A cleric affiliated with a Toronto madrassa under police
investigation over its portrayal of Jews has dismissed as “absolutely
baseless” concerns that school teaching materials were written in
In a video posted online, Imam Sayed Muhammad Rizvi addressed
followers about the “crisis” that has erupted over the East End
Madrassah, which had been using texts that referred
to “crafty,” “treacherous Jews” and contrasted Islam with “the Jews
and the Nazis.”
The passages are excerpts from two books published by Iranian
foundations, including one directly controlled by the government of
Iran — whose president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is well known for his anti-
Semitism and Holocaust denial.
Imam Rizvi, who is listed on the school website as its “Guidance
Alim,” said while the madrassa had apologized and vowed to review its
teaching materials, “there is one newspaper in Canada which has its
own you know agenda, more on the right wing side. You know, they
wouldn’t let it go.”
He said, “once they found the book, you know, published by authors in
Iran, immediately now you know the attempt has been by that newspaper
to connect the curriculum to that foreign government, the madrassa to
that government, and the jamaat [assembly] to that government, which
is absolutely baseless.”
Speaking on the topic of “rumors and false information,” he quoted
Muslim scripture that warned against believing information received
from sinners. “This is not the time for our members of the community
to point fingers at one another, this is the time to unite,” he said.
The video did little to convince some critics.
“We think that when Canadians examine the full record, they will
conclude that the problem with this curriculum is not merely one of
language, but rather of the disturbing public record of those who
published it,” Shimon Fogel, CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish
Affairs, said in response to the video.
The East End Madrassah rents space at a high school run by the
Toronto District School Board. Its curriculum documents not only
referred to Jews in disparaging terms but also advised boys to keep
fit so they would be ready for jihad. 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.
After finding what they considered “anti-Semitic” material on the
madrassa’s website, Canadian Jewish groups filed complaints with the
Toronto school board and York Region Police. The school promptly
apologized and took the materials off its website.
“Our curriculum is not intended to promote hatred towards any
individual or group of people, rather the children are taught to
respect and value other faiths, beliefs and to uphold Canada’s basic
values of decency and tolerance,” the madrassa said in a statement.
On Tuesday, Imam Rizvi told reporters the passages in question had
been wrongly lifted from two websites. But the section that
describes “treacherous” and “crafty” Jews as well as Jewish “plots”
and “conspiracies” is actually from Prophet Muhammad: A Brief
Biography, published by the Al Balagh Foundation in Tehran.
The Nazi comparison is from A Glance at the Life of the Holy Prophet
of Islam, published by the Mostazafan Foundation of New York, which
the FBI alleges was a front organization secretly controlled by the
The East End Madrassah is one of three schools affiliated with the
Islamic Shia Ithna Asheri Jamaat, which once demanded the Ontario
government apologize for hosting Salman Rushdie, the British author
condemned to death by Iran over his book The Satanic Verses.
More recently, Imam Rizvi complained in a sermon posted online that
the West was “hyping the whole world up” against Iran over its
nuclear program, adding, “this is all because of this fellow sitting
in the Middle East, Israel.”
In a communiqué issued Thursday, Imam Rizvi said his centre was an
active member of the MOSAIC Interfaith Group and hosted up to 200
group visits by non-Muslims students.
“Therefore, while the revelation of the existence of inappropriate
language used in the material on the East End Madrasah (EEM) website
is hurtful to the Jewish community, and an unreserved apology has
been offered to them, it was also hurtful to us because we sense that
this may have disappointed our fellow citizens who have known us and
what we stand for,” the statement said.