Canada: Senators challenge commentator who blames imams for spread of Islamism

Most mosques in Canada are “incubators of Islamism,” a controversial Muslim commentator told a startled parliamentary committee Monday, an assertion that was challenged by the panel.

“Any legitimacy given to them as a matter of community or political outreach only further entrenches the practitioners of Islamism disguised as religion and spreading their ideology,” Salim Mansur, a provocative University of Western Ontario academic, told a Senate inquiry into national security threats facing Canada.

He blamed imams and what he sees as the failed policy of multiculturalism for helping radicalize young Muslims and others to embrace jihadi doctrine.

“At homes and around family gatherings, political discussions abound as families remain tied to their native lands and cultures despite having settled in Canada,” said the India-born Mansur, a long-time public critic of multiculturalism.

“The exposure of Muslims on Fridays during communal prayers to sermonizing from pulpits by imams of political situations in Muslim lands and Muslims as victims of the U.S. foreign policy, of Jews and Zionism and of Hindus in India. This is a combustible atmosphere.”

His appraisal appeared to startle some senators. “I know many wonderful and amazing remarkable Muslim people, Canadians and otherwise,” said Liberal committee member Sen. Grant Mitchell. “When you say that mosques are the incubators of Islamism, surely you’re not saying that they all are?”

Mansur didn’t back down. “I don’t want to say you’re entering Potemkin village, but there’s lot of play going on when people come to worship (at) these places. And the hard reality is not shown.”

Mitchell tried again: “There’s billions and billions of non-radicalized radicalized Muslims who go to mosques frequently, pray five times day. It’s got to be more complicated than that?”

Mansur: “It is very complicated but we cannot walk away from the ugly reality that we, that I as a Muslim have been confronting all my life.

“The young people and others are not breathing in the bacteria of radicalization in the air. They do get that bacteria virus somewhere and one of the areas is the mosque. And because the mosque has that symbol of sacredness to it no one from the outside wants to question it.”

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Quebec City mosques targeted by anti‑Muslim posters

Quebec anti-Islam postersThree Quebec City mosques were the target of xenophobic messages over the weekend.

Signs reading “Islam hors de chez moi” – Islam out of my country – were posted on each of the mosques’ front doors. A mosque in the Limoilou neighbourhood, the Islamic cultural centre of Quebec City in Ste-Foy and the capital city mosque in Quebec City proper were targeted.

A group named Québec Identitaire seemingly has taken credit for the posters. The group’s name was written on the posters.

Khalil​ Bahji, who has been attending the Limoilou mosque since 2007, said he and his fellow congregation members are saddened by the attack. He said the members of the surrounding community are also disappointed, adding that they have been supportive in the past. We thought about moving to another place when our lease was about to end, Bahji told CBC Daybreak on Monday.

He told host Mike Finnerty that a member of the community approached members of the mosque and asked why they wanted to leave and whether the neighbours had done anything to make them feel unwelcome. “This action doesn’t reflect the real opinion of the people who surround the mosque,” Bahji said.

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Muslim groups disheartened by Canadian PM’s silence on anti-Muslim backlash

Cold Lake Mosque vandalisedMuslim groups are disappointed that Stephen Harper hasn’t spoken out against a spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes since two separate attacks by jihadist sympathizers left two Canadian soldiers dead last week.

The prime minister has not publicly uttered one word of support for Canadian Muslims following the incidents, which Harper and the RCMP have labelled acts of terrorism. He’s remained silent despite an apparent backlash against Muslims , including the defacing of a mosque in Cold Lake, Alta., racist slurs against Muslim candidates in Toronto’s municipal election and threats against the B.C. Muslim Association.

In the latest incident, windows were smashed early Friday morning at the Assunnah Muslims Association mosque in Ottawa. Mosque president Mohammed Mostefa believes the vandalism was “probably” in response to last week’s incidents: the hit-and-run murder of a soldier in Quebec and the killing of an honour guard at the National War Memorial by a gunman who then stormed the Parliament buildings.

“Our leaders have a very important role to play,” concurred Amira Elghawaby, human rights co-ordinator for the National Council of Canadian Muslims. “It’s the leaders who have to set the positive tone.”

Immediately following the 9-11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, Elghawaby noted that then-prime minister Jean Chretien visited a mosque “just to show Canadians that there’s no such thing as collective guilt.” She said her group expects Harper, “as leader of our country, to speak up for the minorities that live here.”

