I take exception to the inflammatory and offensive comments made by some in the article “Madrassah barred from Toronto public schools” (cjnews.com, May 24).
David Spiro, of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, refers to the “dubious activism” of the madrassah’s religious leadership, yet offers no explanation of the basis of this allegation. The madrassah’s religious leadership is Islamic Shia Ithna-Asheri Jamaat (ISIJ) in Thornhill, Ont. As members of the MOSAIC Interfaith Group for more than 20 years, we have hosted some 150 to 200 group visits per year by students from Toronto-area high schools.
We were the first Islamic organization in the Toronto area to condemn the 9-11 attacks in a joint press conference with our neighbouring synagogue, Temple Har Zion. When a Montreal Jewish school and an Islamic centre in Pickering, Ont., were hit by arson attacks, we issued a joint condemnation and made a donation to the synagogue. We are a founding partner with a Zoroastrian temple, a synagogue and a Christian church of the Out of the Cold program. And we are joint recipients of the Harmony Award with Temple Har Zion, in recognition of our promotion of Canadian values. Is this what Spiro considers “dubious activism?”
The article also quotes Avi Benlolo, president and CEO of Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, who accuses the madrassah of teaching “antisemitic hate.” Our record of decades of partnership with our friends in the Jewish community and with other religious and secular organizations speaks far louder than any baseless and inflammatory remarks made by vocal critics.
Director of Operations
Islamic Shia Ithna Asheri Jamaat of Toronto
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Nakba Day at Tel Aviv U
Rena Dvorkin Cohen says marking Nakba Day at Tel Aviv University was “disgraceful… an offence to Israel and its sovereignty” (“Nakba Day marked at Tel Aviv U,” letter, May 24). For most of the 20.5 per cent of Israelis who are Arabs, Yom Ha’atzmaut may well seem like Yom Nakba. Does Cohen want to suppress their right to express their views? Now that would be “disgraceful” and “an offence”! I applaud Tel Aviv University’s dean of students, who approved Arab students holding a peaceful ceremony. I applaud TAU’s chairman, Moti Cohen, who said: “We are a democratic institution in a democratic country.”
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Anti-African violence in Tel Aviv
Terror recently raged in Tel Aviv (“Anti-African violence in Tel Aviv condemned,” May 31). Preschool children were sent home for fear of attacks, and people were afraid to walk in their neighbourhoods. Who were the perpetrators? Jews. Their victims? African refugees. These refugees watched their families killed and their villages bombed, and escaped to Israel to preserve their lives. The Jewish nation cannot turn its back and say, “This is not our problem.” We shouldn’t even whisper such words, given our history of losing millions as other nations turned their backs. And yet, recently, Jews screamed these words as they violently marched through the streets of Tel Aviv. In the Knesset, Jews said these words as they put forth a policy to deport refugees to South Sudan, a move that could send thousands to their death.
In 1944, David Ben-Gurion asked the international community, “If, instead of Jews, thousands of English, American or Russian women, children and aged had been tortured every day, burnt to death, asphyxiated in gas chambers, would you have acted in the same way?” I pose that question, too. If Jews, instead of Africans, thousands of Jewish women, children and aged were being threatened every day, attacked by Molotov cocktails, and facing the very real possibility of deportation to countries where they could be killed in a matter of hours, would you act in the same way? Or, should we confront our leaders and acknowledge that this is our problem?
Anna Rose Siegel