By Sarah Krichel
Ryerson University fired a teacher’s assistant (TA) on Feb. 28 due to anti-Semitic comments he made during a mosque prayer, according to an email obtained by The Eyeopener.
The email was sent by Ryerson President Mohamed Lachemi to B’Nai Brith Canada, a Jewish rights advocacy group.
The TA, Ayman Elkasrawy, was delivering a service at Masjid Toronto, a mosque under the Muslim Association of Canada. He said in the video “… Purify Al-Aqsa Mosque from the filth of the Jews …” The recording of the sermon was put up on YouTube, but has since been removed. Elkasrawy taught in the engineering and architectural science faculty.
Toronto police are currently investigating.
Lachemi said that after the incident was reported to the university, Ryerson’s Human Resources department started an investigation.
On March 1, the President’s office released a statement saying that the university has “taken appropriate action.”
“We understand how something of this nature can impact the climate for our Jewish students and our Jewish community,” the statement goes on to read. “We do not, and will not, condone any actions that are counter to our core values of equity, diversity and inclusion.”
Aidan Fishman, campus advocacy coordinator for B’nai Brith Canada, said that his organization contacted Ryerson admin on Feb. 21 to take punitive action against the TA.
“It raises the concern whether this TA would be able to treat their students fairly in the context of this course,” Fishman said. “There are many Israeli and Jewish students in the class to which this TA is assigned, [concerned they’re] not going to be treated fairly on account of his biases.”
On Feb. 24, posters were put up on Ryerson campus demanding the university fire the TA. The posters were taken down by staff that same day, according to Tanya Poppleton, manager of security and emergency services at Ryerson.
Anti-Semitism has become a reoccurring topic at Ryerson over the past year. The Eyeopener previously reported on Ryerson Students’ Union president Obaid Ullah, as well as the rest of his executive team, orchestrating a walkout during a motion to create a Holocaust education during November’s semi-annual general meeting.
Several publications have also reported on anti-Semitic actions taking place on Ryerson’s campus.
The Toronto Sun published a guest column by Aedan O’Connor, social justice chair for Hillel Ryerson, where she wrote that Ryerson campus as a Canadian university claims to “be at the forefront of the anti-oppression movement,” but actually denies anti-Semitic acts or supports them.
“I hope that Ryerson University sends a stronger message that this behaviour will not be tolerated,” O’Connor writes, “and that alumni, whether Jewish or not, consider withholding financial contributions to the university until it’s made clear anti-Semitism, whether overt and covert as in the case of the walkout, is unacceptable.”
The SAGM event also got coverage from multiple media outlets across the city such as the Toronto Star, Canoe News and various Jewish blogs/publications, like Canadian Jewish News.
“Ryerson is committed [to] enhance and broaden education and awareness of anti-semitism and we are actively engaging any anti-Semite action in our community,” Lachemi said. “I hope Mr. Elkasrawy’s dismissal sends a strong message that hate speech, bigotry and antisemitism will not be tolerated at Ryerson,” Fishman said.
Elkasrawy did not respond for comment prior to publication.
With files from Zahraa Hmood
Correction: In a previous version of this story, the mosque Masjid Toronto was misspelt as Majid Toronto. The Eyeopener regrets this error.