By Andrée Mills, CNN
A school district in the Canadian province of British Columbia has cancelled a speech by a Nobel Peace Prize winner and Pakistani rape survivor due to ‘Islamophobia’ fears.
The Rosedale School District in Surrey, Canada, gave the all-clear to grant children with special needs access to Muhammad Ali Jinnah Secondary School on Monday, as long as they did not discuss politics or terrorists.
Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, a non-profit organization that works to foster understanding between the West and Muslim communities, met with school board officials to discuss the cancellation of the student’s speech. The organization was set to host the women’s advocacy group’s International Day of the Girl in Pakistan on December 9.
“We have been informed by our district that some students and staff are fearful of having the two speakers, Maheen Kazmi and Zoya Khalid, at the school. The school was closed today and we will keep the door open to allow for the final approval of their visit,” its executive director, Shaheen Stares, said in a statement.
As CNN previously reported, the two Muslim women, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2016, plan to discuss women’s rights and ways to support rape survivors.
The organization released a statement saying it would “work to ensure students can hear and understand the women’s views in a positive and constructive manner.”
“Our girls will be attending a school for more than 13,000 students, which is very diverse,” Stares added. “We recognize that all schools are ideal settings for sharing different viewpoints.”
Aria Mani, a 13-year-old Pakistani girl who survived a gang rape, recently posted a video to YouTube telling people to not be afraid of Muslim girls.
“I am a survivor of a gang rape and I want you to know that this violence against women should not happen to any woman. Please love your women and protect them from violence,” Mani said.
Mani plans to attend the school board meeting on Tuesday to discuss “what may happen next with our delegation” in Pakistan.
Some 400,000 Canadian Muslims live in the province of British Columbia, according to the mosque at which Amir Fawaz was a worshipper in the 1990s. The province already saw rising anti-Muslim sentiment over the summer, after a deadly truck attack in Toronto targeted Muslim pedestrians. The perpetrator, Alek Minassian, was a former resident of the city’s South Asian community, having moved to the United States around 2007.