Western governments generally display little anxiety about Islamists in power (e.g., Turkey) and are happy to help enfranchise their deadliest enemies (e.g., in Egypt). And now the message comes from Canada that they even accept Islamists being elected to their own parliaments.
On December 1, the ruling Liberal Party gave Omar Alghabra, 36, an overt Islamist, 488 of 773 votes cast, making him its candidate in the Mississauga-Erindale riding. Alghabra's speech on winning the nomination, reports the invaluable Canadian Coalition for Democracies, included a statement that "This is a victory for Islam! Islam won! Islam Won! ... Islamic power is extending into Canadian politics." Then, following Alghabra's victory speech, Markham Councillor Khalid Usman (also spelled Osman) told a cheering and applauding audience, "We have the east, we have the west, and now we have Mississauga!" One member of the audience, Victor Fouad, wrote in protest to Prime Minister Paul Martin, leader of the Liberal Party, telling him about the above, but received no reply. Fouad concluded that between Martin's silence and Alghabra remaining the Liberals' candidate, "I have to assume that Alghabra has the endorsement of the Prime Minister."
Omar Alghabra, Liberal Party candidate in the Mississauga-Erindale riding
Comment: Islamists being voted into office in the West is a another issue to worry about. (December 19, 2005)
Dec. 20, 2005 update: What exactly did Alghabra say? One person at the event, Sheref Elsabawy, was "shocked" to hear Alghabra's remarks about Islam, reports the Mississauga News. But Alghabra himself says the CCD's allegations are "not true," false, and inaccurate. "I didn't say a thing about Muslims or Islam in my acceptance speech. ... The whole thing is untrue." And former Mississauga-Erindale MP Carolyn Parrish, who was also at the meeting, does not recall hearing Alghabra make religious or incendiary comments. "I honestly can't say I heard Omar say that." Also, Alghabra's website carries the text of a Liberal Party press release, "Liberal Candidate Target of Ethnic Smear Campaign," that calls on CCD "to apologize for issuing a blatantly false, politically-motivated news release" and quotes Alghabra: "I categorically deny making this statement, and anyone who says otherwise is lying. I challenge anyone to produce proof that I linked politics and religion." The release also states that a videotape of Alghabra's acceptance speech bears out that he did not say those words about Islam.
Dec. 21, 2005 update: The dispute continues. CCD head Al Gordon made a correction to the Dec. 19 press release:
Witnesses to the event are consistent in saying that Omar Alghabra did not make the attributed comments as part of "his victory speech after winning the nomination" as reported in the press release. Mr. Alghabra is therefore correct as quoted in the Mississauga News: "I didn't say a thing about Muslims or Islam in my acceptance speech". By all reports, his acceptance speech was professional and uneventful. The attributed comments are reported by independent witnesses to have occured as part of the general celebratory exhuberance immediately following the acceptance speech. In addition, Mr. Alghabra made no attempt to distance himself from the statements made on the podium by Khalid Osman, which are reported to have occurred as presented in the press release.
David Ouellette of Judeoscope.ca adds to this:
To Mr. Gordon's understanding, based on several eyewitness accounts, after Mr. Alghabra gave a standard acceptance speech, Mr.Osman, seized the microphone and made a series of "statements about this being a victory for Islam and how Muslims have now taken Mississauga". Only then, says the CCD's President, without distancing himself from Mr.Osman's statements, did Mr. Alghabra make the alleged statements after stepping down from the podium amidst his supporters. Mr. Gordon also indicated that those who claimed not to have heard the comments are likely telling the truth, as the noise level and general pandemonium were reportedly such that many left the area near the podium after the acceptance speeches were over.
Dec. 22, 2005 update: The Mississauga News seems to have resolved the issue of who said what and when: The comments that alarmed the CCD were accurate – but all of them were spoken by Khalid Usman, a Liberal party member and councillor from Markham, and not by Alghabra. Elias Hazineh, president of the Mississauga-Erindale Federal Liberal Riding Association, said he heard Usman say, "this is a victory for Muslims." Parrish said she caught the pro-Islamic commentary at the meeting, but not from Alghabra: "I heard it, but not from Omar." Usman "made comments about Muslims eventually being [represented] in every riding in Mississauga. He made it sound like [Muslims] were taking over. It was extremely inappropriate." A CCD press release dated today confirmed these points.
