The Canadian Jihad

Category: Americas, World Affairs

Out of the horror and tragedy of Sept. 11th, came a rude awakening for all of us, including Muslims.  In an attempt to come to terms with the proclaimed acts of "jihad" Canadian Muslims were forced to engage in jihads (struggles) of our own in a frenzy to establish our identity and alliances.

The acts of a misguided few became a warrant to target an entire community.  Muslims and Arabs, and those perceived to be, were subjected to verbal and physical assaults, arson, death threats, bomb threats, harassment, vandalism and venomous e-mails.   In fact, a Hindu temple in Hamilton was burned to the ground within days.   Police forces across the country reported significant increases in hate crimes and the Toronto Hate Crimes Unit even noted that despite the serious underreporting, 90% of the increase in hate crimes in 2001 was directly attributable to 9-11. 

The perpetuation of stereotypes and the growing perception that Muslims represented the 'other' made it easy to indict the community through guilt by association.  The climate of distrust resulted in a number people being detained without charges, legitimate money transfer businesses shutting down, established Mosques and charities losing support and a Muslim landlord even having his insurance cancelled for his apartments.   And none of them had committed a crime.

However, all was not grim.  Many Canadians reached out and expressed their support. For every venomous email received, the Canadian Muslim Civil Liberties Association (CMCLA) received five to six supportive ones.   A number of church groups even offered to protect Muslim places of worship.  These heart warming gestures made one believe in humanity and feel glad to be Canadian.

Unlike the premature rush to judgment in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, most media outlets did a much better job in distinguishing and reaching out to the community.  But some continued to fan the flames of hatred.  "[N]ot all the terrorist caves are in Afghanistan...some are in Quebec and Ontario," wrote George Jonas of the National Post.   Others in the media even belittled the Muslim experience.  "It is hard," the National Post opined, "to get worked up about the occasional slur directed against North American Muslims."  And as if she was disappointed, in her column titled "If I jihad a nickel for each 'victim,' National Post columnist Christie Blatchford concluded that the backlash "failed to materialize in any significant way."  

Despite the countless reported press conferences and press releases condemning the terrorist attacks, fund raisers and blood donor clinics for the victims organized in Canadian mosques the efforts did not seem to cut it even for the usually sober Globe and Mail.  A lofty editorial suggested that Muslims should hold a rally against Bin Ladin.  Why should we take ownership over an act we had no part in?  Do we really expect the Italian community to rally against the Mafia? 

Though the backlash was demoralizing, it was anticipated in the wake of such a horrific crime. However, the fear mongering effect of the government initiatives post 9-11 struck the hardest blow.  Although  politicians at all levels came out strongly against the backlash, the anti-terrorism legislation, amendments to the Immigration Act, the alarmist pronouncements from CSIS and unwritten profiling policies created a sense of insecurity in many.  Clearly, the long term impact of systemic discrimination arising from rush and ill-conceived laws and policies, even if  unintended, will be far more devastating.  As Neil Bissoondath recently noted: "Public policy, even if based on reasonable fear, must be examined rationally and weighed not just against possible threat but against the ideals we claim to believe in."

There is justifiable fear that Muslims will bear the brunt of the anti-terrorism legislation's provisions with respect to secret evidence, charitable status revocation, greater police powers and preventive detention.  Already numerous innocent Muslim residences have been raided.  CSIS reliance on intelligence provided by foreign countries -- which may not abide by any democratic norms, are unaccountable to the Canadian public and have their own agenda -- will seriously impact charities and individuals.  

During a CBC town hall meeting, the Minister of Transportation David Collenette personally stated to us that profiling would not be adopted as a policy.  The facts on the ground belie this.  Advocacy groups have documented numerous instances of profiling.  Numerous Muslim and Arab employees have also alleged that there are unwritten profiling policies in place.

The chilling effect and stigma of police showing up unannounced at your work is difficult to appreciate.  Too many Muslims are afraid to exercise their legitimate political and civil rights for fear of being added to "watch lists".   In fact, some of my clients have expressed concern about dealing with me because of my open criticism of the government. What is particularly disturbing are the instances where CSIS and RCMP agents reportedly refused to meet with individuals when they insist that their lawyer be present.  

