Toronto

'Disturbing, Islamophobic' tweet about call to prayer prompts firing of Peel school council chair

A "disturbing, Islamophobic tweet" on the city of Brampton's decision to allow mosques to broadcast the call to prayer has prompted the Peel District School Board to remove one of its school council chairs and launch an investigation into comments it says are "never acceptable."

Ravi Hooda says his tweet was 'misinterpreted'; has now also been fired from Remax Canada

Brampton Makki Masjid was among the local mosques to receive an exemption to broadcast the call to prayer over loud speakers for a few minutes every sunset during Ramadan. (Google Maps)

A "disturbing, Islamphobic tweet" on the city of Brampton's decision to allow mosques to broadcast the call to prayer has prompted the Peel District School Board to remove one of its school council chairs and launch an investigation into comments it says are "never acceptable."

Last week, several Toronto-area municipalities granted local mosques permission to broadcast the azan or call to prayer over speakers at sunset every day during Ramadan, the Muslim holy month. The move was a welcome one to many in light of a pandemic that's made gathering for prayer impossible and left places of worship empty. 

"Our noise by-law originally passed in 1984 and only included an exemption for Church bells," Brampton mayor Patrick Brown said in a tweet. "It will now include all faiths within the permitted hours and decibel levels. The Muslim community can proceed with the sunset azan because it's 2020 [and] we treat all faiths equally."

"What's next? Separate lanes for camel & goat riders, allowing slaughter of animals at home in the name of sacrifice, bylaw requiring all women to cover themselves from head to toe in tents to appease the piece fools for votes," replied a user by the name of Ravi Hooda.

The user's Twitter account has since been made private.

A user by the name of Ravi Hooda tweeted this reply, something the Peel District School Board called "disturbing, Islamophobic" and a violation of its policy. (Twitter)

On his Twitter profile, Hooda identifies himself as a "professional realtor, immigration consultant" and "community volunteer."

But according to the Peel District School Board, he was also an executive school council member for the Macville Public School in the city of Bolton. School councils are comprised of parents, staff and community representatives and advise principals on a range of topics including codes of behaviour, budget priorities, and curriculum delivery.

That changed Tuesday morning, when the board tweeted that Hooda was being removed from his role as school council chair and will no longer be allowed to participate on council "in any other capacity."

In a letter posted online, Macville school principal Robin Perri wrote, "Today, we were made aware of a disturbing, Islamophobic tweet that was written and shared by a member of our parent community. We immediately conducted an investigation into the matter." Perri said the content contravened its Safe and Accepting Schools Policy.

"Please know that this individual's views in no way reflect the values of the Macville Public School community, nor those of the Peel board. Comments like these are upsetting and hurtful, and never acceptable."

The tweet also prompted reaction from Remax Canada, which said Tuesday Hooda was no longer employed with the company. 

"We do not share nor support the views of Mr. Hooda. We can confirm he has been terminated and is no longer affiliated with RE/MAX," the company tweeted.

In a statement to CBC News, Hooda said his comment was "not directed towards any community or entity but just my attempt to state that we shouldn't be going back to the times where such means of communication was necessary.

"Unfortunately my tweet was misinterpreted," he said.

Hooda said he removed his tweet and immediately put out another one apologizing "unconditionally," but that the action hasn't made much difference.

He says the school board "unilaterally" decided his tweet was directed at a specific community and that didn't give him an opportunity to explain himself before removing him from his post.

"I am in the process of legally addressing that," he said

Hooda said he immediately put out this tweet apologizing for if his comments hurt anyone and is now in the process of 'legally addressing' the board's decision to remove him from his position as school council chair. (Ravi Hooda/Twitter)

The move from the school board comes as it works to respond to a scathing ministerial review into racism within the board, focusing in particular on anti-Black racism along with concerns about Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, homophobia and overrepresentation of Indigenous students when it comes to suspensions.

"The accounts of systemic racism and discrimination documented in the report are deeply troubling and will not be tolerated," Education Minister Stephen Lecce said in March. 

On Monday, the board announced a slew of immediate actions it would take in response to the more than two dozen directives issued following the review, including establishing accountability measures, using student census data to drive decision making, establishing a new superintendent of equity, consulting on an anti-racism policy, and ending suspensions and expulsions for students in kindergarten to Grade 3. 

At a weekly briefing Wednesday, Brampton's mayor voiced his support for the actions taken by the Peel school board and Remax Canada.

"Some people feel that a manner in which they would never conduct themselves in person, that somehow you're allowed to spew hate over social media," said Brown.

"There are consequences for preaching hate. That's not who we are in Canada."

About the Author

Shanifa Nasser

Reporter, CBC Toronto

Shanifa Nasser is an award-winning journalist interested in national security, the justice system and stories with a heartbeat. Her work has led to two investigations by CBC's The Fifth Estate. She was previously a Munk Journalism Fellow and holds an MA in Islamic Studies from the University of Toronto. shanifa.nasser@cbc.ca

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