(Updated July 17, 2018 11:30 AM)
On October 22, 2017, The Toronto Star dedicated four pages, including its front page, in an attempt to exonerate Ayman Elkasrawy, an imam at “Masjid Toronto” mosque, from anti-Jewish and anti-infidel prayers during Ramadan 2016
I wrote about that report in my article “Is the Toronto Star Canada’s #FAKENEWS media outlet?”
“O Allah, Purify al-Aqsa Mosque from the filth of the Jews”“O Allah, give us victory over the disbelieving people.”
“May Allah, Glorified and Exalted be He, clean and purify al-Aqsa Mosque from the filth of the Yahood [Jews]”.
“Occupied Palestine will be liberated from the filth of occupation by the strength of resistance and through the faith of the resistance.”
I have contacted the reporter, Jennifer Yang and Kathy English, the public editor, many times regarding statements in the article. I have not had the courtesy of a response.
My latest request to the Star was July 12, 2018 with a request for information by 5 PM July 16. I sent my request to reporter Jennifer Yang; public editor, Kathy English; John Boynton Publisher; and Bob Hepburn Media inquiries. They did not respond.
Here is the note I sent.
Media Inquiry: Was Toronto Star’s front page exposé defamatory fake news?
John Boynton, Publisher
Jennifer Yang, Toronto Star’s Identity and Inequality Reporter
Kathy English, Toronto Star’s Public Editor
This is a follow-up email request regarding the Toronto Star article
On October 22, 2018 the Toronto Star published an article entitled “A Toronto imam was accused of hate-preaching against Jews. But that wasn’t the whole story.” The article was researched and written by Jennifer Yang, Toronto Star’s Identity and Inequality Reporter, and it was approved by Kathy English, Toronto Star’s Public Editor.
Responding to a complaint about inaccuracies/ false information filed by Honest Reporting Canada, Kathy English wrote on October 30, 2017 the following:1
“We have looked at your concerns and do not see any need for correction or clarification here. Understanding the sensitivity of the subject matter, the reporters and her editors put an immense amount of thought and consideration into this piece. The Star stands by its reporting and writing of this feature article. I would also like to assure you that no one was paid by the Star.”
Toronto Star’s article states the following:
“This is the consensus that emerged from five Arabic experts who independently analyzed Elkasrawy’s prayers at the Star’s request. The experts — from Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom — are Arabic translators, linguists and university professors with published book chapters, academic papers and textbooks. None of them knows Elkasrawy. The experts found that the imam’s prayers were not without fault, and many clarified that they do not condone or excuse some of the language he used. But they also described the initial, widely circulated translation as “mistranslated,” “decontextualized” and “disingenuous.” One said it had the hallmarks of a “propaganda translation.”
The Star clearly and unequivocally states that all five experts:
- “independently analyzed Elkasrawy’s prayers”
- “described the initial, widely circulated translations “mistranslated…”
- “None of them knows Elkasrawy”
One of the five experts provided an account that seems to contradict the Toronto Star’s statements. The following are excerpts from this expert’s statements:
- “I was just asked about the line where the word ‘danas’ was used in respect of the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. I was not aware of his name or his social media profile and I have not seen any video-clips of what he has said before and I would be very interested in seeing these.”
- “I was simply asked to comment on the use of the word ‘danas’ which as I have said before normally refers to ‘desecration’ and it is up to people to decide in their minds what this actually means.”
- “I was told that he was Egyptian and that he had said to the Star then (sic) he never meant to cause offence to Jews.”
- “You are right that context is important.”
According to the expert’s account:
- Toronto Star sent the expert ONLY one line (“purify al-Aqsa Mosque from the filth of the Jews”) of the two prayers in question that were recited by Ayman Elkasrawy;
- Toronto Star DID NOT send the expert the prayers (text or video).
- Toronto Star provided the expert with BACKGROUND INFORMATION about the imam: that the Imam “never meant to cause offence to Jews”
If the expert’s account is true, it appears that the Toronto Star’s statements are inaccurate, misleading, and perhaps, false. The Toronto Star asserted that all five experts “analyzed the prayers” and the “the initial, widely circulated translation” while in fact, according to the expert, these statements are not true. Moreover, The Toronto Star tried to create the impression that the experts’ translation was objective and unbiased while concealing from its readers the fact that the Star provided this statement to one expert: the Imam “never meant to cause offence to Jews” in the context of reciting the line in question.
