Removal of Muslim chaplain Aarij Anwer

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On October 26, 2023, Western University announced that Muslim chaplain Aarij Anwer, who worked on a volunteer basis would be removed from his position due to a comment he made on X. Anwer’s tweet was a response to former senator Linda Frum who criticized a Toronto vigil for Palestinians who died in Gaza, characterizing it as “an orgy of celebration for the beheading of babies and the rape and execution of little girls.”[1] Anwer’s tweet read, “Stop spreading lies of beheading babies or rape of little girls. It’s been debunked. No one is celebrating the murder of Israeli babies. Palestinians are mourning the death of their babies. It’s incredible how Israel sympathizers simultaneously are the oppressor and the victim.”[2]

In a press statement, Western University President Alan Shephard and Associate Vice-President Opiyo Oloya wrote that Anwer’s comments were “divisive” and “do not align with Western’s commitment to peaceful and respectful dialogue.”[3] Shepard and Oloyo also stated, “In these roles, chaplains are meant to support all faith groups even while focusing on members whose particular faith they share.” They went further to claim that at Western University, they are “committed to fostering an environment where all members of our community can feel safe, welcomed, heard, and supported.”[4]

Why is this incident considered Anti-Palestinian Racism (APR)?

While Western University claimed that Anwer’s comments were “divisive” and did not “align with Western’s commitment to peaceful and respectful dialogue,” they failed to specify why Anwer’s tweet was deemed offensive or disrespectful. Under the assumption that Western University considered Anwer’s tweet antisemitic, then this would be considered a form of APR. The Arab Canadian Lawyers Association (ACLA) defines APR as an “attempt to defame Palestinians or their allies as being inherently antisemitic or opposed to democratic values.”[5]

Anwer’s tweet did not incite hate or violence against any individual based on their religion, ethnicity, or race. Rather, it sought to clarify media misrepresentations and debunk falsehoods that were being circulated to justify Israel’s brutal violence against the Palestinian people.[6] His tweet emphasized the need to challenge the negative portrayal of Palestinians or events organized by them as supportive or celebratory of violence. Anwer’s dismissal by Western University is a de facto silencing of Palestinians and their allies – yet another form of APR – for challenging false narratives and stereotypes around Israel and the Palestinians. His removal makes clear that the free expression of Muslims and Palestinians is not truly protected in Canada.

Additional Background to the Incident

On October 26th, Anwer made a statement on X addressing his dismissal by Western University.[7] He emphasized the importance of academic freedom and free speech: “Universities are places where people should be able to ask questions about active war crimes, regardless of who commits them. Academic freedom is the foundation of university life, and vigorous debate and trenchant analysis is a cornerstone of this freedom and of a robust democracy.” He ended his tweet by stating that he is considering all legal options available.

An email campaign was launched by Justice for All Canada after Anwer was dismissed, claiming that his removal “is clear discrimination and Islamophobia.” The petition requested that Western University issue a public apology and that he be reinstated as chaplain. Within their campaign, Justice for All Canada demanded that an independent committee be created to review whether Anwer’s public comments violated university policy.

The Muslim Students’ Association (MSA) at Western University also launched a petition in November 2023 that has garnered over 2500 signatures. In the petition, the MSA claimed that “the concerns regarding Aarij Anwer, nor the decision to dismiss him, were not consulted with the leadership of the MSA.” They demanded that Anwer be reinstated as chaplain, noting his importance and continued support to Muslim students, especially following Israel’s war on Gaza.


In their campaign, Justice for All Canada revealed that Anwer requested an explanation from Western University about how his tweet went against university policy. They explained that Anwer offered to retract his comments and apologize if the university could explain how he violated university policy. He was met with silence and has since received no explanation from the university.

At the publication of this Incident Report, there is no publicly available information about whether Anwer has taken any legal action against Western University.

Last Updated


[1] Frum, L. [@LindaFrum]. (2023, October 25). In 2015 PM Harper tried to make it a crime to glorify and promote terrorism [Tweet]. X.

[2] Anwer, A. [@AarijAnwer]. (2023, October 25). Stop spreading lies of beheading babies or rape of little girls. It’s been debunked [Tweet]. X.

[3] “Western’s commitment to peaceful and respectful dialogue,” Oct. 26, 2023, Western University Media Relations, accessed Mar. 12, 2024 at

[4] “Western’s commitment to peaceful and respectful dialogue,” Oct. 26, 2023, Western University Media Relations, accessed Mar. 12, 2024 at

[5] “Anti-Palestinian Racism: Naming, Framing and Manifestations,” April 25, 2022, Arab-Canadian Lawyers Association, accessed Mar. 12, 2024 at

[6] Khouri, R. “Watching the Watchdogs: Israel’s legacy of media deception stumbles.” Feb. 9, 2024, Al Jazeera, accessed Mar. 13, 2024 at

[7] “Western University fires Muslim chaplain over ‘divisive’ social media post,” Oct. 27, 2023, CBC News, accessed Mar. 13, 2024 at

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