Canadian Islamic school shuts doors over fear of backlash following allegations

The Canadian branch of a controversial Islamic foundation suspended classes over safety concerns Tuesday following a report that four of its former students left Canada to join a terrorist group in Syria.

TORONTO — The Canadian branch of a controversial Islamic foundation suspended classes over safety concerns Tuesday following a report that four of its former students left Canada to join a terrorist group in Syria.

The Al Huda Institute Canada said it closed its doors after CBC News reported that one woman who attended its religious classes left to support ISIL while three others also left for the country but were intercepted by Turkish authorities and sent back to Canada.

The institute said it first heard about the allegations on Monday night.

“Law enforcement authorities have never brought forward any allegations that four girls associated with the institute travelled to join terrorist organizations,” said Imran Haq, the institute’s operations manager.

“In addition, the institute has no knowledge as to the identity of these individuals and as such, cannot confirm whether or not they were enrolled in the institute, for how long, or any other related information.”

Haq said the institute was “committed” to working with authorities to address the allegations. It’s unclear when the former students are alleged to have travelled overseas.

The institute, located in Mississauga, Ont., was first thrust into the spotlight on Monday after it emerged that the woman who carried out last week’s mass shooting in California attended one of its affiliate religious schools in Pakistan.

That led the Ontario-based school to publicly distance itself from Tashfeen Malik and her husband, condemn their attack which left 14 people dead and 21 wounded, and emphasize that there was a difference between religious conservatism and extremism.

“Al Huda Institute Canada provides authentic Islamic knowledge which is based on compassion, mercy, and tolerance,” Haq said. “It unequivocally condemns violence and terrorism.”

The institute runs religious courses for women, but also runs a private elementary school.

The attention the school has received this week has put staff and students “at risk of backlash,” Haq said. The institute has contacted local police with their concerns, and are receiving support from them, he said.

The institute’s elementary school is registered with the province, but Education Minister Liz Sandals noted that such private institutions are not required to hire accredited teachers or have the Ontario curriculum.

“We literally have no oversight over elementary private schools,” she said. “I do not have any legal authority to tell an elementary private school what to teach.”

The institute in Mississauga was founded in 2005 by Farhat Hashmi, a Pakistani scholar who once lived in Canada. It is among a number of branches across Pakistan, the U.S. and the U.K. which all teach ideology and principles she has promoted.

Hashmi, who has a doctorate in Islamic studies from the University of Glasgow in Scotland, has been criticized for being very conservative and promoting an oppressive interpretation of Islam.

Haq has defended Hashmi, saying her teachings have been “well-received” by students and are “relevant to Muslims all around the world.

The Al Huda International Welfare Foundation has spoken out since its link to the California shootings surfaced, saying Malik seemed “unable to understand the beautiful message of the Qur’an.”

“We cannot be held responsible for personal acts of any of our students,” said the statement posted on Hashmi’s and the foundation’s website. “The organization stands to promote the peaceful message of Islam and denounce extremism, violence and acts of terrorism.”

Just Posted

An incredible closing ceremony capped off the 2019 Canada Winter Games. (File photo by SUSAN JUDGE/2019 Canada Winter Games)
2019 Canada Winter Games Legacy Fund Society hands out $655,000

35 not-for-profit groups across Alberta to get money

Dr. Verna Yiu, president and chief executive officer of Alberta Health Services, says COVID ICU patients have increased by more than 100 per cent in the past month. (Photo by The Government of Alberta)
Record number of people in ICU: says AHS president

The head of Alberta Health Services says hospital staff are treating more… Continue reading

The Red Deer Rebels have acquired goaltender Connor Ungar from the Brandon Wheat Kings, the team announced Monday. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer Rebels acquire goaltender Connor Ungar, forward Liam Keeler in separate trades

The Red Deer Rebels have acquired goaltender Connor Ungar from the Brandon… Continue reading

Alexander Michael Talbot, 29, was found guilty of operating a vehicle while prohibited, flight from police and vehicle theft in Red Deer provincial court recently. (Advocate file photo)
Man charged following police chases in central Alberta last summer is sentenced

Alexander Michael Talbot sentenced to 22 months in prison

Red Deer musician Curtis Phagoo is glad the Alberta government is investing $2 million to help the province’s live music industry, but he would have liked the criteria to be expanded, so the money could be used as relief to cover revenue shortfalls. (Contributed photo by Cory Michaud)
Red Deer musicians welcome $2M in grants to help live music, but would have preferred relief program

The money is for future projects and can’t be used for retroactive expenses

Defenders, critic of Bill C-10 clash over limits for shared social media content

Defenders, critic of Bill C-10 clash over limits for shared social media content

FILE - In this Tuesday, July 22, 2014, file photo, gold bars are stacked in a vault at the United States Mint, in West Point, N.Y. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Mike Groll
Ottawa ‘concerned’ as Centerra reports Kyrgyz government taking control of gold mine

Ottawa ‘concerned’ as Centerra reports Kyrgyz government taking control of gold mine

In this May 23, 2012, file photo, surveyors work next to Canadian Pacific Rail trains parked on the tracks in Toronto. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
CN merger with Kansas City Southern to be decided on current rules: U.S. regulator

CN merger with Kansas City Southern to be decided on current rules: U.S. regulator

Oprah and CNN: AT&T is merging media business with Discovery

Oprah and CNN: AT&T is merging media business with Discovery

A street sign along Bay Street in Toronto's financial district  is shown in Toronto on Tuesday, January 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Commodities lift S&P/TSX composite to record close while loonie hits six-year high

Commodities lift S&P/TSX composite to record close while loonie hits six-year high

Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Liberals silent on nature of Fortin probe or who will replace him on vaccine campaign

OTTAWA — The Liberal government is scrambling to reassure Canadians that the… Continue reading

A woman attends a vigil in front of the hospital where Joyce Echaquan died in Joliette, Que., on Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Hospital staff testify today at Quebec coroner’s inquiry into death of Joyce Echaquan

TROIS-RIVIÈRES, Que. — Medical staff from a Quebec hospital where Joyce Echaquan… Continue reading

Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on February 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Ottawa looking for 2,000 new energy auditors to get home retrofit program going

OTTAWA — The federal government is looking to train 2,000 more people… Continue reading

Most Read