Canadian Islamists are using the new “Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists” to help smear a Toronto-area school principal as a hate promoter and “Islamophobe.”
The guide, issued last week by the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center, lists 15 high-profile U.S. and British critics of political Islam, and outrageously accuses them of espousing hatred against Muslims. The list includes Ryan Mauro, national security analyst for the Clarion Project.
The smear against the school official is the first known attempt to use the guide to silence criticism of Islam in Canada, since its appearance two weeks ago, .
The events began with a front-page headline two months ago in the Toronto Star, Canada’s largest newspaper: “Principal under investigation for anti-Muslim posts.”
Staff reporter Noor Javed, who is Muslim and wears a hijab, wrote that somebody she identified only as “a community member” complained to the York Region District School Board about “Islamophobic” Facebook posts by elementary-school principal Ghada Sadaka.
As evidence, the Star reprinted a post from early 2015. It was a video showing a tearful man paying tribute to his brother, Ahmed Merabet, the French police officer and Muslim killed during the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris.
“A good start,” Sadaka says of the tribute, “but where is the voice of [other] Muslims who are not extremists and of which they condemn these acts of terrorism.”
In the Toronto Sun, columnist and anti-Islamist activist Tarek Fatah called the “Islamophobia” allegation “silly.”
“Nowhere does the report say Sadaka denounced all Muslims or peaceful followers of Islam,” he wrote, “yet a single, unnamed individual [said] she felt the Facebook posts were ‘blatantly spreading hate’.”
School board officials also appeared to treat the issue not as hate speech but as questionable social-media use. The board investigated, affirmed the principal in her post, and the rest is a “personnel matter,” a spokesperson said.
In three follow-up stories, the Star did not mention any objections from parents with children at the school. The harshest critic quoted was Ottawa-based Ihsaan Gardee, head of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, formerly CAIR-Canada, a branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in the United States. Gardee called for the principal’s dismissal.
In the latest development, 141 people calling themselves “community leaders” signed an open letter to Ontario Education Minister Mitzie Hunter last week, demanding that no school official “engage in hate propaganda.”
The signatories read like a Who’s Who of Toronto-area promoters of political Islam and sharia. They include : lawyer Hussein Hamdani, dismissed from an advisory panel on national security last year for alleged ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas; Sheema Khan, a former director of Washington-based CAIR and first director of its Canadian branch; university lecturer Katherine Bullock, a board member of the Islamic Society of North America, who helped lead a failed attempt to introduce sharia tribunals in Ontario; and mosque administrator Abdul Huq Ingar, who successfully campaigned to institute weekly Muslim Friday prayers at a Toronto public school.
The “Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists” is cited by the group’s spokeswoman, Amira Elghawaby. She is also communications director for the National Council of Canadian Muslims.
“Some of the [principal’s] postings were referencing individuals who have been identified [in the guide] as promoting hatred against Muslims,” Elghawaby said by phone from Ottawa. “[The postings] promote stereotypes and fear.”
Asked for examples, she sent only one post connected to the list of 15. Far from hateful, it shows The New York Times bestselling author Brigitte Gabriel explicitly saying, in part, that most Muslims “are peaceful people.”
Other posts characterized by Elghawaby as hateful appear equally innocuous.
The principal shared the statement, “If bikinis are banned in Muslim countries then burqas should be banned in Europe.”
The principal shared a video from conservative Canadian commentator Ezra Levant on the migrant crisis and added, “As Canadians we have to be compassionate but yet let’s be very vigilant.”
In early 2015, the principal also shared a post from the right-wing Britain First group. It was a CNN item on British Muslim activist Anjem Choudary, recently jailed for five and a half years for urging Muslims to support ISIS.
Responding to the open letter, Ontario Education Minister Mitzie Hunter said she has asked school board officials to brief her soon.
John Goddard is an independent newspaper and magazine reporter living in Toronto.