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Definition of Islamophobia too broad, could lead to staff and student punishment: B'nai Brith

Courtesy of @tdsb on Twitter. Posted on June 23, 2017.

The Toronto District School Board said it will change portions of a guidebook that uses a definition of Islamophobia that a Jewish community group has called “overly broad.”

The guidebook defines Islamophobia, in part, as “fear, prejudice, hatred or dislike directed against Islam or Muslims, or towards Islamic politics or culture.” B’nai Brith Canada had complained earlier Monday that the reference to “politics” could lead to students or staff being punished for expressing dislike for the Republic of Iran’s persecution of LGBTQ people or restrictions placed on women in Saudi Arabia.

Hours later, TDSB chair Robin Pilkey said in a letter to the group that the updated guide will reflect the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s definition of Islamophobia, which makes no reference to politics.

Pilkey said the guide was not enforcable as policy and denied it would have led to silencing of staff or students.

“The TDSB welcomes important input from the community and from organizations such as B’nai Brith, however we must say that some of the suggestions made in your letter and subsequent news release are outrageous,” she said in the letter.

“To suggest that the TDSB is encouraging students to stay silent about what they experienced in their countries of birth or that the TDSB is somehow banning students and educators from criticizing executions and other human rights abuses around the world is categorically untrue.”

The Toronto District School Board created the guide to be used in public schools in October, which it declared Islamic Heritage Month. The Toronto District School Board also celebrates Sikh Heritage Month in April and Jewish Heritage Month in May annually.

B’nai Brith Canada CEO Michael Mostyn said a school board representative told the group the definition was included in the guidebook “in error”.

“We thank the TDSB for acting swiftly to correct this serious problem,” he said in a statement. “The definition of Islamophobia initially presented by the TDSB was clearly inappropriate, and we look forward to seeing a proper definition presented to Toronto students.”