Toronto imam defends mosque address

A Toronto imam said yesterday he did not intend to insult non-Muslims during an address at his mosque on those who want the niqab and burka banned. Said Rageah, the imam at Toronto’s Abu Huraira Centre, said that only someone who did not understand Islam would have come away from last Friday’s prayers thinking that anyone at his mosque hated members of other faiths.

Imam Rageah yesterday said in a brief interview that in both references he was not literally meaning “destroy” but rather to confound or weaken those that would infringe on their rights. In last week’s address, he used the word “kuffar” repeatedly, a word some say is highly derogatory of non-Muslims, especially Christians and Jews. Tarek Fatah, a Canadian Muslim commentator, likened the word to a racist slur. Walid Saleh, professor at the study of religion at the University of Toronto, said this week that kuffar could be seen as a neutral term.