POLITICS

Adil Charkaoui blasts decision to suspend leases to Montreal Muslim schools

02/27/2015 11:50 EST | Updated 04/29/2015 05:59 EDT
MONTREAL - Adil Charkaoui said Muslims in Quebec are targets of a "witch hunt" as he blasted a decision by two Montreal junior colleges to suspend leases granted to his Arabic schools.

The Moroccan-born Montreal educator who was once accused by Ottawa of being a terrorist and spent several years living under tight restrictions, said Friday his schools were unfairly tied to a group that left the country for Turkey and may have joined jihadist groups in the Middle East.

It recently emerged one of the men had attended a handful of classes at his school.

Charkaoui said it's just the latest example of mosques, schools and community centres being targeted.

"In Quebec, right now there is a new form of McCarthyism — a witch hunt led by certain media and it's the Muslim community that's taking the rap," he said, referring to the act of making unfair allegations, without supported proof.

Two schools suspended Charkaoui's contracts Thursday in the wake of reports that six young Quebecers left the country in mid-January.

Charkaoui said he only found out this week from a journalist that a former student was among the six.

"He came twice, somebody very shy, not talking too much," Charkaoui said. "We didn't evaluate him so, really, we don't know about his level in Arabic and religion."

One of the junior colleges defended the decision to suspend Charkaoui's lease, saying a video circulating online suggested the activities of the school and the college's values were at odds.

Charkaoui maintained the video used to justify the suspensions does not contain any "heinous or denigrating" comments.

"This video, I think the people who have viewed it don't understand Arab or didn't have time to translate the contents," Charkaoui said.

"What the video says is a song that demands more respect from people," adding that it's about companionship and being polite.

Charkaoui's association rented space from the colleges for weekend courses and he said there was nothing controversial about the subject matter.

About 125 students attend classes, mostly between the ages of four and 12, and the professors are volunteers.

"We are teaching Arabic, the Qur'an and we are giving a half-hour soccer and 20 minutes about religion," he said.

"The books we are teaching — publicly there is a link— it's a book about faith, Islamic faith and another book about how to pray."

Charkaoui added that he hasn't ruled out suing the colleges if the contracts are cancelled.

College de Maisonneuve and College de Rosemont both issued statements Friday saying they would maintain the suspension of the contracts and continue with their own internal investigations before making a final decision.

Charkaoui was arrested under Canada's security certificate system in 2003 as Canada's police and national security departments alleged he was a terrorist and had trained at a militant camp in Afghanistan.

For nine years Charkaoui's movements were monitored by the state but he was never charged.

A court lifted the restrictions on the Moroccan-born Montreal resident in 2009 and he became a Canadian citizen last year.

Charkaoui is now suing the federal government.

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