Demonstrators decrying the Mahdi Islamic Centre in Thornhill, Ont., (which allegedly has ties to the Iranian regime) were targeted by a counter-protestor – literally – as a pro-Iranian individual allegedly attempted to drive his SUV into the crowd.
It was truly shocking, given that several members of the York Regional Police Service were at the mosque observing the demonstration.
In the aftermath, York Regional Police charged Firas al Najim, 38, of Toronto with Dangerous Operation of a Motor Vehicle, Flight from Police, and Weapons Dangerous.
According to York Regional Police, al Najim drove a white Kia SUV at a high rate of speed in the direction of the demonstrators. The accused stopped the vehicle abruptly, squealing the tires while yelling at the protestors.
Officers attempted to stop the vehicle but the suspect fled from police. He was located a short time later and was arrested. When officers searched the vehicle, they located items including an airsoft gun, a baton and bear spray.
Anyone with information can contact the York Regional Police #2 District Criminal Investigations Bureau at 1-866-876-5423, ext. 7241, or call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS, or leave an anonymous tip online at www.1800222tips.com.
And yet, how odd that as of Tuesday afternoon, a Google News search revealed only two stories regarding al Najim. One brief report was filed by Global News and a far more substantial story was reported by the Jerusalem Post.
The Post notes that according to al Najim, he spent a night in jail before being released. In a video he shared on social media, he called the charges “unjust” and hoped they would be dismissed in court. He further claimed that the police were working in the interest of “Islamophobic” anti-Iran protesters to make it appear that he had committed a hate crime. In another post, he implied that Jewish MP Melissa Lantsman and the "Zionist community" were also involved. It should be noted that we did not observe Ms. Lantsman at the protest.
The Jerusalem Post further notes that al Najim has a chequered history.
For example, he is affiliated with Canadian Defenders for Human Rights, also known as CD4HR. CD4HR is a registered non-profit organization. CD4HR has in the past mostly focused on anti-Israel activism and content, but with the unfolding of anti-regime protests rallying around the death of Amini, CD4HR has increasingly focused on pro-regime advocacy.
The Post notes that according to Noah Shack of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, “Firas al Najim and other activists at CD4HR have a long record of aggressive behavior toward the Jewish community in the Greater Toronto Area. For example, on Canada Day, this group protested at a kosher supermarket before Shabbat, harassing and intimidating community members.”
Then, on September 11, al Najim caused controversy when he dressed as an orthodox Jew to enter unhindered into a Jewish community event. He then harassed a Holocaust survivor with queries about her support of Israel.
We reached out to al Najim but at the time of recording he had not returned our call.
We will find out in the months ahead if al Najim is convicted of his charges and if so, what sentence he will receive. In the meantime, how odd is it that Canadians hoping to get in-depth news coverage regarding this individual must depend on foreign media. And really, why would that be?