Canadian Muslims deserve better
Monday, May 02, 2005
In the days following 9/11, the formerly obscure Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC) made a name for itself with fiery denunciations of Israel, the United States and the war against terrorism. For a while, the group remained a media darling, eagerly sought out by Canadian journalists looking to report the Muslim point of view. But last year, the group was marginalized when its president, Mohamed Elmasry, declared his support for terrorist attacks against Israeli adults during a televised appearance. (His theory was that since many Israelis are subject to reserve army duty, they are all combatants.)
But the organization is still around. We know this because, like many journalists, we regularly receive the CIC's "Friday bulletins." These e-mail messages typically consist of clippings from left-wing publications such as Britain's Guardian. But they also contain original essays from CIC officers. A notable example is last Friday's vicious article, Hitler, Bush and the Big Lie, by CIC vice-president Wahida Valiante. Since there are still some who take the CIC seriously as a mainstream ethnic lobby, we believe her claims demand a rebuttal.
Hitler, Bush and the Big Lie, adapted from an article first circulated by the CIC in 2003, follows in the group's usual pattern by laying the blame for the world's Muslims on Jews -- oops, sorry, "Zionists" -- and their media minions. But Ms. Valiante goes further. The Zionists, she claims, are waging a propaganda war that is worthy of -- indeed, copied from -- Adolf Hitler. And like the Nazis, she suggests, they threaten to take us down the road of "genocide, ethnic cleansing, occupation, invasion and war" in Iraq, Israel and elsewhere.
The CIC's timing wasn't good: The day before last week's bulletin was circulated, Iraq's National Assembly created the first freely elected government in Iraqi history. One would think a group calling itself the Canadian Islamic Congress would applaud such a development -- not to mention the liberation of 20 million Iraqis from a murderous despot. But the CIC is so full of paranoia at the machinations of "Zionists" that these milestones are ignored in the group's communiques. As Ms. Valiante apparently sees it, democracy in Iraq, the Palestinian Authority, Afghanistan and other parts of the Muslim world is just a cloak for a Nazi agenda.
If we're picking on Ms. Valiante, well, at least what we write is truthful. Compare this to the various otherworldly claims in Ms. Valiante's own screed -- such as that well-respected U.S. Middle Eastern scholar (and occasional National Post contributor) Daniel Pipes seeks to "ethnically cleanse America of its Muslim presence" -- a vicious calumny that Ms. Valiante plucked from thin air.
Closer to home, consider her assault on "noted Zionist" Israel Asper. As Ms. Valiante sees it, the late Mr. Asper is a student of Hitler's propaganda techniques. Her proof? The CanWest media founder wrote in July, 1999, that militant Islam "has the power to do mischief." Six months after Mr. Asper wrote those words, Canadian terrorist Ahmed Ressam tried to enter the United States to bomb Los Angeles Airport. Less than two years later, 19 Islamists would kill 3,000 people. Assuming one agrees that this qualifies as "mischief," we'd say Mr. Asper should be singled out more for his prescience than his hatefulness.
Putting aside Ms. Valiante and her poisonous column, there is a larger issue at stake here. Canada is home to hundreds of thousands of Muslims. And like every religious and ethnic group, they deserve to have their views promoted fairly and effectively. But so long as their most prominent organization makes excuses for terrorism and distributes harmful, fallacious propaganda, that will be a difficult task.
© National Post 2005
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