On October 12th, just minutes before the launch of the program Building the Foundations of Anti-Oppressive Healthcare, the University of Toronto School of Medicine (TFOM) made the decision to cancel the program as long as social justice educator, Rania El Mugammar, was involved. Citing vague concerns about “antisemitism” on El Mugammar’s Twitter platform – without reference to any specific Tweet – the TFOM leadership abandoned its complaint process and effectively cancelled the anti-oppression program because of its Black, Muslim, female facilitator. While the TFOM leadership never identified the problem it had with any specific Tweet, El Mugammar had simply Tweeted views in support of Palestine liberation, and in overt criticism of Israel as an apartheid state. (See below for more info).
Simply put, in mind-boggling hypocrisy, TFOM de facto cancelled an anti-oppression program citing vague disagreement with the personal views of its Black, Muslim, female facilitator. Dr. Nanky Rai, a faculty member and co-facilitator of the program was similarly targeted for her Palestine advocacy in 2022.
Use the fields below to expose the UofT and TFOM’s racist leadership, and demand that TFOM 1) reinstate Ms. El Mugammar, 2) apologize publicly, 3) practice robust anti-racism policies, and 4) issue a humane policy statement concerning loss of life in Gaza.
On October 12th, 30 minutes before the beginning of the 7th iteration of Building the Foundations of Anti-Oppressive Healthcare training program, Temerty Faculty of Medicine’s (TFOM) leadership made the unilateral decision to not allow the program to continue with the involvement of one of the co-facilitators, artist and social justice educator, Rania El Mugammar. Citing concerns about “antisemitism” on Rania’s Twitter platform, the senior leadership at Temerty abandoned its complaint processes and anti-racism/anti-oppression commitments wholeheartedly by targeting the highly successful and well received program. Rania simply expressed views in support of Palestine, in overt criticism of Israel as an apartheid state. She should not be professionally penalized for her opposition to Israel’s ongoing genocide of Palestinians!
In the eight weeks that have followed Rania’s removal, Temerty Faculty of Medicine senior leadership have failed to engage with Rania in any capacity or use any formal institutional complaint process. This abrupt disposal of a Black Muslim woman is part of a larger disturbing pattern of anti-Black racism, Islamophobia, and censorship and punishment of those who speak up in support of a free Palestine.
Unfortunately, the deliberate targeting of the program and the lack of respect and engagement with Rania seems to be the rule at TFOM, rather than the exception. Dr. Nanky Rai, one of the faculty members involved in the original working group for the creation of this program and a co-facilitator in the program, was similarly targeted for her Palestine advocacy when she was unexpectedly dismissed from one of her many roles within the Temerty Faculty of Medicine in 2022. If you'd like to see the letter written to TFOM in 2022 that further contextualizes this incident, please click here. These two cases show that health professionals at TFOM are the subject of unprecedented harassment for their overt support of the Palestine. TFOM has a duty to protect their community from anti-Palestine harassment and not perpetuate this bias by professionally penalizing their employees for denouncing Israel’s inhumane campaign against the civilians of Gaza.
Conflation of antisemitism with criticism of Israel
In 2021, the Antisemitism Working Group at the University of Toronto made a number of recommendations to the University to deal with “antisemitism in the context of [the University’s] dual commitment to academic freedom and inclusion.” Among the recommendations was a clear indication that NO specific definition of antisemitism, including the IHRA definition of antisemitism–which conflates criticism of the state of Israel with antisemitism– should be adopted by the University. The recommendations also spoke clearly about an individual’s right to academic freedom and freedom of speech. The broader institution is also bound by directives from the Chicago Principles. To this end, UofT has a responsibility to protect the freedom of debate and deliberation “when others attempt to restrict it.” Despite these explicit recommendations and Temerty’s stated positions, the two cases involving Ms. El Mugammar and Dr. Rai show that the institution functionally operates on the IHRA definition of antisemitism and has explicitly restricted the freedom of pro-Palestine debate and deliberation. Many scholars, including Jewish faculty, Israeli historians and experts have spoken out against IHRA andattempts to silence the criticism of Israel. The Palestine Exception remains a feature of the University's landscape, with a shameful history of anti-Palestinian racism marked by scandal, silencing and censorship.
As a learning institution for emerging health-care professionals, the Temerty Faculty of Medicine should be particularly concerned by the ongoing genocide of Palestinians in Gaza. Israel’s military has been accused of deliberately targeting hospitals and healthcare facilities in Gaza, which inevitably puts civilians, including women and children, as well as healthcare workers, in extreme danger. As a reputable medical institution, Temerty Faculty of Medicine has a social responsibility to publicly denounce this unnecessary harm and loss of life and call for a permanent ceasefire.
For further information regarding these incidents of anti-Palestinian racism, please click here.