Why Brock University won't remove a chaplain who compared homosexuality to cancer

In 2012, Brock University's volunteer Muslim chaplain compared homosexuality to cancer or AIDS.

Mustafa Khattab, Muslim chaplain at Brock, says he regrets the comments he made in 2012

Mustafa Khattab is the Muslim chaplain at Brock University. The university is facing criticism for appointing Khattab as chaplain, given his previous controversial anti-homosexual comments. (Mustafakhattab.weebly.com)

A parent of a Brock University student is voicing concerns about the volunteer Muslim chaplain on campus who once compared homosexuality to having cancer or AIDS.

​In 2012, while speaking to students at the Edmonton Islamic Academy, Mustafa Khattab said that homosexuality "was against even nature." He said "for me, someone who is a homosexual is like someone who has diabetes or someone who has cancer or AIDS."

In the YouTube video that recorded his comments, Khattab said to the young children, "Can I talk to them? Why not? Just like I talk to everybody. Personally, I don't like to be associated with them."

Khattab's video caused at least one parent of a Brock University student to question the school's decision to allow him to work as a chaplain. Shael Reiken, the father of a 19-year-old student, said, ​"I just thought it was poor judgement of the university to employ him as a chaplain given his background and his comments. There's a diverse population at the university, obviously, and he needs to represent everybody there."

Khattab was appointed the volunteer Muslim chaplain at Brock at the start of 2015 and is the Imam of a mosque in St. Catharines.

Khattab condemned Orlando attack

When contacted by the CBC, Khattab said he regrets making the comments and that they were taken out of context from an answer to a question he received.  

In an email, Khattab told the CBC that in 2012, he was still experiencing "a cultural shock" and his information about homosexuality was based on an article that he read on Wikipedia.

Khattab wrote that since 2012, he has matured in his understanding of homosexuality in western society. 

"I'm a sincere person who tries to keep the balance between his commitment to his faith and love for humanity," Khattab wrote. "I never called for homosexuals to be mistreated. If I disagree with the act, it doesn't mean I hate the person."

He said his current views on homosexuality are based on his understanding of Abrahamic morality, that the only permissible relationship is between a man and a woman under marriage.

Khattab is a member of the Canadian Council of Imams and has joined with other members in condemning the attack on the LGBTQ community in Orlando in June.

"In a nutshell, I disagree with homosexuality, but I embrace the LGBT community as my brothers and sisters in humanity who happen to have a struggle in life different than mine," he wrote. "I'm not the judge. God is. I keep everyone in my prayers and I hope everyone keeps me in theirs. "

'He has changed'

​Khattab said he has a good friend in St. Catharines who is gay and has been to the mosque many times. He said he and Ted Mouradian have worked together to "spread understanding in our communities."

I personally found that he has changed. Not about his beliefs, but about his mis-beliefs .  We are not diseased and we should not be shunned.- Ted Mouradian , friend of Khattab

Mouradian is the president of the Two Percent Factor, a consulting firm dealing with conflict resolution, based in St. Catharines. He said he was concerned after watching the video, but after meeting with Khattab and talking with him, it's clear that the pastor has changed his views.

"I personally found that he has changed," he said. "Not about his beliefs, but about his misbeliefs. We are not diseased and we should not be shunned.

"What you have is a person who came from another country with some very strong and narrow beliefs about how western society runs. You have a person who has grown much over the years. A person who has altered his opinion many times over."

The 'Bible condemns homosexuality,' Lutheran chaplain says

Brock University spokesperson Dan Dakin said when Khattab was appointed volunteer chaplain, he was questioned directly about the anti-gay comments he made in 2012. Khattab apologized for them and, like other chaplains, signed an agreement to respect all university policies, including those protecting the rights of individuals, regardless of sexual orientation, he said.

The University is not in the business of dictating or policing the religious belief system of any faith-based organization.- Dan Dakin , Brock University spokesperson

"The university is not in the business of dictating or policing the religious belief system of any faith-based organization," Dakin said.

Khattab is the volunteer chaplain of the Muslim student association. "The fit between his religious beliefs and those of the MSA membership is entirely the business of the MSA," Dakin said, but added, Khattab and the group must act in accordance to university policies.

Many Islamic leaders say that Islam forbids homosexuality, but Jewish and Christian leaders say the same thing about their doctrines, Dakin said.

Reverend Kurt Lantz is the Lutheran chaplain at Brock and the leader of the Lutheran student fellowship. He said he follows the stance of the Lutheran Church of Canada.

"Our stance is that the Bible condemns homosexuality as a sin, and as any other sin named in the Bible, we are all sinners and we're all in need of God's love and forgiveness," he said.

If a member of the Lutheran community no longer agrees that homosexuality is a sin, they would typically leave the community on their own. "It's not that we would kick anybody out," he said.

If someone came to him with a belief system different than his own, he said he would help them find another chaplain who could best be a support for them.

"Brock has taken on chaplains of different denominations in order that everyone would have a spiritual support for the beliefs that they hold," Lantz said. "It's not that all of the chaplains have to hold to all of the beliefs of all of the students, but rather that the students could access a chaplain that would hold to their beliefs." 

Chris Seto | @topherseto