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A Report That A Mosque Kept Female Construction Workers Off A Work Site Turned Out To Be Bullshit

The Ahl-ill Bait mosque is demanding an apology.

A Montreal mosque says it wants an apology for a TV news report falsely claiming that women were banned from a nearby construction site.

TVA Nouvelles

The TVA report on Tuesday claimed that an electrical company doing work near two mosques had signed a contract — at the mosques' insistence — that kept female construction workers away during Friday prayers.

The news segment featured several interviews with people expressing outrage at the agreement, including an opposition politician who called it "unacceptable that religion is used as a pretext to violate the equality between men and women."

The Ahl-ill Bait mosque, however, says there was never any such deal.

William Korbatly, the mosque's lawyer, told BuzzFeed Canada that the only contract the mosque signed was with the City of Montreal to allow the construction work on part of their property, and that nothing in there stipulated gender-based discrimination. He also said the TVA reporter, Marie-Pier Cloutier, made no attempt to speak with the mosque leadership before the initial report.

"They were not contacted prior to the release of the TVA news," Korbatly said.

He said any contract with a gender-based clause would be illegal, and not something the mosque would endorse.

"It just doesn't add up. It's completely false," he said.

Quebec's labour minister confirmed on Thursday that there was no such contract.

Paul Chiasson / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Dominique Vien told reporters in Quebec City that after looking into the issue, she could not find any evidence that any mosque had made a demand that women be kept away from the construction site.

The head of a Montreal organization in charge of electrical work also denied there was any such request.

"We never received any request from the mosque or anyone else to remove women from the work site," Serge Boileau, director of the Commission des services électriques de Montréal, told the Montreal Gazette.

The dubious TVA story got a huge reaction online, and it has already been picked up by the far-right Rebel Media, which declared it an example of a "no-go zone" being established.

Twitter

According to Korbatly, the lawyer, members of the Ahl-ill Bait mosque have received a flood of hateful messages since the TVA story, including death threats and threats to burn down the building. The anti-Muslim group La Meute has said it will stage a protest outside the mosque on Friday.

The mosque is considering its legal options, Korbatly said, but first they want TVA to correct the record.

"All the people involved in that incident should apologize and mention that it was based on an error," he said. "The mosque needs to have justice."

As of Thursday evening, TVA had not issued a correction or retraction. BuzzFeed Canada reached out to TVA for comment.

UPDATE

TVA apologized on Friday and pulled the original story from its website. The channel also said it would investigate "the steps of the journalistic process carried out as part of this report."

Ishmael N. Daro is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Toronto. PGP fingerprint: 5A1D 9099 3497 DA4B

Contact Ishmael N. Daro at ishmael.daro@buzzfeed.com.

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