U.S. Terrorism 'Expert' Targets Canadian Muslims in Montreal
by Canadian Islamic Congress staff reporter, with files from Ehab Lotayef, Noreen Majeed, and Yahya Abdul Rahman
A self-styled American terrorism "expert" who spoke in Montreal last month has left that city's Muslim and Arab population outraged at being targeted as a collective threat to Canadian peace and security.
Steven Emerson, who has written and spoken against Muslims and Islam for more than a decade, was invited to lecture at Tifereth Beth David Jerusalem Synagogue in the Montreal suburb of Cote St-Luc on April 13, 2000. He was a guest of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, the same synagogue that previously hosted other anti-Islamic figures, such as journalist Daniel Pipes.
When he learned of the public gathering, Canadian Islamic Congress President, Prof. Mohamed I. Elmasry, contacted organizers beforehand, and was granted permission to a CIC representative to make a brief statement on behalf of local Muslims and to ask Emerson questions about his lecture, "Islamic Terror in Canada."
On arriving in person, however, CIC representative Mr. Ehab Lotayef was informed that due to the size of the crowd, no verbal response would be permitted and only written questions would be accepted. Mr. Lotayef left in protest, but Ms. Noreen Majeed of McGill University and Mr. Yahya Abdul Rahman of the Islamic Association for Palestine remained among several dozen Muslims and Arabs in the audience to report on the content of Emerson's talk.
Demonstrating little knowledge about Canadian multicultural society and the positive role Muslims play in it, Emerson stated categorically that the vast majority of Islamic media publications and charitable organizations operating in North America are simply legalized "cover" groups designed to support terrorism in the west and overseas. He included the Canadian Islamic Congress (a non-profit NGO) among them, despite having never been in contact with CIC. Emerson also maintained that media releases from these organizations, condemning acts of terrorism here and abroad, serve only to "blur the line" between the activities of an unidentified dangerous few, to whom Canada's immigration laws have given refuge. He also said the majority of the Muslim community has been misled into protecting them. He insisted, however, that he had nothing "personally" against Muslims.
According to several observers who are very familiar with Emerson's track record, the April 13 talk contained repetitive accusations, numerous factual inaccuracies, unsubstantiated references to CSIS and FBI investigations, and nothing new to justify his conviction that Canada harbors a growing underground Islamic terror network.
In a report by Craig Segal in the weekly Montreal Mirror, Emerson at one point claimed that "80 per cent of terrorist acts in the U.S. were caused by Islamic terrorist groups" -- a statistic dismissed as "surprising" by Rubin Friedman, director of communications for the Canadian Jewish Congress, which had no involvement with the Emerson lecture.
Emerson's confrontational attitude, selective ethnic targeting and misleading use of statistics are typical of hate propaganda, not the free expression of opinion, according to Yahya Abdul Rahman of the Islamic Association for Palestine, who stayed to hear the lecture. In an interview with the Montreal Mirror afterwards he said, "[Emerson's] hot-button statements create hysteria in the minds of the people." The CIC and others had tried unsuccessfully to alert Montreal Urban Community police and the RCMP about Emerson's visit, in hopes of having anti-hate laws enforced. Both private security and local police did show up, but seemed interested only in "protecting" Emerson from alleged threats on his life and in stopping vehicles after the event to do spot-checks on the validity of licenses held by drivers with Arabic or Muslim names. Police officials later described the practice as standard security procedure.
"It is regrettable that Emerson pits one Canadian religious group against another," said CIC president, Prof. Elmasry. "The fact that Emerson, with his anti-Islam track record in the U.S., was hosted by a Canadian synagogue is alarming."
Topics: Canada, Journalists