Ryerson fires teaching assistant accused of making anti-Semitic comments
Ryerson University has fired a teaching assistant accused of making “disturbing” anti-Semitic comments during prayers at a downtown Toronto mosque last year.
The dismissal stems from offensive comments made during a prayer service last summer at Masjid Toronto.
In an Arabic sermon, Ayman Elkasrawy, who the mosque says is a junior employee, allegedly called to “purify the Al-Aqsa Mosque from the filth of the Jews,” according to B’nai Brith Canada.
In an email, Elkasrawy confirmed that his position had been terminated but said it was still “an active matter with the union and my legal counsel.”
Elkasrawy denied that his comments targeted the Jewish community, adding that media reports had “mistranslated and misconstrued my supplication.”
“The correct translation does not target those of the Jewish faith nor does it express any form of hate or racism towards them,” he said.
Elkasrawy said he apologized for not choosing his words more carefully and would seek interfaith sensitivity training.
B’nai Brith spokesman Marty York said the Jewish advocacy group filed a complaint with the university requesting that Elkasrawy be dismissed from his role as a teaching assistant after becoming aware of the remarks two weeks ago.
In a letter to B’nai Brith sent on Tuesday and obtained by the Star, Ryerson president Mohamed Lachemi said that the university’s human rights, human resources and legal offices conducted a thorough examination “upon learning of this deplorable incident.”
In a statement issued Wednesday, Lachemi called Elkasrawy’s remarks “disturbing” and “anti-Semitic.”
“We understand how something of this nature can impact the climate for our Jewish students and our Jewish community,” Lachemi said. “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.”
According to his LinkedIn account, Elkasrawy has been a teaching assistant at Ryerson since September 2013.
In a statement last week, the Muslim Association of Canada said Elkasrawy had “used language during prayers that was unacceptable and against the values and practices of MAC, Masjid Toronto and the Muslim community at large.”
The organization apologized to the Jewish community and announced it was investigating.
“The incident occurred when inappropriate supplications, in Arabic, were added without authorization, and in contravention to MAC’s code of conduct for participants,” the association said, noting Elkasrawy had since been suspended.
York said he welcomed the university’s action and hoped it would serve “as a turning point in what has been a very difficult 12 months or so for Jewish students on the Ryerson campus.”
He referenced an incident at a Ryerson Students’ Union meeting in November in which Jewish students said they were subject to jeers and snickers, culminating in a spontaneous walkout, following a motion to mark Holocaust education week on campus.
Via The Toronto Star.
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