This February, an assistant imam at Masjid Toronto, Ayman Elkasrawy, was fired for leading his congregation in a prayer supplication that called for the destruction of the Jewish people. After that clip surfaced and was publicized he was suspended from the mosque, although now he is back — and was fired from his assistant teaching position at Ryerson University. By the way, his former boss at Ryerson, Mohammed Lachemi, is a devout Muslim and staunch Jewish ally.
The clip showed Ayman leading his congregation in a prayer supplication where he said, “count their number, slay them one by one, Oh Allah! Purify Al Aqsa mosque from the filth of the Jews!”
Ultimately, a criminal investigation on Elkasrawy for incitement was initiated. While this may have seemed that justice could be served, last week the Toronto Star, the largest paper in Canada published a six thousand-plus word article that seemed very sympathetic to Ayman Elkasrawy. The article asserts that Ayman wouldn’t hurt a fly and that his prayer had been mistranslated by Islamaphobes.
The Star solicited what it claimed were more accurate translations from several different Arabic language translators. The idea was to show how Ayman’s words had been twisted – and how he never referred to the Jews as “filth” or called for the destruction of the Jewish people. These new translators claimed the original translator, Jonathan Halevi, a Middle East and counter terrorism expert, had a political agenda when translating Elkasrawy’s prayer supplication. But, as it appears, at least three of the Star’s new translators may be the ones with an agenda to push.
First, there’s Atiqa Hachimi of University of Toronto, Scarborough. She was featured most prominently in the Star article and claimed that Elkasrawy’s words lacked context and that he had been mistranslated. Prior to this, however, Hachimi signed an open letter to U of T asserting that Israel was stealing Palestinian land and she criticized the U of T urban planning department for having a field study in Jerusalem. She also penned a letter to the Canadian government calling on it to condemn Israel for defending itself in the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict.
Kristen Brustad, another translator, is a professor at the University of Texas, Austin. She authored an Arabic textbook that was described in a Washington Post column as being anti-Israel. In 2001, Brustad wrote a letter to the editor of the Atlantic Journal Constitution claiming Israel had violated international law with its, “brutal, dehumanizing military occupation and confiscation of Palestinian land, home demolition and agricultural stranglehold.”
Another of the Star’s translators, Nazir Harb Michel of Georgetown University, has written articles claiming that Palestinian violence against Israelis constitutes self-defence, and that Israel is actively engaging in an apartheid against Palestinians. He has previously been accused of whitewashing a similar sermon of a UC Davis imam who called on Muslims to slaughter Jews.
The Star seemed so concerned about providing balance in the Elkasrawy story, yet solicited translations from people who wear their anti-Israel bias on their sleeves.