'Islamic Heritage Month has nothing to do with the Israeli-Hamas War': Markham Public Library clears air after emails leak

'Shame on everyone on your team': GTA library walked back 'inaccurate' take of Islamic History Month promotion after backlash

Markham Public LIbrary

Markham Public Library, north of Toronto, came under fire on Monday after an alleged internal email claiming that promoting the ongoing Islamic Heritage Month will be seen as “taking a particular side” in the current Israel-Hamas war, surfaced online.

In the screenshots of one of the leaked alleged emails, dated Oct. 11 and first shared by Instagram user Sudduf Wyne, putting up any merchandising promoting the Islamic Heritage Month is discouraged among staff members.

A follow up email about two hours later, allegedly sent by Markham Public Library Director of Service Excellence Andrea Cecchetto, maintains that instructions to “temporarily dismantle” any signages or other promotions highlighting Islamic materials came following concerns raised by “some community members and staff” about similar displays in different branches.

The screengrab of the alleged email also mentioned the management team was due to discuss further while taking a “temporary step to give ourselves time to consider a way forward.”

'Shame on everyone on your team': Library hit with backlash

The leaked emails were met with strong criticism online as X users like Hassam Munir posted their reaction online.

“@markhamlibrary, who I have worked with in the past, have made the disgraceful decision to cancel scheduled Islamic History Month events for the local community because they think doing the events would be “taking sides” in the Palestine-Israel situation. Absolutely no integrity.”

“Ironically, @markhamlibrary, with this decision you *have* taken a side — the side of Islamophobes and fearmongers. Shame on everyone on your team who is responsible for this decision,” Munir posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Munir found support in fellow X users, some of whom accused the Markham Public Library of alleged “discriminatory behaviour” and demanded a “public explanation”.

In response, Markham Public Library Chief Executive Officer Catherine Biss told Yahoo News Canada that the management is aware of the alleged email circulating and called it “inaccurate.”

The email is inaccurate. Markham Public Library regrets this occurred and we apologize for any confusion or hurt this has caused the community. MPL confirms that the Islamic Heritage Month displays are present in all libraries and will remain on display for the remainder of October. As a public library, it is our goal to unite and bring people together. MPL takes pride in showcasing the positive contributions of our diverse communities through displays such as these.Catherine Biss, Markham Public Library Chief Executive Officer

The library’s response, shared on Monday, aligns with another leaked email from three days ago that followed the previous communication on this internal matter.

In the alleged email dated Oct. 13, Director Cecchetto, shines a light on the “next steps” that followed after a meeting amongst the management team.

“... The intent was not to remove them, rather to be deliberate and thorough in our path forward given the situation,” reads the screenshot.

“We have enhanced the signage for the display to provide some additional context – while Islamic Heritage Month has nothing to do with the Israeli-Hamas War, sadly the issues are being confused by some and we have a responsibility to inform the community and combat this racist conflation.”

The leaked email goes on to emphasize how management received feedback over both keeping and removing the displays in the wake of an “incredibly sensitive” time for the members of community and staff.

“Ultimately, this is incredibly sensitive since we have staff who are impacted from either side of the issue. We want to support staff who are grieving the situation in the Middle East, and also want to maintain our commitment to intellectual Freedom and the need to recognise Islamic Heritage Month as an event totally separate and distinct from the tragedy unfolding as a result of this war,” according to the leaked internal communication at the Markham Public Library.

Is an apology enough for the debacle?

The National Council of Canadian Muslims rejected the apology by the Markham Public Library management, rather questioned their decision-making and demanded an inquiry into the matter.

“We are looking for an investigation and accountability from every person involved in the decision-making here. We do not believe the statement goes far enough to repair the damage to the Muslim community in Markham and the broken trust it has led to,” a spokesperson for NCCM told Yahoo News Canada.