By Annie Arnone
Political commentator Tarek Fatah’s Aug. 10 campus talk was cancelled by Ryerson 10 days prior, without any explanation.
Fatah was scheduled to speak on behalf of the Canada Indian Foundation (CIF) as part of a speaker series, that has now been relocated to Sheridan college.
According to executive director of CIF, Vipul Jani, there is confusion regarding why Sheridan is open to hosting the event, but Ryerson is not.
“Everything was ready to go,” he said. “Colleges and universities are supposed to be places where we can have open dialogue and discussion, so if you can’t do it at a university campus, where can you do it?”
CIF is a national non-profit policy organization that runs a speaker series intended to address political issues in India. Their mandate, according to their Facebook page, is to foster “stronger bilateral relations between Canada and India” and increase “awareness of the changing face of India.”
Fatah has had a history in making controversial statements. According to a story reported by Scroll.in—a popular publication based in India—in February, Fattah was involved in an altercation during a festival in Delhi, where he began to call a group of people “jihadis,” and was escorted out of the venue. Prior to this in December 2016, The Indian Express reported that “a talk by Fatah at Punjab University was called off at the last moment as well, after protests against him for calling a student from Jammu and Kashmir a terrorist.”
Jani said that the event was booked with Ryerson over one month ago and they responded saying that it was confirmed. Ten days prior, the school sent him another email saying that they could no longer accommodate CIF. The school has not responded to any of his calls.
According to an email from manager of public affairs at Ryerson, Johanna VanderMaas, “Ryerson was unable to accommodate the Canada India Foundation’s room booking request for August 10; we have expressed our apologies to Mr. Jani and CIF. The university is not aware of any concerns or plans to disrupt Mr. Fatah’s keynote address.”
Fatah sees Ryerson’s cancellation of his talk as the school “shutting down” his course.
“They just know that my talk on Indian civilization is not involved in celebrating in regimes of India as something to be relished,” he explained. “They’re just being cowards … Its typical middle eastern federal dictator attitude.”
Ryerson has hosted controversial campus talks in the past, including Ezra Levant’s event, hosted by Ryerson Campus Conservatives.
— Tarek Fatah (@TarekFatah) August 4, 2017
Fatah was born in Pakistan and is known for his “left political views,” according to Jani. He was charged with sedition in 1977 by a military regime and was barred from practising journalism in his country.
His journalistic mandate, according to his website, reads “I write as a Muslim whose ancestors were Hindu. My religion, Islam, is rooted in Judaism, while my Punjabi culture is tied to that of the Sikhs. Yet I am told by Islamists that without shedding this multifaceted heritage, if not outrightly rejecting it, I cannot be considered a true Muslim.”
Fatah’s campus talk is taking place today at 6 p.m. at Sheridan College in Mississauga.