“He has a responsibility to represent everyone and certainly Canadian Muslim communities are extremely worried about a backlash and I think that needs to be spoken to.”

Alia Hogben, executive director of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, said it’s “very disheartening” that Harper has not bothered to speak out against the anti-Muslim backlash. But it’s not surprising to her. “I don’t think he much likes Muslims,” Hogben said.

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Police investigate vandalism at Ottawa mosque

Ottawa mosque vandalismA rock-hurling man smashed windows at a south Ottawa mosque early Friday in an act of vandalism that the vice-president of the mosque suspects is a hate crime.

Surveillance video at the Assunnah Muslims Association mosque recorded the man in a hoodie, shorts and sneakers throwing at least a half-dozen rocks at windows and the glass door of the women’s entrance to the mosque at 4:28 a.m. The stone thrower also shattered a large upper window and damaged the stucco on the west side of the mosque on Hunt Club Road near Bank Street. It’s estimated the vandalism caused more than $10,000 in damage.

Vice-president of the mosque Jalil Marhnouj said the vandal brought his own rocks. “When people came to pray here this morning, they saw the Ottawa police here and they saw the damage,” he said.

The vandalism at the mosque comes a little more than a week after Michael Zehaf-Bibeau shot and killed Cpl. Nathan Cirillo as he guarded the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the National War Memorial on Oct. 22. Zehaf-Bibeau then made his way to the Centre Block of the Parliament buildings, where he shot and wounded a guard before being shot and killed himself.

A man who attended the mosque was later stopped on Oct. 25 by police as part of a national security investigation. Officials at the mosque said Luqman Abdunnur upset other members of the congregation when he stood up after a sermon on Oct. 24 and praised Zehaf-Bibeau as a martyr.

There is no evidence the vandalism at the mosque is connected to either incident. Ottawa police aren’t currently treating it as a hate crime.

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Why online Islamophobia is difficult to stop

CBC News interviews Imran Awan, deputy director of the Centre for Applied Criminology at Birmingham City University, and Fiyaz Mughal of Tell MAMA on the rise of anti-Muslim hatred on the internet.

The far right is taking advantage of legal loopholes, notably the absence of an effective law against incitement to religious hatred, and reluctance by the authorities to take action against hate speech on social media, in order to target the Muslim community.

CBC also spoke to “Simon North” of the English Defence League who brazenly denies his organisation’s role in inciting anti-Muslim hatred online, claiming that “some Islamophobic messages might emanate from the group’s regional divisions. But they do not reflect the group’s overall thinking”.

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Canadian actor punched in face after ‘Islamophobia’ experiment goes wrong in wake of Ottawa shooting

A social experiment that ended with an actor posing as an Islamophobe getting punched in the face has shown that Canadians are prepared to defend Muslims in the face of overt racist abuse in the wake of a recent terror attack.

In an attempt to test whether Canadians feel safe in the presence of Muslims following the fatal shooting of Corporal Nathan Cirillo by an Islamic extremist last week, director Omar Al-Bach conducted the experiment in Cirillo’s home town of Hamilton to see how many people would defend a supposed Muslim from verbal abuse.

At the start of the video, Al-Bach introduces two actors, “Devin” as an outspoken racist and “Zack” dressed in a traditional Islamic kaftan with a white cap.

The video shows members of the public standing up for the victim – with one even prepared to punch the racist in the face after Devin accuses Zack of being a potential terrorist because of the way he looks.

Since it was uploaded 24 hours ago, the video has garnered nearly 300,000 views and the filmmakers went on Canadian channel Global TV yesterday to talk about their social experiment.

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Shut down all mosques, former Hérouxville councillor says

HérouxvilleOne of the authors of Hérouxville’s infamous code of conduct in 2007 is calling for all mosques across the country to be closed temporarily, in reaction to the killings of two Canadian Forces members in separate incidents in Ottawa and St-Jean-sur-Richelieu last week.

In an interview with the French-language TVA network, André Drouin, a councillor in the Mauricie town at the time, noted that both attackers from last week were recent converts to Islam.

“When we see what’s common with those two people … and there are others across the country … they all passed through mosques,” he says. “Maybe there’s a problem with mosques. You don’t need to be a genius to think of that.”

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Islamophobia: the ugly side of Toronto’s municipal election

Mohammed Uddin campaign sign defacedFor three Muslim candidates, Toronto’s municipal election took a very nasty turn this week.

