Toronto’s East End Madrassah School cleared of hate crime charges

News Agencies – November 9, 2012

A Toronto mosque that runs an Islamic school cleared of hate crimes charges this week said it was disappointed at the “rush to judgment and harsh comments” it faced over the controversy. “Our teachings embrace and celebrate the Canadian values of tolerance, understanding and harmony,” Aliraza Rajani, president of the Islamic Shia Ithna Asheri Jamaat of Toronto said in a written statement.

The two-page statement did not address concerns raised by police that the investigation had identified teaching materials that, while not criminal, were produced in Iran, challenged core Canadian values and “suggested intolerance.”

The York Regional Police Hate Crimes Unit launched an investigation of the East End Madrassah, a school affiliated with the mosque, six months ago following complaints by
Jewish groups in Toronto.

Board suspends Toronto Islamic school’s operating permit after row over anti-Jewish curriculum

An Islamic school that had been using teaching materials that dis Jews and encouraged boys to keep fit for jihad has lost its license to use Toronto District School Board property. The board suspended a permit issued to the Islamic Shia Study Centre, which operated the East End Madrassah out of a Toronto high school until an outcry last week over the content of its curriculum booklets.


But the school’s curriculum, which it has now taken off its website, referred to “crafty,” “treacherous” Jews and contrasted Islam with “the Jews and the Nazis.” The passages were from two books published by Iranian foundations. Girls, meanwhile, were told to limit their involvement in physical activities and to instead engage in hobbies that would prepare them to become mothers and wives.

Toronto Islamic School critiqued for anti-Jewish books

News Agencies – May 10, 2012

A Toronto Islamic school’s teaching materials, which have prompted a police hate crimes investigation because of their portrayal of Jews, were originally published by Iranian organizations, records show. The passages of the East End Madrassah’s texts that drew the most widespread condemnation are excerpts from two books, including one published by the Al Balagh Foundation in Iran.

The other book, which contrasts Islam with “the Jews and the Nazis,” was published by the Mostazafan Foundation of New York, which the U.S. alleges was a front organization for the Iranian government.

Jewish community groups were disappointed to learn that materials from Iran had found their way into Canadian school texts. Neither the madrassa nor its parent organization, the Islamic Shia Ithna Asheri Jamaat, could be reached for comment. The East End Madrassa rents space every Sunday in a high school owned by the Toronto District School Board. The madrassa apologized to the Jewish community earlier this week and promised to review its teaching materials.

£100 Fine for ‘Gay Free Zone’ Stickers

Mohammed Hasnath, a Muslim man from Tower Hamlets, was fined last week after pleading guilty to putting up stickers declaring London’s East End a “gay free zone” earlier this year. The stickers, showing a rainbow flag with a black line through it stating “gay free zone”, outraged East London’s community and were illegal under section 5 of the Public Order Act causing harassment, alarm and distress. Hasnath was fined £100 for the public order offence.

East London mosque voted top in UK

The Muslim Centre in London’s East End has been voted top mosque in Britain in a national contest. It beat off stiff competition from the prestigious Central London Mosque in Regent’s Park in a poll organised by Islam TV Channel, held at Sunday’s Global Peace and Unity event at the London Excel Arena.

The £50,000 prize money is going towards a centre for Muslim women and girls. The mosque in Whitechapel is in the planning stages of building a new section which will house dedicated services for women.

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It’s Business As Usual At The ‘Terrorists’ Breeding Ground’

By Bernard Hare LEEDS – I’ve always liked the Beeston area of Leeds. I was brought up in neighbouring East End Park in the 60s. My first memories are of me and my mum travelling to Beeston early in the morning on the 61 bus. My auntie, who lived there, looked after me while mum went to work. My auntie had guard geese in the garden. I’ll always remember those aggressive, squabbling birds – but it never occurred to me to ask why they needed guard geese in Beeston when we didn’t need them in East End Park. Beeston was always kind of rough. I’m sitting at the Formica tables outside Cafe Mack’s trying to understand how outside perceptions of Beeston (typically, a “breeding ground for terrorists”) differs from the reality of living here. Mick Mac, the co-proprietor, seems to know everyone. “Hey up, Jimmy, have you had them whippets castrated yet? Manjit, where’s them flowers you were bringing round?” I wonder aloud: “And the terrorists?” “There’s a lot of rubbish written about Beeston,” Mac tells me. “People here really do work hard to try to get on.” One popular misconception is that Beeston is primarily an Asian area. Let me quote from an article by “undercover” reporter Ali Hussain published in the Times earlier this month. “Voices babbled in Urdu and Sylheti … Thick-bearded men in robes strolled the streets … This could almost be an Asian city, I thought, rather than Beeston, the suburb of Leeds where two of the July 7 bombers had lived.” True, thick-bearded men in robes do stroll the streets, but so do red-faced men with tattoos and no shirts, hoop-earringed chav girls, introverted Somalis and outgoing Poles. In fact, only 18% of the population of Beeston Hill and Holbeck are of Asian origin (according to the 2001 census). In Beeston, numerous communities live side by side. There are asylum seekers and refugees from all corners of the world, as well as many people of a mixed-race or mixed-heritage background, but the largest part of the population remains the white working class. Disaffected youth, limited opportunities, a sense of social exclusion, maybe even a feeling of betrayal is common across all ethnic groups in Beeston, because Beeston is a poor area on the wrong side of the tracks. Some disaffected Asian youths turn to their Muslim heritage in search of identity. Some disaffected white kids express their lack of identity through self-destructive behaviour and crime. In the late 80s, I worked at the YMCA youth centre on Beeston Hill. We did some innovative anti-racist work with local kids. It closed, along with most of the other local youth provision, in 1990 after a round of Tory cuts. Looking back, it seems a short-sighted social policy. Walking around, I find it hard to get people to talk. The community has closed ranks. Everyone is media-weary and media-wary. “The media flooded into the area after the London bombings and many people felt they were misrepresented,” says Ed Carlisle, as we sit in his terrace-end garden in the heart of the “terrorist breeding ground”. The terrorist threat seems far away. “This street is great,” he says. “There are eight or nine different ethnic groups, including refugees, migrant workers, local working class and even me from down south. People just hang out, swap gardening tips and share ice pops or the odd beer.” Carlisle works for Together For Peace, which makes partnerships to foster understanding between people from different backgrounds. Hamara, Asha, and dozens of other community groups are doing great work in the area, he says, and the festival mela this year was a big success. Thousands came from all backgrounds without a hint of trouble. “Something good might come of this yet. Hopefully, 7/7 should have shaken us all out of our complacency – in Leeds and everywhere. Certainly in Beeston, a lot of people are living and working all the harder to make this place a better and more deeply peaceful place to live.” I like Carlisle’s style and I give him my every support, but somewhere in the back of my mind I can’t help thinking about those guard geese. Bernard Hare is a writer based in Leeds. His memoir Urban Grimshaw and the Shed Crew is published by Sceptre. This is the first in a series of occasional columns.