Saturday, March 24, 2007

What's a Moderate Muslim?

There's one word that stuck out like a sore thumb from the CBC's coverage of the MCC death threat:

A moderate Muslim group that called for a separation of religion and state in a recent documentary has received a pointed death threat. (Emphasis added)

I wonder who at the CBC decided the MCC was a moderate Muslim group? Perhaps it was an inside job. MCC founder Tarek Fatah's daughter, Natasha, is a producer at the national broadcaster. Or maybe it wasn't.

And by labelling the MCC as a moderate Muslim group, where does that leave the rest -- the majority -- of Canadian Muslims who don't agree with the MCC? Of course, if the MCC's positions are moderate, then certainly any group or individual that holds an opinion that is opposite of their's is implicitly an extremist or radical.

Want proof?

Main Entry:
extreme, outrageous, unreasonable


Thank you very much, CBC. You've just alienated the majority of the country's (growing) Muslim population.

Also, if you think about it, the MCC isn't really a moderate Muslim group. Examine the spectrum of Muslim in Canada and the MCC is on the extreme left and the folks who might be inclined towards terrorism and take everything very very literally are on the extreme right. In the middle are the majority of the country's Muslims, represented by groups like CAIR, CIC, CMF, COMO, etc.

So who's the extremist now? Certainly the Muslim Canadian Congress is an extremist group -- on the left. A group of radical, extremist, leftist Muslims, wrestling for free publicity by smearing other Muslim groups and intimidating ordinary Muslims who don't agree with them and their tactics. And in the middle of the spectrum are Canada's moderate, everyday Muslims who go about their daily business, practicing their faith without hurting anyone, through actions or words. wrote about this earlier.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Elections Quebec in same boat as MCC

Elections Quebec has reportedly received threats, as a result of which its director general is now walking around with two bodyguards. All because he ruled that niqabis won't have to reveal their faces when they go to vote in Monday's provincial election campaign. The decision has since been reversed due to safety concerns at polling stations.

Going by Tarek Fatah's logic (who has turned a death threat left on the Muslim Canadian Congress's answering machine into headlines), the director general of elections should be asking Quebec's premier and politicians to condemn the threats by those extremists within Quebec society.

Death threats and the Muslim Canadian Congress

One of the top stories on CBC news last night was the death threat Muslim Canadian Congress president Farzana Hassan and founder Tarek Fatah received on the MCC's answering machine on Monday. The threat sounds scary, but hopefully, it will just be a case of an angry person leaving an angry message. Threats are nothing new to public figures and leaders of other Muslim organizations have also received death threats in the past.

In any case, these type of tactics cannot be condoned. Yet, Fatah's call to imams, that they condemn and speak out against death threats, suggests that all imams have been encouraging people to make threats and are therefore responsible for undoing their actions. Instead, Fatah should ask all community leaders to educate members on why such actions are unacceptable.

Who knows, this threat may just bring in a new ear of cooperation amongst Muslim organization in Canada. The Canadian Islamic Congress has already condemned the threat and has stated it is in touch with the MCC (whoever thought that would ever happen). More organizations are expected to follow.

Update (6:15 p.m.): Just heard CAIR-CAN's Karl Nickner on CBC radio. So the MCC's Hassan and Fatah aren't the only one receiving threats after all. Nickner says he too has received threats. CAIR and 19 other organziations have issued a joint statement condemning the threat.

What has the Muslim Canadian Congress done for Quebec Muslims lately?

The Muslim Canadian Congress was in the news again today. This time, founder Tarek Fatah was commenting on the niqab voting controversy in Quebec. Of course, he could never support such a blatantly Islamic concept, so he had to come out in full force to make it clear that this was ridiculous and a mockery of his religion (Islam, presumably). He also pointed out that women in Pakistan don't even get to vote with their niqabs on.

Fatah can't seem to get his priorities straight. Either that, or his map of Canada has Quebec carved out. The reasonable accommodation debate has been raging in Quebec for months and there have been a string of Muslim-related issues in the news lately (i.e. hijab & soccer, hijab & prison guard, Muslims & sugar shacks, etc.). Yet, Fatah and the MCC have been practically mute on the issues, except for this article. No action to defend the rights of Canadian Muslims who wish to practice Islam; only words that appease the intolerant and add fuel to the debate.

This does not come as a surprise though. Despite what they try to portray themselves as (progressive, open-minded, freedom-loving Muslims), the MCC has shown it isn't really open-minded at all by choosing to promote certain rights while campaigning against others. A prime example: the MCC is a vocal supporter of same-sex marriage but just as vocal (if not more) campaigner against the niqab (how about this appeal: "Reject the Niqab"?)

The Niqab, Sugar Shacks, and Quebec

Another day, another "reasonable accommodation" controversy in Quebec. On Monday, it was sugar shacks. On Thursday, it was niqabs (face veils) and the provincial election on March 26.

Sugar shacks are privately owned businesses. If an owner wants to accommodate Muslims, Jews, Hindus, vegans -- whoever -- then that's his/her business. Certainly, Quebecois culture and its sugar shack traditions can't be in such a precarious state that they'd be threatened by a group of Muslims out to enjoy some maple syrup. Is it really that difficult to stop playing music for 10 minutes, at the direction of the owner, to allow a large group of fellow citizens to offer prayers they regard as necessary? How does a pork-free meal at a sugar shack threaten the culture?

It's said that Muslims should integrate. What exactly is meant by integration? Here we have Muslims, trying to participate in Quebec culture, and they end up in the middle of a controversy simply because they wanted to follow their faith. Integration that requires one to leave his/her faith is simply conversion and cannot be tolerated.

The Montreal Gazette published a very well written editorial on the issue yesterday. But the Gazette's editorial isn't merely enough. Where are the voices of moderate Qubeckers and Canadians? Muslims are always asked to condemn the acts of radicals and to clarify their stance on controversial issues; how about the other way around now?

As for the niqabi voter controversy, it is definitely a surprising ruling, even for many Muslims. While talk show callers ranted about how bad Muslims were (in wanting to live by different rules -- voters are normally asked to produce two pieces of photo ID when voting), many Muslims too were undoubtedly wondering what the fuss was about. After all, niqabis do have to identify themselves, at the airport, when getting a health insurance card or passport and at banks. So why can't voting be similar? Either they can reveal their faces to election officials (many believe doing so for ID purposes is fine) or if they wish, a woman can deal with them.

The Director General of Elections must be credited for trying though, especially in today's tumultuous times.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The time has come to speak out

For too long now, a large number of Canadian Muslims -- the mainstream -- have watched from the sidelines as their community, their faith, and their beliefs have been taken hostage, spinned, and used for political, personal, and ideological motives. Many Canadian Muslims have been afraid to speak out; afraid of being targeted by special interest groups, the media, and government agencies; afraid of being mislabelled and consequently having their reputations potentially tarnished for a very long time.

This fear has given a free pass to many -- politicians, media outlets, self-appointed community spokespersons, self-declared champions of Canadian Muslims, among others -- to play with the lives and identities of ordinary Muslims. Every quote, every soundbite, every press release, every controversy, eventually has a direct effect on the lives and minds of ordinary Canadian Muslims, yet the majority of ordinary Canadian Muslims have been shunned, subjugated and simply ignored.

The silence must be broken. Beginning tonight, the muck will no longer be left untouched. It will be raked in, examined, and told like it is, open for discussion without any fear.

After all, freedom of thought, freedom of expression, and freedom of association are guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Let's excercise those freedoms for once.

Muslim Muckraker