refers to “Jewish plots and aggression” as well as “Jewish intrigues and conspiracies in Arabia.”

Despite the nature of the curriculum, the report noted that, “In the approximately seven years that the syllabus was circulated, there have been no concerns voiced by students, parents or staff regarding content.”

Last May, however, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) denounces the curriculum: “Using religion to promote hated among youth is not just offensive and abhorrent – it shows a stunning disregard for Canada’s basic values of decency and tolerance.”

Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) went further, calling for a hate crime prosecution. Last week, FSWC CEO Avi Benlolo said he was disappointed police declined to lay charges.

“We believe that the fact that the police conducted an investigation and produced a paper trail that is more extensive than the report states and is now available to police forces across the countries is an excellent start,” Benlolo said.

Noting that the questionable materials originated in Iran, he said, “This is not just about the East End Madrassah. This is the tip of the iceberg,”

Responding to the police report, ISIJ president Aliraza Rajani stated, “Our teachings embrace and celebrate the Canadian values of tolerance, understanding and harmony. “Our organization has felt sadness and disappointment at the rush to judgment and harsh comments directed toward us…

“We are especially disappointed that the FSWC refused our invitation to meet and discuss their concerns directly at the outset of this issue, choosing instead to go first to the media and then to make it an extremely costly and disruptive police matter. We believe that all of this could have been avoided if they had simply been willing to talk. And we continue to be disappointed by the FSWC’s attempts to paint our organization in the worst possible light, by re-publishing the material in question even though we removed the material from our website as soon as we were alerted to its presence.”

Benlolo rejected suggestions raised by Madrassah representatives and cited in the police report that educators were unaware of the materials. He called the school’s press release last May following disclosure of the material, “unapologetic.”

“They pleaded ignorance,” Benlolo commented. “I don’t know how you can be an educator and not know what was in there.”

In a news release, CIJA commended York Regional Police “for their quick and diligent review of this matter.”

However, CIJA’s senior vice-president Howard English said the organization never believed the incident would lead to criminal charges, given the difficulty in proving hate promotion.

Nevertheless, “based on the East End Madrassah situation, of course we would be concerned about what is being taught in other schools,” he said.