On February 17, 2017 Kathy English wrote:
“I think it’s safe to say, the Toronto Star is not in the business of fake news. While this news organization’s work does sometimes fall short of its own journalistic standards, to suggest that the Star would deliberately publish false information is wrong. We don’t make stuff up.”
On February 17, 2017 Kathy English tweeted:3
“I am already tired of the new “fake news” charges from Toronto Star critics.”
On December 1, 2017 Kathy English wrote:4
“trustworthy journalism from journalists and news organizations that hold themselves to high professional standards and do the real work of reporting to verify facts matters more than ever… Just because someone says it’s true, does not make it so.”
Based on Kathy English’s definition of ethical journalism I have the following questions.
If the expert’s account is correct, it puts into question the statements made by the Toronto Star and its credibility. Is the expert’s account I provided correct? Please send to me the text of the original emails that were sent to all five experts and their responses.
Do you see “any need for correction or clarification” in light of the expert’s statements?
Do you stand by the “reporting and writing of this feature article”?
Do the aforementioned statements by the Toronto Star that were refuted by the expert reflect “trustworthy journalism” and its self-proclaimed “high professional standards”?
If the expert’s account is uncontested by The Star would you then describe the article as biased, slanted, defamatory, or even fake news based on Kathy English’s own definition of fake news?
These questions asked by Honest Reporting have not been answered. I am asking them again based on Kathy English’s definition of ethical journalism.
- With respect to Mohammed Aboghodda of the Understanding Islam Academy, the Star describes him as an “expert” – please explain on what grounds he can be described as an “expert” in Arabic and a trusted source when it comes to translation work?
- Is the Star aware that one of its “experts”, Nazir Harb Michel of Georgetown University, was previously accused of providing “whitewashed translations” of an Islamic hate preacher’s sermon in America? In fact, he’s an ardent anti-Israel detractor (see here and here). Shouldn’t this be disclosed?
- Is the Star aware that one of its “experts”, according to the ADL, Kristin Brustad of the University of Texas at Austin, wrote a letter to the editor that appeared in the Atlanta Journal Constitution in 2001 where Brustad claimed that Israel had violated international law with its “brutal, dehumanizing military occupation and confiscation of Palestinian land, home demolition and agricultural stranglehold.” Shouldn’t this be disclosed?
- Is the Star aware that Atiqa Hachimi of the University of Toronto is a signatory to several anti-Israel campaigns? Shouldn’t this be disclosed?
You have not responded to my previous media inquiries on this article.
Here is a link to the questions.
Here is a link to more information.
The following is an excerpt from the Star’s article from October 18, 2011 referring to the prayer (in English) of Abdullah Hakim Quick, today Vice President of the Canadian Council of Imams: “purify al Aqsa Mosque from the filth of the Yahood [Jews].”
“Toronto’s Abdullah Hakim Quick, an African-American convert, has been lauded for his work to promote women’s rights, improve interfaith relations and eradicate female genital mutilation; he wrote a column for the Star in the 1990s. Later, however, he said AIDS was caused by “sick” homosexuals who want “to take us all down with them” and referred to the “filth” of Christians and Jews. He has rejected accusations of bigotry. His “filth” comment, he wrote, was merely a plea for “God to heal the spiritual corruption that afflicts some members of religious groups, which in turn leads to injustice against innocent people.”
My article will be published on Monday July 16, 2018. Please respond by 5 PM July 16 2018. If you require more time please let me know.
July 12, I sent this email to the expert with whom I have been in contact.
I have one question still left unanswered.
The Star claimed that “they [ALL five experts] described the initial, widely circulated translation as “mistranslated,” “decontextualized” and “disingenuous.” One said it had the hallmarks of a “propaganda translation.”
Did you tell the Toronto Star that Jonathan Halevi’s translation (“Purify al-Aqsa Mosque from the filth of the Jews” and “Give us victory over the disbelieving people”) is “propaganda”, “mistranslated”, “decontextualized”, “disingenuous” and/ or a “slanted translation”?
His response, July 13, 2018 came after I sent my email inquiry to the Toronto Star
I did not comment on Jonathan’s translation at all.I simply offered my thoughts on the use of the word ‘danas’ in that particularline regarding the al-Aqsa mosque.
Here are links to other articles relating to the Yang report.
For your information, here are some Islamic sources regarding the translation of the prayers.
From the Ethics of the Fathers: “Rabbi Tarfon used to say, it is not incumbent upon you to complete the task, but you are not exempt from undertaking it.”