A Muslim Winnipegger With Mental Health Challenges Died By Suicide; A Local Muslim Group Irresponsibly Blamed Israel, Amplified By CBC & Winnipeg Free Press

On Saturday, June 15, a young Syrian member of Winnipeg’s Muslim community who was reportedly suffering from mental health challenges died by suicide by setting himself on fire inside the Winnipeg Grand Mosque.

While the suicide would ordinarily be a tragedy for the family and for the community, a prominent Winnipeg Muslim organization quickly used the opportunity to lay the blame for the young man’s death on – who else – Israel.

The day after the suicide, the Manitoba Islamic Association (MIA) released a statement which noted “several factors” which allegedly contributed to his death, before pivoting to an unsubstantiated libel against Israel by writing that “We understand that global issues including the genocide against Palestinians and Muslims in Gaza and the rest of Palestine, is impacting so many people beyond the boundaries of our community.”

There appeared to be no evidence whatsoever to connect the man’s death to the Hamas-Israel war, beyond a superficial connection to the self-immolation of an anti-Israel activist in Washington, DC months earlier, in front of the Israeli embassy there.

But as pointed out by National Post commentator Rahim Mohamed, the Winnipeg suicide took place, not in front of any Israeli or Jewish institution, but inside the city’s largest mosque on a Muslim holiday, suggesting no connection to Israel in the slightest.

After immediate outcry, the MIA released a half-hearted correction the following day, cryptically writing that “We would like to sincerely apologize for our last statement as the wording may contribute to misconception and misunderstandings.”

However, the dangerous and illogical jump to blaming Israel was quickly picked up by numerous news media outlets, who uncritically repeated the anti-Israel accusations and ignored the MIA’s backtracking.

In an article published June 16 in the Winnipeg Free Press entitled: “Tragic suicide at Winnipeg Grand Mosque prompts urgent calls for mental health support,” reporter Tyler Searle repeated the dangerous statement, quoting the MIA’s initial claim that “We cannot have positive mental health in the context of a racist, Islamophobic and genocidal world.”

The article, even days after the MIA’s correction and revised statement, had not been removed, nor had the story been altered to reflect the change, which led HRC to file a complaint with the Free Press calling for corrective action. We are pleased to note that on June 21, reporter Searle produced a new report which acknowledged that the “… association apologized earlier this week for previously linking the suicide to the war in Gaza.”

Predictably, CBC News produced similar coverage like the Free Press.

In a June 16 article entitled: “Youth’s death shows more mental health supports needed in Winnipeg, Muslim community members say,” reporter Arturo Chang extensively quoted the MIA’s initial statement blaming Israel’s non-existent “genocide” for the victim’s mental health-driven suicide.

Scandalously, that was not the initial version of the CBC News article. The original version read that the MIA statement had “adding that global issues such as the war in Gaza are impacting Muslims across the world.”

Therefore, CBC News had published an initial article citing “the war in Gaza” for the man’s suicide, according to the Muslim group, before changing it to being even more stridently anti-Israel, specifically citing “genocide” in Gaza, per the CBC’s clarification notice appended at the bottom of the article. And yet, even days after the MIA’s correction was issued removing the connection to Gaza, CBC failed to update their article or produce new coverage on this development, which led HRC to file an official complaint calling for corrective action to be undertaken. We are pleased to note that subsequent to our complaint, on June 20, CBC produced a new report which acknowledged that:

“A statement issued by the Manitoba Islamic Association shortly after the incident suggested the ongoing crisis in Gaza may have played a role in Abdul-Hamid’s suicide. His brother, Ahmad, said that’s not accurate. ‘I don’t know what made them think that he did that for Palestine. It has no connection to what is happening in Gaza,’ he said.”

The tragic suicide of this Winnipeg youth serves as a powerful reminder of two truisms: that unrelated events will be dishonestly weaponized by anti-Israel activists in the pursuit of their ideological agenda, and that they will find willing, even enthusiastic, followers from some news media outlets.

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