On Thursday night, a Purolator truck driver allegedly hurled garbage and shouted “terrorist” at a team of volunteers planting signs for Ward 2 council candidate Munira Abukar.

On Friday, a Purolator spokesperson issued a prepared statement that said the company is “deeply troubled about this report” and is “taking this matter seriously.” The spokesperson said Purolator President and CEO Patrick Nangle contacted Abukar on Friday morning “to apologize and express concern.”

This was not the first time Abukar has faced xenophobia on the campaign trail. Earlier this month, the Star reported that a campaign sign featuring Abukar wearing a hijab was defaced with the words “B—-” and “Go Back Home.”

“You can’t let a few election trolls ruin your city and ruin your home,” Abukar says. “There’s no room for hate of any kind in Canada”

TDSB Ward 10 trustee candidate Ausma Malik appears to be the target of an anonymous co-ordinated attack. In addition to being heckled at a candidates’ debate, her campaign office says that thousands of flyers were distributed throughout the ward this week which, among other things, accuse Malik of being a supporter of the Toronto 18 terrorist cell and a proponent of Sharia law. One flyer even has a photo of Malik superimposed over a yellow and green Hezbollah flag.

“The accusations are incredibly mean-spirited and they’re lies,” Malik says. “I’m doing this because I believe in public education, I believe in our community, and I believe that an inclusive, equitable and progressive public education system is possible – and especially in light of this, absolutely necessary.”

In Ward 18, council candidate Mohammad Uddin claims he has been the target of a steady stream of Islamophobic insults. On Thursday, he tweeted a photo of one of his campaign signs defaced with the words “F— Islam.” Uddin claims racist graffiti has been discovered outside his campaign office as recently as Friday, and earlier this month, he says his car windows were smashed and his campaign signs were stolen as the vehicle sat in his driveway.

“Canada is a country of peace, love and brotherhood,” Uddin says. “In 20 years, I’ve never had problems like this.”

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Alberta mosque vandalised

Cold Lake Mosque vandalised

The Cold Lake Mosque was vandalized overnight in what local business owners and residents are calling a “disgusting” crime.

RCMP Sgt. Troy Hadland said police responded to a call of mischief at 6:30 a.m. Both front windows were broken and the words “go home” and “Canada” were spray painted with red paint on the outside of the building. Hadland said evidence at the scene was seized and sent to St. Paul RCMP for analysis. “This type of behaviour won’t be tolerated,” he stressed.

A steady stream of business leaders came in through the front door of the mosque offering their support. They described the crime as “disgusting” and assured mosque members that this crime does not reflect the view of the community of Cold Lake.

The mosque has been gathering posters, flowers and gifts from the community and displaying them by the windows that were smashed. One of the posters reads “you are home.” A pen has been left by the poster and people have been signing their names.

One of the members of the mosque came in at 6 a.m. to pray, and found his place of worship vandalized. He said the writing upset him more than the damaged windows, which can be fixed. “This is my home. Cold Lake is my home. My kids were born here. They go to school here.”

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Toronto council candidate’s election sign defaced with words ‘Go Back Home’

Munira Abukar election sign defaced

On Friday night, Ward 2 city council candidate Munira Abukar got a phone call from a supporter saying that some of her campaign signs had been kicked over and it looked like they had been vandalized. The signs were found on the corner of Martin Grove and Dixon Rds. in Etobicoke.

“We figured it was just general mischief,” she told the Star. “And then we turned over this one sign and saw an intentional and very hateful message.” The message read “go back home,” and Abukar’s face had been scribbled out in red marker. Someone had crossed off her name and written “b—-”

At about 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Abukar reported the incident to the police.

Abukar said she was “disappointed and shocked” when she first read the message, but it was her parent’s reaction that upset her the most. Her mother is a refugee and her father an immigrant, and both experienced racism when they first arrived in Canada. “To see the heartbreak on your parent’s face … It’s hard to want to protect your child and not be able to.”

Abukar isn’t very concerned about finding the person responsible for the hateful messages. Instead, she wants to create an opportunity for the city to discuss racism. “I think we need to understand that there is an underlying racism in our city, and there are people who believe that just because you look different that you aren’t from Toronto.”

The response on social media has been mostly positive, Abukar said. Mayoral candidate Olivia Chow tweeted her support on Saturday, writing that “there is no place for racism in this city.”

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