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Islamophobia at the National Post
09/04/2003
On Monday, the National Post had a large, front-page article, with a dominating headline, about an Ottawa imam who supports "jihad" against the United States. Their tone was one of sheer terror at the knowledge someone was making such shocking and shameful comments in Canada. Denis Coderre, the Minister of Citizenship an Immigration was inspired to launch and investigation. Stephen Harper was so stunned that he nearly forgot what country he lives in:
Stephen Harper, leader of the Canadian Alliance, said Canadian Muslims do not support Mr. Solaiman. ''I found those comments disturbing. They're disappointing and regrettable. My firm belief is that Canadian Muslims are very much on the side of our allies and our own troops.''
Yesterday Gamal Solaiman apologized, saying his comments were "misinterpreted". Even this was shocking to the Post:
By adding the word "misunderstood," the imam appears to suggest the media misunderstood his remarks, although he clearly stated he supported Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's call for a jihad, or holy war.
When you look at what really happened, it would seem the Post was involved in a sort of fearmongering... or worse. Here's a paraphrased digest of what Solaiman really said:
  • If he were there, he would fight with them (against the United States)
  • He does support the call for holy war against the United States because the he feels the war is not a just war, nor one based on principles
  • He believes that after occupying Iraq, the U.S. armed forces will try to overthrow governments in neighbouring Arab countries
Notably, here's what he did NOT say:
  • He did not advocate terrorism -- in fact he said "When any Arab goes to America and makes mischief, that is totally objectionable."
  • He did not make any comments against Canada, its institutions, its government, or its people
A review of this would leave a reasonable person with a different impression than that given by the Post. Solaiman did not make treasonous comments, nor did he advocate terrorism or anything else dishonourable. One may, reasonably, be a bit concerned that Solaiman proposes to place religious allegiances ahead of national ones. Does this pose a threat to Canada? Maybe, but there are several things to consider:
  • This type of allegiance is not unique to Muslims
  • He has not refered to Canada at all in his statements
  • He has not implied that he supports war against the United States because of religious reasons, but rather because he views this as an unjust war. There is no indication that he would not support Canada in what he considered to be a just war, even against a so-called Muslim country.
This all seems to be within the realm of reasonable and acceptable speech, no matter whether or not one agrees with him. He is concerned about what the United States is doing because he thinks that they are presently involved in an immoral and illegal war, and he is afraid that they intend on expanding it to include the invasion of other neighbouring countries. Whether he is correct or not, his point-of-view is also held by a sizeable minority of non-Muslims around the world. His approach is to call on people, mainly from the region at large, to return and defend one country because he feels its defeat would threaten the entire region. Even if you disagree, what's scary about this? So, why the panic? Why the calls for deportation? I can understand why, since September 11, 2001, some North Americans may get a little scared anytime they hear the word "jihad". However, one would hope that a major newspaper wouild be able to show enough sophistication to listen to what someone actually says.
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