Comment: I called Alghabra an "overt Islamist" based his quotes in the CCD report; that report having been amended, I take back my description of Alghabra. Usman, instead, appears to be the one to fit the description of an "overt Islamist." The fact that he is an elected official makes his comments especially noteworthy and worrisome.
Dec. 23, 2005 update: A "progressive" outfit called the Muslim Canadian Congress is now demanding that the police and the attorney general's office "investigate the role of the Canadian Coalition for Democracies in whipping up anti-Muslim hysteria." The MCC press release is an all-too-standard attempt to criminalize criticism but, as David Ouellette points out, it also contains further confirmation of the Islamist supremacism that CCD originally pointed to when it quotes Tarek Fatah, identified as a founding member of the MCC, saying (typos not fixed) that "Unfortunately, in Mississauga Erindale Liberal Party nomination meeting, the politics of ethnicity, religion and tribalism triumphed over policy and platform." The Toronto Star also confirms the general Islamist tone to Alghabra's campaign: "One man said Alghabra supporters came from outside the riding. Some, said Nazeer, who asked that his last name not be used, were urging people to 'vote for the Muslim, not the infidel'."
Dec. 24, 2005 update: Omar Alghabra is on a roll, declaring that he is not satisfied by the CCD's apology but will resort to the courts. "I'm pursuing legal action. The truth has come out, and I'm going to continue to focus on my campaign and let the courts decide what happens. I'm not going to comment on it any more." He refused to say whom he plans to sue.
Dec. 27, 2005 update: Ezra Levant gives five instances of Alghabra's Islamist-leaning record at the Western Standard's blog:
- Alghabra has condemned CanWest newspapers for labelling groups like Hamas and Hizbollah "terrorist" groups;
- Alghabra has welcomed al-Jazeera to Canada and railed against any restrictions on it, but condemned the CRTC for allowing the "abusive" Fox News Channel in;
- In the wake of the Arab riots at Concordia that shut down a speech by former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Alghabra had the temerity to blame Jewish students for silencing campus discussions, and supported an Arab conference on campus whose stated mission was the elimination of Israel;
- Alghabra has called for the total abolition of Canada's anti-terrorism laws; and
- Alghabra was stopped at the U.S. border and searched and fingerprinted—whether that was by reason of demographic profiling, or because he was on a watch list is uncertain. What is certain is that Alghabra turned it into an opportunity to gain media face time, Maher Arar-style, as an anti-American, anti-security mouthpiece.
There is also a sixth point, namely Alghabra's support for the Canadian government applying Shari'a law, a major issue in Ontario over the past two years. His backing for this initiative comes out in an interview with Alghabra in Al Mughtarib, a Canadian weekly, dated Dec. 14. (This article is not on the Al Mughtarib website; I was alerted to it by a comment on this entry by a reader named "hr" who sent me a scan of the Arabic text.) In reply to a question about the Shari'a, Alghabra replies:
Unfortunately, the majority of [Canadian] Muslims remained silent during the research of this law and abandoned the field to a dissenting minority [of Muslims] which had a louder voice. As a result, this plan ended in failure. The problem was not a stand taken [by non-Muslims] against Muslims, but it was we [Muslims] who were divided among ourselves and disunited in our ranks.
Levant makes two telling points about the Alghabra affair: (1) "the blogosphere, normally fearless critics of militant Islam and Liberal blatherskites, started to backpedal furiously, issuing grovelling apologies to Alghabra's delight" and (2) "I don't know whether it was Alghabra or Usman who made the offensive comments about Islam taking over, Islam being on the march, etc., etc. (in a nomination meeting in a church, no less). I really don't care if it was Alghabra or his sidekick. Neither of them belong in Canada's parliament."
Comment: Perhaps Alghabra, after all, is an Islamist.
