Canadian Muslims encounter increasing hostility: Siddiqui

October 13, 2013

By Haroon Siddiqui

 

Jews have historically been falsely accused of wielding too much power. Now Canadian Muslims are, especially in Quebec.

A national poll has taken a measure of bigots who exaggerate the power of those they dislike. Nearly a third of Canadians believe Muslims have too much influence in their province. In Quebec, 43 per cent think so. This is ironic, given that Canadian Muslims report feeling under siege and helpless to stop the demonization directed at them because of Muslim mayhem elsewhere in the world.

A second poll corroborates the increasing hostility toward Muslims — again, more so in Quebec.

The findings come amid an ugly debate in Quebec over its plan to ban religious symbols and clothing, especially the hijab, for those on the public payroll. And there are increasing incidents of hijabi women being harassed — not just in Quebec but in Ontario and elsewhere.

Islam is the fastest growing religion in Canada, as it is in the U.S. and Europe. The 2011 national census estimated the Canadian Muslim population at 1,053 million, up 73 per cent since 2001. In Quebec, it is 243,500.

This week on Tuesday and Wednesday, Muslims celebrate Eid al-Adha, the festival that marks the annual Haj pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia, a gathering of about three million, including an estimated 1,500 from Canada.

Forum Research Inc. asked a representative sample of 1,527 Canadians about theirperception of the power of minorities.

Thirty per cent say Muslims have too much power. Twenty-one per cent think that about the Sikhs. And 18 per cent each say that about Jews and “Asians” (Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, etc.)

In Quebec, suspicion of Muslims and Jews is much higher. While 43 per cent think that Muslims are too powerful, 32 per cent think that of Jews. Tellingly, more separatists think that way than others. “Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia common among Indépendendistes,” reads the headline on the Forum findings.

“If the Charter of Quebec Values is an example of the Parti Québécois practising dog whistle politics, it appears there are plenty of ears tuned to that particular frequency,” says Lorne Bozinoff, president of Forum.

I presented him with an argument: The poll merely quantifies the bigotry that’s always present in society; that he asked leading questions (“Do Muslims have too much influence in your province?”); and that respondents mouth off against whatever group is in the news negatively.

Bozinoff had a crisp answer: “Respondents had a right to say no but a great many didn’t. It was an IVR (interactive voice response) poll — people were pressing 1 and 2 on their phones in response to questions. There was no human being influencing them.

“The results are shocking but informative.”

An Angus Reid poll asked a sample of 2,025 Canadians — divided into Quebec and the rest of Canada — their views about different faiths.

Nearly 70 per cent of Quebecers don’t like Islam. In the rest of Canada, 54 per cent don’t.

Next on Quebecers’ hit list is Sikhism, disliked by 43 per cent, followed by Judaism, disliked by 41 per cent.

In the rest of Canada, 39 per cent view Sikhism negatively, 29 per cent Hinduism and 22 per cent Judaism.

Who holds the most negative views? Both polls point to the old, the less educated and the less wealthy.

Forum also shows that across Canada, Conservative supporters are more likely, 36 per cent, than supporters of other parties to presume that Muslims are too powerful. In Quebec, 47 per cent of PQ and 53 per cent of Bloc Québécois supporters think so.

Angus Reid shows that younger and university-educated Canadians hold more favourable opinions of non-Judeo-Christian religions.

We may shrug off all this as a passing phenomenon.

After all, similar views have been held in the past against Catholics, Japanese, blacks and, especially, Jews. Over time, prejudices shift toward newer minorities, including by those who had once been victims of just such prejudice.

Or it may be that more people these days are willing to admit their biases and do so with a stridency we used to think of as un-Canadian.

Still, Shachi Kurl of Angus Reid says that leaving aside Quebec, the results do suggest that the rest of Canada, while more open-minded than Quebec, “may be operating under a veneer of acceptance rather than actual acceptance” of religious minorities.

For sure, Canada is not immune from post-9/11 fear of Muslims. We see that in the crude public discourse, especially in right-wing media and among some politicians, especially in Quebec, who feed at the Islamophobic trough.

 

The Star: http://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2013/10/13/canadian_muslims_encounter_increasing_hostility_siddiqui.html

Tunisian man ‘flatly denies’ NY claims he sought to remain in US to build terror network

NEW YORK — A Tunisian man accused of radicalizing a Canadian resident charged in a plot to derail a train has been charged with trying to stay in the United States illegally to build a terrorism cell for international acts of terror such as poisoning a water system with bacteria, authorities said Thursday.

