May 16, 2023
CALGARY – Members of the Jewish community were outraged to learn recently that the Calgary Peace Prize will be awarded later this week to Mohammed El-Kurd, a man who celebrated suicide bombers as “martyrs”, openly compared the State of Israel to the Nazi regime in Germany, celebrated the deadly Palestinian Intifadas and has publicly called for violence against Jews.
Michael Mostyn, Chief Executive Officer of B’nai Brith, expressed these concerns and others to Mount Royal University’s Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Jennifer Pettit. Following B’nai Brith’s advocacy, Pettit stressed in a response letter to B’nai Brith that the prize is an initiative of an independent faculty member and not of the university itself. The dean further assured B’nai Brith that the views of El-Kurd were not representative of Mount Royal University (MRU). Pettit also stated that MRU opposes antisemitism and that it understands the Jewish community’s concern with this year’s recipient of the prize.
The Calgary Peace Prize was established at the University of Calgary in 2006 and moved to MRU in 2016 as part of the John de Chastelain Peace Initiative. Past recipients include humanitarian, retired senator and Canadian Forces Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire, Truth and Reconciliation Commissioner and Judge Murray Sinclair, and Supreme Court of Canada Justice Rosalie Abella, whose parents both survived the Holocaust.
The Calgary Peace Prize was once a reputable award, while under the purview of academic institutions. This week’s presentation by MRU faculty member Mark Ayyash to El-Kurd degrades the prize into a theatrical exercise where one controversial individual commends another. Since 2019, Ayyash has been administering the award independent of any institutional oversight and consequently the award no longer possesses the prestige it once had when associated with the University of Calgary or MRU.
“It is important that the public realize that the Calgary Peace Prize is no longer the esteemed accolade it once was,” said Michael Mostyn. “This current rendition of the award is an afront to its past recipients and it should no longer be characterized as a celebration of peace-loving persons.”