TV station issues retraction for false story about female construction workers and mosque
Published Friday, December 15, 2017 8:05AM EST
Last Updated Friday, December 15, 2017 9:06PM EST
A TV station has apologized for and retracted its story that a mosque asked for female construction workers to be excluded from a worksite.
Earlier this week TVA reported that the Ahl-Ill-Bait mosque in Cote des Neiges had asked for women to be removed from a construction site near their place of worship -- however there never was any such request.
As soon as the report was issued, the leaders of the mosque said that nobody had ever made such a request, and said the only thing it had asked for was that people be able to park near the mosque on Fridays.
Representatives from the mosque told CTV News on Wednesday that they would never ask for women to be banned from a worksite.
TVA stood by its story about the banning of women for several days, even saying that this clause was written in the contract, but was never able to prove any such clause existed -- nor that any women were actually removed from the worksite.
Members of the mosque also filmed the interview they did with the reporter where she asked to show them the supposed contract, but she can’t produce it. The network still aired the story.
On Thursday, the president of Quebec's construction commission, Diane Lemieux, said investigators had examined the contracts and talked to the mosque, as well as the construction workers at the site, and found no evidence for anything that TVA had claimed.
"There is no indication, no sign, absolutely no sign that would lead us to believe that anyone from the mosques asked for this," said Lemieux.
"There is no such clause in the contract indicating that women should be removed."
The story made its way to Premier Philippe Couillard, who responded to it, saying, “of course if this happened, it's not acceptable but let's check the facts first.”
Prayers were held as usual on Friday at the mosque, where Aktar Ahmed, president of Baitul Mukarram Mosque said he appreciated the support they’d received.
“I thank to the government of Quebec, the city of Montreal to come forward and find the truth that it was completely lies and fabricated news,” he said.
Since the story aired, the mosque said it's been flooded with hateful comments and threats
“It's baseless accusations that happened, and we have women, we have children who go to this place, we have never had any problem,” said Boshra Garawi. “This escalates more the hate and the opinion against Muslims.”
Protest and counter-protest
The story prompted a white nationalist group to schedule a protest outside the mosque -- a protest which the group later cancelled, with members saying they felt they had been deliberately deceived.
However about a dozen protesters showed up at the mosque around 1:30 p.m. on Friday.
The protesters said they did not believe the official version of events and refused to believe that TVA had created a story out of nothing.
"There's no proof it happened, but there's still no proof it didn't," said one protester.
The protesters also said they believes Muslims are trying to bring Sharia law to Quebec.
They were outnumbered by counter-protesters outside the mosque, telling the protesters that the story was made up and their fury was pointless.
Multiple politicians including Borough Mayor Sue Montgomery and councillor Lionel Perez were present at the mosque, as was provincial Immigration Minister David Heurtel.
The Quebec Federation of Women denounced the protest.
"It is completely unacceptable that places of worship and the people that go to these places have been tirelessly harassed during these last few days, and that they have received death threats. The FFQ stands in solidarity with the muslim community during this time of rampant Islamophobia. Our feminism will not be co-opted and instrumentalized by racist agendas," it said in a statement.
Premier Philippe Couillard was disappointed by the report that was not based on accurate information, and the fact that people were ready to protest against a mosque that had done nothing.
"You know, my reaction yesterday was cautious. I said of course if this happened it's not acceptable but let's check the facts first. And it appears and it's been confirmed that there was no demand from the mosque, there's nothing in the contract that alludes even indirectly to that, so it's a baseless report essentially," said Couillard.
"If people organize a demonstration they would have to explain why they need to do this."
TVA issued a retraction late Thursday, indicating that the situation had "evolved," and the next day issued a second retraction, stating that it "regrets the situation and wishes to apologize to the various parties and viewers who have been affected by this report."
The original item was only removed on Friday afternoon, and TVA said it will hold an internal inquiry.
Quebec's Press Council said Friday that it was investigating after having received dozens of complaints about the televised report.