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Ontario teachers’ union ‘under fire for workshop on Islamophobia’


Ontario teachers’ union ‘under fire for workshop on Islamophobia’

The union representing Ontario’s elementary school teachers is coming under fire for running an anti-Islamophobia workshop as part of a series of seminars on how to teach students about equality.

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) began putting the anti-Islamophobia workshop together in 2011 following a request from one of its local presidents for such a seminar “as a response to the collective victimization of the Muslim community” after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, according to an ETFO report from August.

Critics of the workshop, however, are slamming the ETFO for developing an anti-Islamophobia seminar that will not pro-actively address the fact that women and girls are treated as second-class citizens in some circles of the Islamic faith.

According to an e-mail from ETFO president Sam Hammond, the workshop will only address the issue “if the question arises,” and that “a general answer would be that there are lots of women in many cultures who are treated as second-class citizens.”

Hammond did not say how much the workshops will cost ETFO members.

The workshop, titled Addressing Islamophobia: A Discussion for Educators, is part of a series of seminars for the federation’s Equity and Women’s Programs. Other workshops include one on women and equality and another on the gay community.

The federation reached out to its membership last year with a request for writers possessing expertise in subjects relating to “equity and inclusion” to help put the workshop together, according to a page from the ETFO website.

Moderate Muslim commentator Tarek Fatah said such a workshop will “scare” teachers away from addressing with students issues around gender inequality in radical Islam.

“Islamist teachers will be able to force other teachers to not object to the second-class status of girls, as enforced by Islamists,” Fatah said. “What is happening here is before someone can bring up the issue that women are treated terribly it would be considered Islamophobic to do so.”

One ETFO member – a teacher in Waterloo, Ont. – said a portion of the dues collected from all union members will go toward funding the anti-Islamophobia workshops, whether they agree with the content or not.

“My understanding is that a certain percentage of teachers’ union fees would go towards women’s programs to encourage active participation of women in the union process and to improve women’s lives everywhere,” she said in an e-mail.

“I find it tragic that this money is now going to pay for anti-Islamophobia workshops, where the diminished status of women in Islam will not even be addressed.”

Toronto Sun, 3 December 2012

Apart from the appalling Tarek Fatah, who can always be relied upon to help the anti-Muslim right stoke up fear and hatred of his co-religionists, and the single anonymous ETFO member, the only other critic who has been “slamming” the workshop is the Toronto Sun‘s own journalist Simon Kent, who is the man responsible for stirring up this concocted “controversy”.

But it isn’t just Muslims who are being targeted here. The Toronto Sun‘s decision to go after ETFO is perhaps not unconnected with the fact that the union is currently organising action in response to the Canadian government’s attack on its members’ rights.

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  • Adam Ahmed

    ANNNNY time i have any faith Tarek Fatah will follow moral common sense over his extreme one issue obsessions, he disappoints me greatly.

  • Awwaaba Sulaiman

    So would a workshop on anti-Semitism be wrong without addressing that women are treated as second class citizens in ultra-Orhodox communities? Would a workshop on racism be wrong without addressing the fact that women are treated badly in many parts of Africa, South America, Asia etc?

    These people are ridiculous, not to mention hateful.

  • Haddock

    These types of protests have always “amused” me. Most of them amount to saying the same thing, which is to say, “how can you have a course promoting tolerance if you’re not allowed to talk about how bad these people are?” As if it is somehow a requirement to talk about female genital mutiliation, honor killings, or spousal abuse in an Islamic context, in order to be “fair” and “nuanced.”

  • DawahFilms

    Living in South East Asia, I can tell you that the Muslims aren’t the majority who are selling their daughters or nieces into sex slavery, nor are they the ones killing their wives off because of issues with “honor”.

    Maybe this stuff happens elsewhere across the world and mostly with the Muslim communities there, but its not universal and it certainly isn’t exclusive.

  • CriticalDragon1177


    One should ask them how teaching kids not to be bigoted against Muslims would prevent them from criticizing Human rights abuses in places like Saudi Arabia? Muslims criticize what’s going on Muslim countries, just as Christians criticize whats happening in Christian countries, why can’t non Muslims condemn human rights abuses in countries where’s there’s a Muslim majority?

    This is not Prophet Muhammad’s Islam

    Now in a way, it doesn’t even matter what the “Prophet Muhammad’s Islam” was, as Manzer Munir puts it, because one could condemn this stuff while ignoring the Qur’an, the Hadiths or Islam altogether. Not to mention the fact that even if Muhammad would have disapproved, it won’t matter if the fanatics support something strongly enough, regardless of weather they call themselves Muslims and think they’re following the word of Allah.

    We should also remember its not just Muslims who use passages from their religious texts to justify evil. Followers of every major religion do that. In fact we can expect any religion, once it has enough adherents, to have at least some of them use parts of it to justify evil, especially when some of them become dictators.

  • Amica

    There are many places around the world where women are treated terribly. In Inida, million of girls were murdered over the past decade either by parents or authorities simply because they are female. Chinese do not treat girls all that well either. I think that there are oppressed sisters in some Muslim communities and it should be addressed. However, I think it is NOT the religion of Islam that is the oppressor, but some people who think it is ok to do harm to the fairer sex. Middle Eastern culture, unfortunately, is not very friendly to females. It has been unfriendly since the time before Islam. Islam made it better, but was unable to totally destroy the cultural practices that are not aligned with the islamic teachings.

  • mindy1

    Are people against teaching not to hate? 😯

  • Al

    Good on the teachers union! Canadians aren’t all that tolerant of their fellow citizens who just happen to be Muslim, perhaps this initiative can shift the dialogue to a more positive one.

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