It took two weeks, but Calgary’s largest Muslim organization distanced itself from the anti-Semitic content in a recent online posting by another local Muslim group.
The Muslim Council of Calgary (MCC), which says it represents 80,000 Muslims in the city, issued a statement on Sept. 19 denouncing anti-Jewish references in an article about female circumcision.
The MCC said it disassociated itself from remarks about the “Jewish controlled media” and Jews’ preference for male circumcision contained in an article posted on a website called Muslims in Calgary (muslimsincalgary.ca) on July 7.
“These false assertions perpetuate anti-Semitic notions and foster misconceptions and distortions of Judaism and the Jewish People,” the MCC said.
A previous statement, issued by the MCC on Sept. 7, disavowed aspects of the article, but did not address its anti-Semitic content.
Komal Ayub, a spokesperson for the MCC, told The CJN that the original statement’s failure to condemn the post’s anti-Semitism was “an oversight.”
She said council members met with Rabbi Shaul Osadchey of Calgary’s Beth Tzedec Congregation and decided to publish the second statement.
The trouble began when Muslims in Calgary posted an article that extolled the “untold” benefits of female circumcision, and blamed the unpopularity of the practice on the “Jewish controlled media.”
“It is in the interests of the Jews to criticize female circumcision while promoting male circumcision,” the author stated. “Why? Because male circumcision is a Jewish practice and female circumcision is not.”
The article added that Jews “hide” the facts about female circumcision, because its benefits “will be another feather in the cap of Islam.”
Following an outcry from the Calgary Jewish Federation that the article was “littered with classical anti-Semitic tropes,” the website ran a clarification on Sept. 7.
“We did not write the article ourselves,” it explained. “We don’t necessarily endorse all the author’s opinions, but we still publish the article as is (without editing) for fairness to the author.
“The views posted are the opinions of the individual author of each posting, and are not necessarily ours.”
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs said it was “shocked and appalled” at the clarification, which “shamelessly defends the use of the phrase ‘Jewish-controlled media,’ claiming they wanted to show ‘fairness to the author.’ This is unacceptable.”
Jared Shore, community relations committee chair of the Calgary Jewish Federation, said the response was “far from satisfactory.”
His organization expected “both more appropriate vetting of outside articles, and follow-up that demonstrates Canadian values of tolerance and unity in the face of intolerance and division. Simply posting a disclaimer doesn’t absolve websites from the responsibility of promoting hateful speech.”
On the same day the clarification ran, the MCC issued a statement in which it distanced itself from the website and female circumcision, which it says is “absolutely against the established religious practices of Islam and its values.”
The council said that it suspects the website is operated by individuals who are in an “adversarial relationship” with the MCC.
In its later statement, the council said it condemns both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia “as harmful to building a society based upon mutual respect and human dignity. Such contemptible views undermine MCC’s desire to create better relationships with the Calgary Jewish community, as well as with other religious communities in Calgary.”
The original article’s author was Asiff Hussein, a Sri Lanka-based writer, who said Islam advocates removing only the prepuce, or layer of skin, over the clitoris, which he says is “a relatively minor and harmless procedure” on a part of the body that is the “female equivalent” of the male foreskin. He claims the procedure leads to heightened sexual pleasure, and drew a distinction between it and female genital mutilation.
Canada banned all forms of female genital cutting in 1997.