Adil Charkaoui incensed by CEGEPs suspending Arabic school contracts

Adil Charkaoui, a Moroccan-born Montrealer who years ago successfully challenged being held on a security certificate, says the suspension of his Arabic school's contracts with two Montreal CEGEPs is prejudiced and ridiculous.

Students suspected of joining jihadists in Syria prompt CEGEPs to suspend Charkaoui's contracts

Adil Charkaoui speaks about the suspension of two contracts with junior colleges at a news conference in Montreal on Friday, Feb. 27, 2015. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

Adil Charkaoui, a Moroccan-born Montrealer who years ago successfully challenged being held on a security certificate, says the suspension of his Arabic school's contracts with two Montreal CEGEPs is prejudiced and ridiculous.

"We categorically reject this suspension and the École des compagnons reserves the right to sue the two educational institutions for damages and any disturbance," Charkaoui said at a news conference on Friday morning.

The Moroccan-born Montrealer operates a school that teaches Arabic and the Qur'an out of classrooms rented from Montreal post-secondary institutions Collège de Maisonneuve and Collège de Rosemont.

On Thursday, CBC/Radio-Canada reported that six young Quebecers — including four students from Collège de Maisonneuve — left Canada for Turkey with the intention of travelling to Syria.

Student took 2 classes at Charkaoui's school

It was reported on Thursday that at least one of the students took courses taught or organized by Charkaoui at Collège de Maisonneuve.

That discovery led the school to suspend its space-rental contract with Charkaoui.

On Friday, Charkaoui said only one male student among the group of six who travelled to Syria took any courses at his school. He attended two classes and then dropped out, Charkaoui said.

He said the CEGEPs have overstepped their boundaries by suspending his contracts before the RCMP investigation has concluded.

We should let the police do their jobs, Charkaoui said, and not leave it to the schools to carry out these kinds of investigations.

He said administrators used flawed, twisted logic to justify shutting down his school, adding that he believed they were looking to place blame for any potential radicalization onto his school.

Charkaoui said that if Collège de Maisonneuve is going to suspend his classes, then it should cancel all of their courses too, since the students were supposedly radicalized on campus.

Video prompted suspension

Collège de Maisonneuve said it made the move after it learned a video was circulated among members of the school that was described as “promoting values that are different from ours.”

Charkaoui addressed the video during his news conference, saying the video was of a song promoting respect of the Prophet's companion.

He said the people who watched it either didn't speak Arabic, or didn't take the time to get it properly translated.

Charkaoui was arrested in 2003 on a security certificate under suspicion of terrorism-related activities. He won his challenge of the certificate several years later.

He became a Canadian citizen last summer and lives in Montreal. He is an outspoken advocate against Islamophobia, which he said was a major factor at play in the week's events.

Islamophobia in Quebec

Charkaoui said Arabic and Muslim schools in Quebec are routinely targeted as potential hotbeds for radicalization, while the dozen or so Jewish schools in Montreal are often ignored.

It's not just with very hard laws that we can fight radicalization.- Adil Charkaoui

"Muslim schools are investigated day and night," he said.

He said radicalization is a consequence, not a cause of certain societal conditions, adding that he believes the best way to prevent extremism from taking root is to provide Muslim youth with meaningful connections to the larger communities around them.

Charkaoui said the Quebec government could be doing much more to help fight Islamophobia, as well as extremism in the province.

"The Liberal government in Quebec is not defending the rights of minorities, especially the Muslim community," he said.

On Friday morning, Premier Philippe Couillard said he was concerned by news six young Quebecers had left to join Syrian jihadists.

He said radicalization needs to be addressed.

"We will work with the Muslim community and we will work on legislation," Couillard told reporters in Quebec City.

Charkaoui spoke on the matter of legislation as well on Friday.

"I think to fight radicalism and terrorism, we don't need just laws. We need collaboration of communities, of imams, of schools, of all society. It's not just with very hard laws that we can fight radicalization," Charkaoui said.

With files from Benjamin Shingler


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