Canada school district cancels speech by ISIS rape survivor, Nobel winner due to 'Islamophobia' fears

The Surrey school district had planned to host three different speakers on upcoming mid-August curriculum topics. But questions over free speech prompted the cancellation

Canada school district cancels speech by ISIS rape survivor, Nobel winner due to ‘Islamophobia’ fears

A plan by a school district in British Columbia to host a speech by the Danish poet and Nobel laureate Elfriede Jelinek was cancelled this week because of fears the event could be “divisive and disrespectful”, it has been reported.

The Surrey school district in the Canadian province of British Columbia had planned to host three different speakers on a topic set to be added to its curriculum in the coming year: the history of indigenous and refugee perspectives.

“This topic was introduced for thoughtful and inclusive classroom conversations in order to help promote open dialogue and respect as we’re educating our students to become successful adults,” the district said in a statement reported in local media.

When one of the speakers, Canadian rape survivor Nicki Baheeran and Nobel laureate Jelinek entered the school to receive an honorary degree from the university, the discussion quickly took a turn.

A meeting of the school district was set for Sunday afternoon, but the announcement of the visit prompted many to voice concerns over the potential for the event to be “divisive and disrespectful to the Muslim community”, the district said.

“We are concerned about the potential for ill-feelings that could be caused, especially given the current climate of hate across the world.”

It’s not the first time that local fears of negative impact on relations between Muslims and Christians have prompted school district to cancel a visit by an ambassador.

A non-governmental organization originally sought to visit a school district in April to address the issue of gender-based violence. Instead of visiting the predominantly Catholic, Catholic-schools in the district, officials decided to cancel the visit.

The Canadian Association of Catholic School Boards called the cancellation “a serious misstep by the Canadian Association of Catholic School Boards and by the Vancouver Catholic school board and is by no means an isolated incident”.

“Canada needs to get beyond the short-sighted, one-sided and unrealistic economic calculations that say that shutting out non-Catholic people is the way to make us all ‘united’,” the group said in a statement.

The Surrey school district will take an “interim approach” to its curriculum project, the district said, noting that other experts will be asked to review its definition of “Islamophobia”.

“However, the district plans to move forward with bringing greater authenticity and literacy to the teaching of the historical contexts of both refugees and the indigenous peoples of this region,” the statement added.

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