Law enforcement authorities had watched Ahmed Abassi since he arrived in the United States from Canada in mid-March and arrested him on April 22 at John F. Kennedy International Airport, authorities said. Abassi met regularly with an undercover FBI agent and met with another Tunisian citizen who later was arrested in Canada in the plot to derail the train, they said.

The head of the New York FBI office, George Venizelos, said: “Mr. Abassi came to the United States to pursue terrorist activity and support others in the same shameful pursuit. What Mr. Abassi didn’t know was that one of his associates, privy to the details of his plan, was an undercover FBI agent.”

Prosecutors, in a letter submitted to a U.S. District Court judge in Manhattan, said Abassi had radicalized Chiheb Esseghaier, who is charged in Toronto with conspiring with al-Qaida members in Iran to derail a train that runs between New York City and Montreal. Esseghaier appeared briefly in court on April 24 and made a statement suggesting he did not recognize the court’s jurisdiction.

Prosecutors said Abassi told an undercover FBI agent that Esseghaier’s plans were good but the time was not right.

Observers call on CSIS to better reintegrate terrorists in Canadian prisons

News agencies – January 4, 2013

 

When Public Safety Minister Vic Toews announced the return to Canada of Omar Khadr in September 2012, he said he was confident that the convicted war criminal would receive “appropriate programming” in prison to ensure his safe re-integration into society. Yet, when Postmedia News submitted an access-to-information request for any records that relate to how the Correctional Service of Canada manages convicted terrorists and extremists, it was told that no such records exist. Observers say the government ought to have developed some kind of strategy by now for rehabilitating these unique inmates, given the earlier convictions in the “Toronto 18” terror case and the conviction of Ottawa terrorist Momin Khawaja.

“It is reasonable to expect that some thought should have gone into this,” said Jez Littlewood, director of the Canadian Centre of Intelligence and Security Studies at Carleton University. “Aside from Khadr, the 11 convictions in the TO-18 case and the Khawaja case, should have initiated some discussion or paperwork.”

In recent years, the correctional service’s own annual reports have highlighted the need to address this apparent gap in prison programming. Canada’s spy service, CSIS, has raised concerns about the spread of extremist views within the prison system, noting in a 2012 threat assessment that “studies have identified that Islamist extremists have been further radicalized in prisons in countries such as Canada.”

 

Two Books Published on Shafia Family “honour” murders in Canada

The Globe and Mail – December 14, 2012

 

Without Honour: The True Story of the Shafia Family and the Kingston Canal Murders, by Rob Tripp (HarperCollins, 350 pages, $29.99); Honour on Trial: The Shafia Murders and the Culture of Honour Killings, by Paul Schliesmann (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 207 pages, $21.95). Paul Schliesmann won a National Newspaper Award for his reporting on the Shafia case.

In 2007, Afghan millionaire businessman Mohammad Shafia emigrated from Dubai to Montreal, buying his way into Canada under the federal investor program and bringing with him five daughters, two sons and two wives (one ostensibly a cousin). Two years later, he killed three of those daughters, Zainab, Sahar and Geeti, aged 19, 17 and 13 respectively. His first wife, Rona, 53, would also die.

At trial, Shafia presented himself as a pious Muslim, a loving if sometimes impatient father. In truth, according to these books, he was a thug and a hustler who had not stepped inside a mosque for years, a hair-triggered tyrant much feared by his daughters, and a man who made money easily and enjoyed spending it.

In his rants about “honour,” Shafia repeatedly invokes God. But as the trial jury heard, while many “honour killings” do occur in Muslim communities, Islam offers no justification anywhere for this very ancient type of murder, rooted in cultural practices that predate all the great religions.

Another focus in the two books is the disparate, sometimes muffled, cries for help from the victims-to-be in the weeks and months before the murders. Authorities in Montreal – teachers, social agencies, police – were alerted at least three times about problems in the dysfunctional Shafia home, yet the inquiries fizzled out. There were reasons: This unusual, well-to-do clan fit no familiar profile; there was no criminal history and a significant language barrier; and more than once, the children told of their father’s abusive behaviour, but then quickly recanted, saying it was all invented. Taken together, it was a recipe for inaction. One of the lingering images from the trial was the distressed testimony of teachers and social workers who wished the dots had been better connected.

 

Canadian top court rules judges may order witnesses to remove niqab

News Agencies – December 20, 2012

 

A Muslim woman who is the complainant in a sexual assault trial in Toronto has lost her bid before Canada’s top court to have an unimpeded right to wear her niqab while testifying. In a split Supreme Court of Canada decision, the seven judges largely upheld a lower court’s ruling that the woman, known only as N.S. to protect her identity under a court-ordered publication ban, may have to remove her niqab.

