The National Council of Canadian Muslims is calling on a Toronto-area Conservative candidate to step aside following reports about her past social media posts.
Nadia Hasan, acting executive director of the council, said Saturday that Ghada Melek’s alleged comments on Islam and the LGBTQ2 community show she “wouldn’t know how to serve” all citizens in the very diverse riding of Mississauga-Streetsville.
Melek is running against incumbent Liberal MP Gagan Sikand.
According to The National Post, Melek appeared to have retweeted a post that blamed Detroit’s “economic hell” on Islamist extremism in 2013. In a Vice article, Melek was accused of backing an expert who supported LGBTQ2 conversion therapy.
Global News has not been able to independently verify the content of the posts or confirm that they came from Melek’s accounts.
In a statement to Global on Friday, Melek didn’t deny sharing any specific messages on social media, but said she does not support conversion therapy and “will always stand with Muslim Canadians.”
The two outlets reported recently that Melek’s social media had been scrutinized as part of an Ontario Progressive Conservative nomination bid in 2016. Both say they obtained documents from unnamed sources containing the posts in question as well as content that touched on the same themes.
Melek ultimately did not seek the provincial PC nomination. She denied to the National Post that the provincial party rejected her candidacy.
Hasan said the Detroit comment was concerning to the organization.
She said it showed “certainly a level of Islamophobia but also … it was factually wrong,” she said.
She said her office reached out to Melek’s on the issue but wasn’t satisfied with the response received.
The non-partisan advocacy group then decided to call for Melek to resign her candidacy following the publication of the Vice article on Friday, which claimed a consultant who had been vetting Melek’s possible candidacy in 2016 found she was “too radical” on the issue of Ontario’s sex-ed curriculum and “gay people in general.”
Conversion therapy has been condemned by medical professionals around the world and Canada is considering making it illegal.
Hasan said endorsing it “is like seeing a community as a problem that needs to be fixed, rather than served.”
Melek, a senior manager at Deloitte who has a degree in mechanical engineering, came to Canada from Egypt some 28 years ago, according to a biography posted on her candidate website.
She is a member of Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority. She said her tweets were made out of “passion” in the context of the 2013 uprising that saw Mohamed Morsi removed from office.
“As a Coptic-Christian, I know what my family and friends often endured under Morsi and the (Muslim) Brotherhood, and that passion may have got the best of me at times,” she said.
“While these are almost entirely retweets from more than half a decade ago, I do understand how some of them may be offensive, and I do regret that as well as retweeting them.”
Melek also said that she does not support conversion therapy — and said her posts were a reflection of her support for a review of Ontario’s sex education curriculum.
“On these older online posts, like tens of thousands of Ontario parents, I supported the review of the sex-ed curriculum, which is why the Ontario government decided to consult with parents. I’m proud to be part of the Conservative Party of Canada, a party that supports the LGBTQ community. As an MP, I will represent all of my constituents, including the LGBTQ community.
“I absolutely oppose any so-called therapy or treatment that forces someone to try and change their sexual orientation against their will. This election I’m focused on issues that unite us as Canadians, not divide us.”
A Twitter post from Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer shows he appeared alongside Melek at a Lebanese heritage festival in Mississauga, Ont. last month.
Global News reached out to Scheer’s office on the alleged posts and calls for Melek to step down. Cory Hann, the director of communications for the Conservative Party, responded by pointing to statements already made by Melek.
The federal election is slated for October.
— With files from Global News reporter Maham Abedi