A Ryerson University employee who made anti-Semitic statements at a local mosque last year has been fired.
Ryerson president Mohamed Lachemi notified B’nai Brith Canada on Feb. 28 that Ayman Elkasrawy was “no longer employed by the university.”
“We are relieved to finally hear that Mr. Elkasrawy has been dismissed,” said Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada, which laid a complaint with Ryerson on Feb. 21.
Elkasrawy, who was a teaching assistant in Ryerson’s engineering and architectural science program, was at the centre of controversy for weeks over a supplication he delivered last Ramadan at the Masjid Toronto mosque on Dundas Street West.
According to one translation, the invocation Elkasrawy, an imam, recited was: “O Allah! Destroy anyone who displaced the sons of the Muslims, O Allah! Count their number; slay them one by one and spare not one of them, O Allah! Purify Al-Aqsa Mosque from the filth of the Jews!”
On Feb. 20, Elkasrawy tweeted an apology.
“Neither I, Masjid Toronto or the congregation harbour any form of hate towards Jews. And so I wish to apologize unreservedly for misspeaking during prayer last Ramadan. I firmly believe that all human beings: Muslims, Jews, Christians and people of all and no faith deserve to live a life free of any threat to their safety. In my supplication, my intention was to refer to a very specific political situation that is the result of military occupation. I sincerely regret the offence that my words must have caused,” the tweet read.
Aedan O’Connor, a third-year Ryerson science student who led a campaign to have Elkasrawy fired, was relieved to hear of the dismissal.
“I’m glad that Ryerson made the right decision to stand against bigotry and hatred,” she told The CJN. She said the matter shed light on anti-Semitism at Ryerson, “and I look forward to working with the administration in the future.”
O’Connor put up about 100 posters at Ryerson Feb. 24 calling for Elkasrawy’s ouster, but they were taken down by campus security the same day, she said.
Elkasrawy’s invocation and other statements made at Masjid Toronto formed the basis of a hate crimes complaint filed with police on Feb. 22 by Meir Weinstein, head of the Jewish Defence League of Canada.
The day before, the mosque filed a hate crimes complaint against a group of anti-Islamic protesters who gathered outside during Friday prayers on Feb. 17.
The mosque also apologized for Elkasrawy’s words, calling him “a junior employee” who added “inappropriate supplications, in Arabic, without authorization.”
Masjid Toronto said it condemns “all forms of hate and racism towards any faith group or others and is committed to offering a safe spiritual space for all congregants.”
B’nai Brith said it hopes that Elkasrawy’s dismissal “will serve as a turning point in what has been a difficult year for Jewish students” at Ryerson.
In a statement, B’nai Brith pointed out that last November, members of the Ryerson chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine and the Muslim Students Association walked out of a student union meeting in order to block a motion on Holocaust education.
It was later revealed that student union president Obaid Ullah Babar had orchestrated the walkout, despite earlier denials, B’nai Brith noted.
The motion was subsequently passed in December.
In his letter, Lachemi said Ryerson is “very aware of how something of this nature can impact the climate for our Jewish students and Jewish community. That’s why we continue to be committed to broadening education and awareness of anti-Semitism and we remain actively engaged in addressing any anti-Semitism in our community.”
In a statement, Judy Zelikovitz of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs said her organization is pleased with the steps Ryerson took.
“Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences for those who choose to spread hate, and universities have an obligation to hold accountable faculty or staff who do so,” Zelikovitz said. “It is disturbing to think that a university staffer would hold such outrageous views, let alone preach them without shame in public.”
Hillel Ontario said it was “very pleased” by Ryerson’s decision to fire Elkasrawy.