By Mohammed Azhar Ali Khan
19 June 2015
When it comes to maligning Islam or Muslims, hatemongers don’t let accuracy, fairness or truth get in their way. So a Point de Bascule attack on me also targeted several Muslim organizations. Clearly the objective is to kill as many birds as you can with one stone.
This is weird. Muslims in Canada are said to number about a million and a half. Most are contributing greatly to Canada and enjoy excellent relations with their fellow Canadians. By demonizing them, the Islamophobes seek to isolate and alienate them and divide Canadians.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police approached a few Muslims, including me, for advice on how to reach out to Ottawa Muslims. I provided them contact information of all major Muslim organizations so they could talk to them. Some Canadians, however, have asked me who can speak for Canadian Muslims when there are numerous Muslim groups, which work separately and in some cases do not even acknowledge each other.
I had formed the Muslim Coordinating Council of the National Capital Region. Its purpose is to encourage Muslim organizations to work together to uplift our most needy - youth drifting to violence, crime, drugs, alcohol and extremism; women victims of violence; the mentally ill; widows; refugees; people with disabilities; new immigrants, etc. - to ensure that they become productive citizens instead of relying on government handouts. Our second objective is to build trust and cooperation not only with faith leaders but with all sections of civil society to promote human rights, dignity, justice and equality for all Canadians. MCC is the only organization in Canada, perhaps the world, where more than 30 Sunni, Shia, mainstream, women’s, youth and ethnic groups are working together to serve Muslims and Canada. This is something Ottawa and Canada can be proud of.
We had two sessions with Public Safety, RCMP, CSIS, Border Services and Ottawa Police on how to combat radicalism. We hope to pursue this initiative and make Canada safer and better. I said that we can speak to the governments and the media on Muslims’ behalf because most major organizations have joined us. This does not prevent the governments or the media from talking to any Muslim or organization. We are simply there to help. But this bothers Islamophobes to the point where Point de Bascule said: “As far as the counter-radicalization program soon to be launched by the RCMP is concerned, Ali Khan and his organization are not a part of the solution, they are a part of the problem.” This is a libelous accusation not only against me but against the more than 30 Muslim organizations that are working together through MCC to serve Canada and Ottawa Muslims.
Point de Bascule wrote that I have occupied various positions in “Islamist” organizations. It does not say Muslim but “Islamist” to make it sound sinister. It listed Human Concern International which elected me a board member and vice-president for a time. Interestingly, Point de Bascule does not list other organizations where I did volunteer work to serve Canadians. I worked with a Royal Ottawa Hospital team to help mental patients, stopping only when the program ended with the transfer of the psychiatrist leading it. I was a board member of the Cumberland Heritage Village. I was in the diversity committee of the City of Ottawa. I led the Interfaith Working Group at the Department of Canadian Heritage, which helped diverse Canadians to understand each other better. Secretary of State Sheila Finestone said I should expand it to cover the entire Public Service. I co-chaired the Equal Opportunity Visible Minorities group.
Point de Bascule only mentions HCI. This organization relies mostly on volunteers and on staff who work for relatively modest salaries because their primary interest is to help the disadvantaged throughout the world. It enjoys charitable status with the Canada Revenue Agency.
Bascule accuses it, falsely, of “supporting political activities involving the promotion of Shariah in Canada.” Islamophobes love to frighten people with the bogey of Shariah. It is idiotic to say that a minority can think of imposing Shariah on a non-Muslim majority even if they wanted to, which they don’t.
As examples of HCI’s alleged misdeeds, Bascule lists “sponsorship” of the conventions of the Islamic Society of North America and Revival of Islam. HCI, a relief agency, does not sponsor conferences. It contributes to such gatherings to be able to display its literature and collect donations for the needy. Sometimes donors give HCI money for a specific organization or relief in a particular area.
Bascule states that Ahmed Said Khadr headed HCI’s Pakistan office at one time. Khadr, and many others, went to Pakistan to assist millions of refugees who had fled Afghanistan after the Soviet invasion. Khadr, however, became involved in violence. HCI fired him when it found out. Khadr was injured and arrested by Pakistani forces. Visiting prime minister Jean Chretien saw him in the hospital and persuaded the Pakistani government to release him. So was Chretien promoting terrorism and supporting Al-Qaeda?
Mohammed Azhar Ali Khan is a retired Canadian journalist, civil servant and refugee judge.