CW: Sexual violence
This morning, the CBC broke the news that a professor from McGill’s Institute of Islamic Studies, Ahmed Ibrahim, has filed a $600 000 defamation lawsuit against two individuals: a student and a professor from the Institute. The lawsuit claims that these individuals launched a “smear campaign” to have him dismissed by circulating allegations of sexually predatory behaviour by Ibrahim towards students.
The SSMU Executive team condemns this lawsuit in the strongest terms. It is blatant intimidation in response to the ability of students to speak out and protect each other from sexual violence when our institution has failed us repeatedly. In April, countless individuals and groups across our university community walked out of class and signed on to an open letter to denounce McGill’s continued failure to hold predatory teaching staff accountable for their actions. We made it clear to the administration that when institutional complaints procedures are inadequate, and when known predators remain employed year after year, students have no option but to share knowledge informally in order to help protect one another. The fact that a student is now facing a defamation lawsuit for doing just that is a stark indictment of McGill’s institutional culture and its lack of proper accountability mechanisms.
Moreover, we feel that it is crucial to add context to the CBC’s coverage of this lawsuit. While Ahmed Ibrahim admits to having engaged in a sexual relationship with a student between 2014 and 2015, he claims that this relationship was “consensual.” He then suggests that the allegations of predatory behaviour which have circulated informally for several years are merely rumours stemming from this one “consensual” relationship. In fact, according to article 4.1 of McGill’s Policy Against Sexual Violence, a person is incapable of consenting when sexual activity has been induced by conduct that constitutes an abuse of a relationship of trust, power or authority, such as the relationship between a professor and their student. The individual involved in the 2014-2015 case was not simply a student, but Ibrahim’s student. Moreover, multiple students have shared personal allegations against Ibrahim; notably, the article entitled “Let’s Talk About Teacher”, published in The McGill Daily in 2015, is widely known to have been written about him. In short, Ibrahim’s characterization of both his own past behaviour and of the allegations of abuse which he faces is deeply misleading.
We are disappointed in the CBC’s decision to recirculate Ibrahim’s narrative with minimal context or criticism, and to publish a photo of the student under attack. We find this to be irresponsible and unacceptable, particularly when coupled with the vehemently anti-survivor rhetoric of Ibrahim’s legal representative.
SSMU will not remain silent while one of our members is attacked for trying to hold McGill accountable to its students. We stand with the two individuals named in the lawsuit, and call on the administration and the campus community to do the same.
The 2018-2019 SSMU Executive Team