Toronto District School Board revises Islamic guide

Appropriate correction:

The Toronto District School Board said it will change portions of a guidebook that uses a definition of Islamophobia that a Jewish community group has called “overly broad.”

The guidebook defines Islamophobia, in part, as “fear, prejudice, hatred or dislike directed against Islam or Muslims, or towards Islamic politics or culture.” B’nai Brith Canada had complained earlier Monday that the reference to “politics” could lead to students or staff being punished for expressing dislike for the Republic of Iran’s persecution of LGBTQ people or restrictions placed on women in Saudi Arabia.

Hours later, TDSB chairperson Robin Pilkey said in a letter to the group that the updated guide will reflect the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s definition of Islamophobia, which makes no reference to politics.

Pilkey said the guide was not enforceable as policy and denied it would have led to silencing of staff or students.

“The TDSB welcomes important input from the community and from organizations such as B’nai Brith, however we must say that some of the suggestions made in your letter and subsequent news release are outrageous,” she said in the letter. “To suggest that the TDSB is encouraging students to stay silent about what they experienced in their countries of birth or that the TDSB is somehow banning students and educators from criticizing executions and other human rights abuses around the world is categorically untrue.”

The Toronto District School Board created the guide to be used in public schools in October, which it declared Islamic Heritage Month. The Toronto District School Board also celebrates Sikh Heritage Month in April and Jewish Heritage Month in May annually.

B’nai Brith Canada CEO Michael Mostyn said a school board representative told the group the definition was included in the guidebook “in error.”

“We thank the TDSB for acting swiftly to correct this serious problem,” he said in a statement. “The definition of Islamophobia initially presented by the TDSB was clearly inappropriate, and we look forward to seeing a proper definition presented to Toronto students.”

Source: Toronto District School Board revises Islamic guide | Toronto Star

Anthony Furey’s commentary from the Sun:

The Toronto District School Board is temporarily pulling an Islamic Heritage Month guidebook following complaints from Jewish advocacy group B’nai Brith Canada, the Toronto Sun has learned.

The book, as I described in a recent column, is a robust 170-page document that encourages a great deal of religious intrusion in a classroom setting that’s otherwise supposed to be a non-religious environment.

The recommendations include reciting and explaining the Muslim greeting “As-salamu alaykum” (peace be upon you) alongside the singing of O Canada and inviting children to visit a local mosque. It also includes templates of famous mosques around the world for children to construct during cut and paste exercises.

But it’s the guide’s alarming definition of Islamophobia that has caught the attention of the leading Jewish advocacy group. The school board’s guide defines the term as “fear, prejudice, hatred of dislike directed against Islam or Muslims, or towards Islamic politics or culture.”

“The TDSB definition, if enforced, could lead to punishment for students or teachers who display “dislike” towards the persecution of LGBTQ people in the Islamic Republic of Iran, harsh restrictions on women in Saudi Arabia, and Palestinian terrorism against Israelis, all of which are examples of “Islamic politics,” an earlier press release from B’nai Brith Canada says.

The organization contacted the TDSB Monday morning and by the afternoon the school board had committed to pulling the online guidebook until they revised the definition of Islamophobia, according to B’nai Brith Canada.

“A link to the resource guide was provided to school administrators across the system,” TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird told the Sun. “A revised version with an edited definition of Islamophobia will be available online shortly.”

It’s unclear if they plan to revise or remove any of the other controversial aspects of the guide.

“There are many students in Toronto schools who have come to Canada fleeing persecution from countries like Iran, Pakistan or Saudi Arabia — and now the TDSB is telling them to stay silent about what they’ve suffered. It’s simply ludicrous,” B’nai Brith Canada CEO Michael Mostyn said in the earlier press release. They’ve since issued another release thanking the board for swift action on the issue.

Source: Toronto school board recalls, revises controversial Islamic guidebook

Saudi Arabia Bulldozes Over Its Heritage

A reminder that our nominal allies in the struggle against ISIS have their own ISIS and Taliban-like tendency to obliterate history and anything that does not conform to their historical and cultural interpretation of Islam:

Over the last few years, mosques and key sites dating from the time of Muhammad have been knocked down or destroyed, as have Ottoman-era mansions, ancient wells and stone bridges. Over 98% of the Kingdom’s historical and religious sites have been destroyed since 1985, estimates the Islamic Heritage Research Foundation in London. “It’s as if they wanted to wipe out history,” says Ali Al-Ahmed, of the Institute for Gulf Affairs in Washington, D.C.

Though the Saudi rulers have a long history of destroying historical sites, activists say the pace and range of destruction has recently increased. A few months ago, the house of Hamza, the Prophet Muhammad’s uncle, was flattened to make way for a Meccan hotel, according to Irfan Al Alawi, executive director of the Islamic Heritage Research Foundation. There have even been rumored threats to Muhammad’s tomb in Medina and his birthplace in Mecca.

Saudi Arabia Bulldozes Over Its Heritage | TIME.