Many have asked whose side we are on?  As if there was a dichotomy in being Canadian and Muslim.  Canada's  unique multicultural mosaic, always seemed to encourage the "strength in diversity," and so being hyphenated Canadian, was a source of pride.  Being Canadian and Muslim was never a contradiction, and in fact many came to this land to be able to practice their religion freely and cherished the many Islamic principles Canada put into practice.  

The post 9-11 climate has made our society less open as the right to dissent is challenged and even some of our fundamental values are being compromised.  As the terrorists hijacked Islam and various legitimate causes held dearly by many peace loving people, let us not allow for our cherished values to be hijacked as well.  As Canadians we must ask how much, if any, of our very essence we are willing to sacrifice?

It is imperative that all fair-minded Canadians stand up for our cherished values in the face of increasing pressure from certain quarters, including the U.S. Congress, for selfish reasons, if not out of concern for justice.  After all, yesterday it was the Japanese, today its the Arabs and Muslims, but tomorrow it may be you.


Faisal Kutty is a Toronto-based lawyer and writer.  He is also a columnist for the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.  He serves as legal counsel to a number of leading Muslim organizations and as General Counsel for the Canadian-Muslim Civil Liberties Association (CMCLA).  He is also a board member of the Canadian branch of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR-CAN). Bushra Yousuf is a volunteer with the CMCLA.



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  11 Comments   Comment

  1. Ousmane Diallo from Senegal- West Africa

    Just a few words to comment on this new "mode" of islamic identity. If 911 has set a precedent in the world and became a turning point for muslims, it is important and crucial for us to start breaking up with our colonial past and culture of dominated. This complex of inferiority of identifying ourselves to the system of values of the west is really the basis of our demise. It is time for muslims to address the "balkanization" of our Oummah. For those who hold other citizenship, they need to understand that our allegiance is to Allah and his messenger, and not to a piece of constitution that can be changed and amended at will. "They only follows their speculative imagination. Speculation do not serve the Truth for a bit" (Qur'an).

    Reading the seerat of the prophet (PBUH), we can see how the muhajeerun of the first hijra delt with their status in Nubia. They did Dawa, lived among the people as guests and honoured the people of Nubia, but their identity and allegiance were to the prophet and not to the customs and pagan laws of Nubia. Thus, as muslims we live in the west respecting the people and the laws of the country, but we do not say that their constitutions and values system are islamic. We are above all muslims, what ever comes after is secondary (Race, Culture, Country of origin). The pain we feel these days concerning the state of affairs of the Oummah demonstrates the real fitra of being a muslim.

    Muslims of all nations and tribes unite.

    How can that become reality, and not mere wishful watchword, is the mission of our islamic leaders and intellectuals.

    Thank you for the hard work in Allah's path. May Allah grant you success in this world and the Here-After. Amin

    Your brother in faith Ousmane "Al Fulaniou"

  2. joel levy from Canada

    I'm very impressed. It has been over a year since I've visited this site. I stopped reading along because after Sept 11th I wasn't all too interested in reading anymore "Israelis are worse than nazis...", or "American Impeialist agression ......" type stories.

    It seems to me you've taken a more balanced moderate viewpoint, or perhaps were just aware that the veiled threats published here would no longer go unheeded. Either way it seems as if you've transformed your site into something resembling a rational educated medium, as opposed to it's hateful, propaganda spewing predeccesor.

  3. Richard Leader from USA

    I want to express my gratitude to those proud Muslims who are brave enough to publicly condemn Islamic extemists who have hijacked Islam in their hateful remarks and their hideous acts of homicide.

    Frankly, the US response to all of the acts of Islamic terrorism should be led by American Muslims who are best able to tell Muslims abroad that America might be wrong in a lot of what it does but is a place where freedom to worship is a sacred right. America is not a place where Americans are willing to blow themselves up in order to punish Muslims.

    I am not a Muslim, but I know that Muslims in their hearts are not hateful people. I am Jewish but I know that while Jews in their hearts are not hateful people many Jewish extemists are willing to act towards others in a way I a believe brings shame to our religious traditions.

    Jews have no business treating any other human beings the way the Palestinians have been treated by the Israelis. I am glad to know that a growing number of Israelis feel as I do.

