The co-founder of an Arabic language school for children in Montreal is speaking out after Rosemont College abruptly suspended its space-use contract with the school this weekend.
On its website, language school El Forkane states its mission is teaching Arabic and the fundamentals of Islam. Its classes are aimed at children between the ages of five and 12, but it also holds adult Arabic instruction classes for both Muslims and non-Muslims who want to learn Arabic.
El Forkane had a contract with Rosemont College to use the CEGEP's classrooms on weekends for language and cultural instruction.
But the CEGEP decided to suspend the contract after being made aware of links on the El Forkane website that led to texts claiming secular education was bad for Muslims, according to Rosemont College director Stéphane Godbout.
The links reportedly were connected to a strict ideological movement within Islam called Salafism.
As a result, the CEGEP told El Forkane it's no longer welcome to use its classrooms.
The Arabic language school was founded by Ahmed Said Rahmaoui and his brother, who have been renting space from the CEGEP for three years.
He said Rosemont College has the wrong idea about El Forkane.
"When they say that my brother, or our school, encouraged people to leave public school, that is not true," Rahmaoui said. "That is lying."
Rahmaoui, who came to Montreal from Algeria five years ago, said the whole reason he started an Arabic language school was to teach young people how to stay away from situations where they might be exposed to extremism.
He said he plans to send Rosemont College a cease-and-desist letter.
Rosemont College overreacting?
A parent who stopped by the school this weekend before realizing El Forkane had cancelled its classes said he hasn't seen the website nor the links in question, but he did say he was familiar with the contents of the course.
"Arabic, a little Qur'an, a little Islam, that's all," the parent said. He said Rosemont College may be overreacting.
Rahmaoui said the links, which have since been removed from the ElForkane website, were there merely to show people different points of view on the relationship between Muslims and secularism.
He also said he only uses the Qur'an to teach students the poetic aspects of Arabic employed in the holy text.
He said his school's decision to rent space in a public institution shows its willingness to be transparent.
Rahmaoui said that classes have been cancelled until El Forkane can find a new home.