When the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) initially cancelled an event with Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Nadia Murad, the reason given was that such an event could foster Islamophobia.
Murad was invited to speak at a book club founded by Tanya Lee, where teen girls from various secondary schools hear from female authors.
But TDSB superintendent Helen Fisher expressed concern over Murad's book, The Last Girl: My Story of Captivity, and My Fight Against the Islamic State, telling the book club organizer that students should not participate in an event with the author scheduled for February.
At the age of 14, Nadia Murad was kidnapped by Islamic State jihadis and taken into sex slavery.
In the words of Rex Murphy of the National Post: "From that pit of hell, [Nadia] incredibly found the personal resources to escape, champion the cause of brutalized young women everywhere, and ascend to the heights of the world's high honour, the Nobel Prize."
For many of us who have followed the mass murder of the Yazidi people of Iraq and have marvelled at the courage of Murad, the TDSB decision came as a shock. It reeked of ignorance and subservience to an Islamist attitude that has infiltrated too many institutions of Canada, especially urban schools where cafeterias have been turned into prayer halls, with gender apartheid on full display.
Shocked by the exchange with Helen Fisher, Tanya Lee says she then sent her an email containing detailed information on the Islamic organization, coming from the BBC and CNN.
"This is what the Islamic State means," she wrote to the superintendent: "It is a terrorist organization. It has nothing to do with ordinary Muslims. The Toronto school board should be aware of the difference."
Last Friday, after the censorship of both Murad and lawyer Marie Henein, another author selected by the book club, by the TDSB became world news, the board attempted to backtrack. Colleen Russell-Rawlins, director of education, issued a statement described as a "clarification."
"An opinion that did not reflect the position of the Toronto District School Board was shared with the organizer of the book club prior to staff having an opportunity to read the books – something that is routinely done before giving them to students. Staff are currently reading both books and anticipate being able to add them to the list of titles used in the corresponding course(s)."
Who are these mandarins of political correctness and wokeness who are currently reading the book? Sounds more like the censor board of Pravda during the days of the USSR.
The TDSB decision is not merely about censorship. It is about the drumbeat of 'Islamophobia' that has made every concerned citizen worry that he or she does not end up with the tag of "racist" throughout their lives.
The largest education board in Canada surrenders itself to the whims of Islamist sensitivities.
The sword of Islamophobia now hangs over the heads of most Canadians who wish to keep religion and politics separate and outside the public domain. But they dare not stand up for the values of liberal secular democracy that are the foundations of Canadian values.
When the largest education board in Canada surrenders itself to the whims of Islamist sensitivities, and Nadia Murad is designated as a possible contributor to Islamophobia, then rest assured the dikes have been breached.
Tarek Fatah is a Robert J. and Abby B. Levine Fellow at the Middle East Forum, a founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress, and a columnist at the Toronto Sun.