    I am not afraid to speak out against those Jews who claim to act on behalf of God in committing acts of hatred No Jew is entitled to speak for God and I believe that Muslims believe the same about other Muslims.

  4. S L Mustapha from Australia

    Islamic Greetings! This was of particular interest as in most ways it relates to the position here in Australia. We should retain our claim on rights in the face of our innocence. However, unfortunately, for whatever reason, we are seeing an increase in crime by some nominal Muslim youths. This, of course is sporadic and an extremely small percentage when compared to the numbers of practising Muslims. However, as may be imagined, it certainly plays into the hands of media and politics alike. If there is one thing we should have learned from this dreadful experience, it was that the truly Islamic life - not the parody being perpetuated by non-Muslims - is that which will not only bring us through these dreadful times, but will reach out to those of non-Muslim communities in a positive way. As Prophet Ibrahim and his companions prayed, so should we, "O Allah, let us not be a (trial and temptation) for the unbelievers!"

    Wassalaam

  5. akhter shaikh from canada

    I thought the article was great, but should be published for non-muslims.

  6. Kadeeja Mansoor from UAE (Indian National)

    When the September 11th attack was condemned (and it rightfully needs to be) and the brunt was faced by the Muslims worldwide ---The Carnage in Gujarat has been forgotten and not even a tear has been shed by the world.

    During my recent visit to Gujarat, I was taken aback at the state of affairs at the camps -- where even food supplies were scarce and the Government was mainly concerned about the closure of camps to facilitate elections.

    My question is, on who are TERRORISTS? Aren't the people who slit the stomach of a 9 month pregnant lady and removed the foetus , urinated on it and danced around it ---TERRORISTS? Aren't the people who forced little children to drink petrol and then danced at the sound of the rupturing stomachs --- TERRORISTS? Can the world ever do justice to the numerous women raped, mass raped, gang raped and then burnt alive? Can the Country of Non-violence, ever do justice to the little child whose whole family was burnt alive and not even a FIR was filed? Can my great country ever be able to shun those politicians and the fanatics who performed such ghastly acts and go around boasting openly nationwide that it was only a test and it would be repeated over & over again?

    Can anyone give me the definition of TERRORISM and why it is directed only towards the Muslims - whether they are victims or the perpetrators?

  7. Deborah Frans from USA

    a comment on Kiambu Abdul-Malik Akhdarr

    comment - Bin Laden seems to justify his actions saying it is pleasing to God and that the terrorist acts are to defend Islam. I have read several statements by Muslims who say that isn't so. OK. Bin Laden has twisted the words of the Koran as a means to justify his actions. Some have even said that based on Bin Laden's actions he could not be a good Muslim. So if it is wrong to characterize Islam by the actions of Bin Laden, I believe it is equally wrong to call another terrorist, Tim McVeigh, a Christian. His actions did not reflect the character of Jesus Christ. Anyone who is a Christian, as I am myself, knows that being a Christian isn't a matter of what you want call yourself or a title that another person give you - it is about knowing God and how 'HE' sees you. It is about a heart change - not something that was evident in Tim McVeigh. I realize that my being a Christian may mean that I am not welcome at your website or to leave a comment. If that is so, I apologize.

  8. Kiambu Abdul-Malik Akhdarr from USA

    Assalaam-Alaikum. Living here in NY I've witnessed the collapse of the WTC and there were a number of Muslims who died in the collapse as well,I once worked there[79-80]as a security officer. The hate crimes here in NY we're aimed at Muslims,Arabs and Middle-Easterners as well as any one who resembled such. But the US has been based upon double-standard racism since its founding;Timothy McVeigh is Irish-Christian and Ted Kazinsky{Uni-bomber} is Polish-American and neither the Irish nor the Polish community suffered any attacks or harassments for the actions of their misguided brothers.

  9. Mohammad Sultan from Canada

    Excellent work, media is the most important tool now for Muslims to defend their rights.

  10. Megatron from Canada

    As a Canadian Muslim, I think the article was great. Things are not as bad here as they are in the United States, however, wherever ignorance exists, a hatred towards Islam exists. Judicial policies have changed for the worst, however, for the most part discrimination against Muslims is more concealed and is not as blatant as one would observe in the States.