Canadian protesters against oppression in Iran were nearly car-rammed in Toronto on Sunday by an activist who had recently achieved notoriety for dressing as an orthodox Jew and harassing a Holocaust survivor about her position on the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
As a protest in Markham at the Islamic Mahdi Centre mosque neared its end, Firas al Najim, 38, “drove at a high rate of speed in the direction of a crowd of people,” said York Regional Police. “The accused stopped the vehicle abruptly, squealing the tires while yelling at the protestors.”
Firas AL NAJIM, 38, of Toronto has been charged with dangerous driving and other offences after an incident during a protest at a mosque on Sunday in Markham. https://t.co/SW31QjNbLv— York Regional Police (@YRP) October 24, 2022
According to journalist Samira Mohyeddin, protesters alleged that al Najim – the manager of the NGO Canadian Defenders 4 Human Rights (CD4HR) – had attempted to run them over.
1/ Days ago I wrote about Firas Al Najim @Islamic_HR saying: “death to those who oppose Khamenei & the Islamic Republic,” while standing in front of the Mahdi Centre on Bayview Ave.Today, he allegedly tried to run over #Iranian protesters & took off from @YRP; was later caught. https://t.co/EH8FJFqZVO pic.twitter.com/wa0HVXfNws— Samira Mohyeddin سمیرا (@SMohyeddin) October 23, 2022
Police officers attempted to stop the vehicle after the incident, but al Najim and a passenger fled in the car.
Al Najim was arrested a short time later, and when officers searched his vehicle, they found an airsoft gun, a baton and bear spray.
Consequently, police charged al Najim with dangerous operation of a motor vehicle, flight from police and weapons dangerous. According to al Najim, he spent a night in jail before release. In a video shared on social media, he called the charges “unjust” and hoped they would be dismissed in court. Al Najim 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 parliamentarian Melissa Lantsman and the "Zionist community" were also involved.
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“Global events often have a local impact here in York Region,” police said in a statement. “As a result, York Regional Police is increasing our proactive efforts, including connecting with our faith leaders and increasing patrols and police presence in the areas of mosques. We will continue to respond to protests and demonstrations as needed to ensure public safety. We encourage anyone who observes hateful or suspicious activity to contact police.”
“The accused stopped the vehicle abruptly, squealing the tires while yelling at the protestors.”York Regional Police
Pro-Iranian regime activism in Canada
CD4HR, a registered non-profit in Canada, 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 Mahsa Amini at the hands of Iranian Morality Police, the NGO has increasingly focused on pro-regime advocacy.
Al Najim has denied that Amini was murdered by Iranian authorities, and shaved his head in solidarity with the government to counter activists who cut their hair in protest of theocratic “modesty” laws. He also claimed that Zionists had orchestrated the “islamophobic” protests, which he characterized as anti-hijab, and has described Canadian protestors as “thugs” and “barbarians.”
Al Najim has appeared as a guest on Iranian state media outlet Press TV. The outlet was one of the Iranian organizations sanctioned by the Canadian government over human rights violations, a move that CD4HR condemned.
Mohyeddin noted on Twitter she had warned just days prior to the Sunday incident that in an October 15 video “in badly spoken Persian” al Najim called for the death of Israel and the US, and “death to those who oppose [Iranian supreme leader Ali] Khamenei.”
Firas Al Najim, in front of the Islamic Mahdi Centre in #Thornhill. Declaring his admiration for the Islamic Republic & leader Khamenei; he threatens anyone opposing them. He is manager of a group called Canadian Defenders for Human Rights; a registered Canadian not for profit. pic.twitter.com/DFLQxJIrxu— Samira Mohyeddin سمیرا (@SMohyeddin) October 19, 2022
Al Najim had made the statement in front of the Islamic Mahdi Center, in protest of the October 13 graffiti vandalism of the site, with what York Regional Police said entailed “derogatory, anti-Iranian language, written in Farsi, aimed towards the Iranian government.”
Police are investigating the vandalism as a hate-motived incident.
“Death to those who oppose Khamenei.”Firas al Najim
CD4HR has a history of aggressiveness against Jewish community
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) said that al Najim “allegedly driving at a ‘high rate of speed’ in the direction of a crowd of Iranian-Canadian pro-democracy demonstrators” was unsurprising given his support for the Iranian regime and past behavior toward the local Jewish community.
Firas Al Najim's threatening behavior is not new. The CD4HR director has history of aggressive behavior towards the Jewish community, extremist activism & glorification of violence.We stand in solidarity w/ Iranian Canadians in the face of this attack.https://t.co/bjULakhzoJ— CIJA (@CIJAinfo) October 24, 2022
“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,” CIJA GTA Vice President Noah Shack said, and called for law enforcement and prosecutors to be vigilant in addressing the activists behavior “amid reports of a deeply troubling escalation from hateful rhetoric into real-world violence.”
On September 11, al Najim caused controversy when he dressed as an orthodox Jew to enter unhindered into a Jewish community event, and then harassed a Holocaust survivor with queries about her support of Israel.
"If you're a Holocaust survivor, why do you support oppression? Why do you support people who are killing?" al Najim challenged.
“Firas Al Najim and other activists at CD4HR have a long record of aggressive behavior toward the Jewish community in the Greater Toronto Area."CIJA GTA Vice President Noah Shack
In April, CD4HR co-director Aliya Hasan was a key speaker at a Toronto BDS rally in which she called for the destruction of Israel, claimed Jewish connection to the Temple Mount was a lie to justify atrocities and theft of holy sites, and praised terrorist attacks.
"Israel has witnessed the deadliest attacks that it has seen in the last 15 years,” Hasan said to a cheering crowd.
Al Najim and CD4HR have also praised terrorists on their social media accounts.