An imam's comments about homosexuality to Edmonton junior high students have caused a political firestorm.
Mustafa Khattab, formerly with the Al Rashid Mosque in Edmonton, was invited to the Edmonton Islamic Academy last fall as a lunchtime guest speaker. According to CTV Edmonton he was supposed to talk about social interactions between Muslim boys and girls, but instead the talk turned to sexual orientation.
In January, Khattab uploaded a video of the talk to YouTube in which he tells the group of about 100 teens that homosexuality is “against everything” and homosexual people are “like someone who has diabetes or someone who has cancer or AIDS,” reports the Edmonton Journal.
The video has since been removed, but not before catching the attention of several Alberta politicians, including Education Minister Jeff Johnson.
Johnson told CTV that while the government is investigating the issue, he believes the comments weren't made in a classroom or during class time -- rather, they were made within a mosque inside the school.
“What we’ve learned is that the person who made those comments was not making those comments in the classroom,” Johnson said. “He was not an employee in the school; he was not in the school, and the school does not endorse those comments.”
The Alberta Liberals called on the province to pull the $4 million in funding the private school receives each year.
“I’m absolutely 100 percent certain this happened in a school environment, during school time, and in an actual class setting,” Liberal Education Critic and MLA Kent Hehr told CTV.
Khattab, however, maintains that the comments were made outside of school hours and the context is misunderstood.
“I agree I might have been unlucky in my choice of words, but I believe the comment was taken out of context and misrepresented,” Khattab said in a statement sent to CBC.
“Whoever reported the comment failed to mention what I said about gays and lesbians being our brothers and sisters in humanity and they shouldn't be discriminated against -- even if we might disagree with what they do.”
“To characterize me or the Academy as homophobic and to call for the pulling of funding for private schools is really unfortunate,” he added.
School Principal Jawdah Jorf told the Journal, “the imam is entitled to his own opinion ... but as a school, as a principal, we don’t agree with his opinion.”
“I don’t understand how homosexuality is related to cancer or diabetes,” Jorf said. “You can’t compare these things. I don’t see how anyone can agree with a statement of that kind.”