The woman, known as N.S.in the court, appealed to the Supreme Court arguing her sincere religious beliefs meant that her face must be covered before all males who are not close relatives. Lawyers for the two men accused of sexually assaulting her when she was a child argued that a fair and open trial means the face of a witness must be seen because facial cues are important to establish credibility.

Susan Chapman, lawyer for LEAF, the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund, reads the case differently. “The starting proposition here is that she’s entitled to wear it [the niqab] until somebody demonstrates, namely the accused, that it will impact adversely on his fair trial rights …The onus I see is on the accused.”

Part of the court evidence is that the woman did remove her niqab to be photographed for a driver’s licence, in front of a female photographer. Lawyers for the accused men point out that her religious convictions were not so strong that she refused to go through the licensing process, even though the photo could be demanded by any number of police officers who might be men.

 

Canadian politician defends speaking engagement at Islamic convention

News Agencies – December 12, 2012

 

Canadian politician Justin Trudeau is brushing off criticism about his upcoming keynote speech at an Islamic convention, saying he’s proud to be participating in the event. His planned Dec. 22 appearance at the Reviving the Islamic Spirit conference in Toronto has been attacked by an anti-Islamism website and those complaints have been picked up by some mainstream media outlets. The critics have raised concerns about radical views and the alleged affiliation of other speakers at the event later this month; they have also pointed to alleged ties between major conference sponsors and the Islamic militant group Hamas.

When asked about the controversy, Trudeau said he doesn’t share the critics’ concerns and he accuses them of trafficking in misinformation. He said politicians from all parties have spoken at the annual Toronto event — including former New Democrat leader Jack Layton a few years ago. The convention had 30,000 attendees in 2011 and at least 20,000 are expected this year. The working title of Trudeau’s speech is: “Being Inclusive in Canada: Our Story, Our Politics, Our Future.” The event, founded by young Canadian Muslims a decade ago, aims to promote a forum for people to hear different viewpoints related to Islam.

 

Canada Muslims Fight Violence Against Women

On Islam – November 28, 2012

 

In a new effort to fight domestic violence in their country, Canadian Muslims are championing a new campaign to end violence against women.

The campaign, Muslims for White Ribbon Campaign, aims to end violence against women in the country. It is being launched with the unveiling of the campaign website (www.MuslimsforWhiteRibbon.com) and with imams and Muslim leaders committing to joinwith others to work to end violence against women.

 

The campaign runs from November 25, which marks the International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women and culminates in White Ribbon Days at the Reviving the Islamic Spirit Conference at the Metro Toronto Convention Center on December 21-23. It also aims to promote healthy relationships through education and create partnerships among mosques, women’s organizations, and social agencies to create a future without violence against women.

This is not the first time Canadian Muslims join campaigns to fight domestic violence in the country. In January, Canadian Muslims joined the White Ribbon Campaign to fight domestic violence in their nation.

Canadian’s death sentence in Iran appears to have been lifted

News Agencies – December 2, 2012

 

Reports that Iran has suspended the death sentence of Canadian Saeed Malekpour have not been officially confirmed, and his family remain concerned for his fate, an activist close to the family says. The lawyer for Mr. Malekpour, on death row since 2010, has told Iran’s Mehr new agency that the sentence has been commuted after he “repented,” Agence France-Presse reported.

 

But in Canada, those campaigning for his release remain skeptical, noting that Iranian officials have in the past reinstituted death sentences they had supposedly commuted. Mr. Malekpour, a permanent resident of Canada, was arrested in December of 2008 in Iran when he returned to his native land to visit his dying father and accused of operating up an offensive website.

 

Mr. Malekpour developed a program for posting pictures on the Internet and that it was used without his knowledge for the creation of porn sites, human rights group and his family said. In late January, Iran’s supreme court confirmed the death sentence against Mr. Malekpour, Iranian media reported. The verdict provoked an international outcry.In February, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton called on Iran to halt the execution while Canada and rights watchdog Amnesty International also called for Mr. Malekpour’s immediate release.

France’s first gay-friendly mosque sparks controversy

News agencies – December 2, 2012

 

A Muslim prayer centre, which has been dubbed Europe’s first gay-friendly mosque, opened in Paris. Its founder described it as the first step in breaking “prejudices in Islam”, but it has been criticised by religious leaders for going “against the spirit of Islam”. The new “mosque”, which opened on Friday in a small room inside the house of a Buddhist monk, has smashed a taboo in Islam by welcoming transgender and transsexual Muslims. But the prayer room located in the eastern suburbs of Paris is not supported by any formal Muslim institution and many imams in France oppose it.

While a handful of gay-friendly mosques now exist in Canada, South Africa and the United States, Zahed believes his project is breaking new boundaries in France and Europe. It now boasts over 300 members.