Dec. 28, 2005 update: Al Gordon of the CCD points out that the Toronto Star's coverage of the Alghabra topic by Andrew Chung missed the real story, which was not CCD's error but "the fact that some alarming Islamist declarations were made in connection with Alghabra's victory." And the Star missed this even though it had a reporter present at the Dec. 1 event. Imagine, Gordon postulates, that a Conservative candidate in a similar spirit of celebration had called his win a "victory for Christianity" – how the Star would have been all over that!
Jan. 5, 2006 update: In an interview with the Jewish Tribune, Alghabra made a series of statements regarding the Middle East that, in his interviewer's understated words, "could be a cause for concern."
- Alghabra claimed he has "always spoken out against extremism and violence against civilians," but when asked specifically to denounce suicide bombers, he claimed that he was being "trapped" and refused comment.
- What about Hamas, which is committed to Israel's destruction? "I don't believe that Hamas wants the elimination of Israel."
- He wants Israel completely to return to its June 4, 1967, "in accordance with [United Nations] Resolution 242." Reminded that 242 calls on Israel to withdraw from "territories," not "all territories" gained in the Six Day War, Alghabra insisted that: "242 means all territories."
- Asked whether his views on the Middle East represent Liberal Party policy, Alghabra replied, "Yes."
Alghabra also said, concerning his nomination victory, that Khalid Usman made no statement about Islam.
Jan. 24, 2006 update: Alghabra won the Mississauga-Erindale seat. The final, unofficial tally gave him 26,883 votes, Conservative candidate Bob Dechert 23,525 votes, NDP candidate Rupinder Brar 6,647 votes, Green Party candidate Adam Hunter 2,585 votes, and Independent Ronnie Amyotte 317 votes.
Jan. 31, 2006 update: Charlotte West details Alghabra's political biography at "Canada's Islamist Seat," concluding that "He positions himself as a moderate; indeed, he speaks like a moderate, yet he consistently subordinates Canadian security norms and values to individual freedoms in order to advance militant Islam's standard positions and causes."
Apr. 2, 2006 update: Happily ensconced in office, one of Alghabra's first actions is to write Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay urging him not to cut funding to the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority. Well, one wouldn't expect otherwise, would one, from an Islamist?
Syed B. Soharwardy (right of the easel) and Omar Alghabra (second from right) celebrate the first copy of the Muslim Free Press.
Apr. 15, 2006 update: Syed B. Soharwardy, the plaintiff in a suit against the Western Standard and the Jewish Free Press for publishing the Danish cartoons, has now started a newspaper himself. And guess who was at the launch event for the Muslim Free Press? "Dignitaries included Member of Parliament from Mississauga-Erindale Omar Alghabra and Member of Provincial Parliament Etobicoke North Dr. Shafiq Qaadri." David Ouellette of judeoscope.ca provides some choice quotes of Soharwardy's (errors left intact):
"Presently, what Israeli forces are doing to Palestinians is worse than the Holocaust of the World War II"
"More than over a million Palestinians have been killed, millions of them have made refugees, and millions of them are in the concentration camps"
"Majority of the Muslims believes that Muslims could not commit these heinous crimes because of the sophistication and precision in the planning and execution of these terrorist attacks. ... Don't the world understand as to who exactly are the real beneficiaries of this episode. On the other side, who will be suffering the most from these terrorist attacks?"
Jan. 18, 2007 update: "Stéphane Dion, Leader of the Official Opposition, announced the appointment of Omar Alghabra, Member of Parliament for Mississauga-Erindale, as Official Opposition Critic for Citizenship and Immigration."
Feb. 27, 2007 update: In a hard-fought battle to extend two anti-terrorist measures, the Conservatives lost 159 to 124 in the House of Commons. According to a report in the Ottawa Citizen,
Conservative and Liberal MPs played hardball politics right up to the last minute, with Liberal MPs Navdeep Bains and Omar Alghabra threatening Liberal party legal action against Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre for claiming [Liberal Leader Stéphane] Dion had "collapsed under the pressure" of extremists and terrorist sympathizers in his caucus.
In addition, National Post columnist Jonathan Kay writes about this same vote in a column titled "National security vs. Liberal ethno-politics." He devotes most of the article to Bains and Sikh issues, with a couple of points about Alghabra. The first concerns the vote not to extend the anti-terrorist measures:
there is little doubt that certain ethnopolitical special interests are calling the shots here. Among veteran Liberal insiders, it is believed that the several hundred Sikh convention delegates Bains and his allies led into the Dion camp (via Gerard Kennedy) came with a price: an end to the investigative powers contained in the Anti-Terrorism Act, which was opposed for predictable reasons by various Sikh, Tamil and Muslim organizations. Indeed, I am informed by a well-informed source that the critical deals were cut months in advance, and were driven by Bains—and, in the case of Muslim delegates, by Arab-Canadian MP Omar Alghabra—through Kennedy, who'd been staked out early by ethno-politicians as an empty vessel into which they could pour their parochial agendas.
The second concerns Liberal leader Bob Rae's unwillingness to vote with his party: For this, Muslims
vilified Rae in Montreal. As Tarek Fatah [of the Muslim Canadian Congress] reported, the president of the Canadian Arab Federation (CAF) circulated an e-mail to Muslim delegates warning them that Rae's wife is a member of a Jewish advocacy group, and that they shouldn't "elect a leader who supports apartheid [i.e., Israel]." Alghabra, a former CAF president, stood by mute while these events unfolded.
Mar. 1, 2007 update: In a reply to Kay, Stéphane Dion, leader of the Liberal Party, writes at "Protecting security and rights with equal vigour," that Kay got it all wrong, that there was no "convoluted conspiracy in the Liberal party for a vote in return for support at the leadership convention." Specifically about Alghabra, Dion writes:
far from extracting any kind of price for their support, Liberal MPs such as Navdeep Bains and Omar Alghabra encouraged members of newer Canadian cultural communities to get democratically engaged in politics for the candidate they believed in, not even seeking traditional campaign titles for themselves in return.
Mar. 23, 2007 update: Omar Alghabra has, along with Navdeep Bains and Gerard Kennedy (a former Liberal leadership contender) have filed libel notices against Jonathan Kay, the National Post, CanWest MediaWorks Inc., CanWest Interactive, Douglas Kelly (National Post editor-in-chief), and Kay's anonymous source, claiming they were libelled in his Feb. 27 column. The serving of a libel notice is the first step in a defamation lawsuit.
May 30, 2007 update: Gerard Kennedy is suing over the Kay column but from the sound of it, Bains and Alghabra have dropped out.
Although Dion, Bains and Alghabra have also been upset by such allegations, Kennedy says in the statement that he's in the best position to challenge the "unfounded and defamatory allegations" published in the Post article. "Ultimately, my name was on the campaign that is being maligned and that affects all of the hundreds of good people who were involved in that effort."
Oct. 15, 2008 update: Omar Alghabra's parliamentary career has come to a shuddering halt with his defeat in yesterday's elections to Conservative Bob Dechert. This outcome looks like a fluke, however, for Alghabra lost by a mere 239 votes and the left split its vote among three significant candidates. The final tally read:
Bob Dechert, Conservative: 23,795 votes (42.6 percent)
Omar Alghabra, Liberal: 23,556 votes (42.2 percent)
Mustafa Rizvi, NDP: 4,767 votes (8.5 percent)
Richard Pietro, Green: 3,636 votes (6.5 percent)
Comment: This likely does not end Alghabra's political career, but it does render Canadian Islamists without representation in parliament for a spell.
June 12, 2009 update: Indeed, barely did Alghabra lose one election than has he been nominated as the Liberals' standard-bearer for the same riding in the next one.
May 2, 2011 update: Alghabra did not win back his parliamentary seat.
Apr. 16, 2013 update: Canada's Liberal Party has elected Justin Trudeau as its leader; one press account calls Alghabra "a long-time personal friend" of his.
June 25, 2015 update: Alghabra is running for the Liberal Party in the new and swing riding of Mississuaga-Centre.
Oct. 19, 2015 update: As the Liberal Party mounted a landslide national victory, Alghabra won in Mississauga Centre and is back in parliament for the first time since 2006-08.
The CBC report on voting in Mississauga Centre.