Anti-Muslim diatribe promotes false suspicion

By Ihsaan Gardee
Winnipeg Free Press | May 16, 2014

In “Terrorists in our midst” (May 12, 2014), Danny Eisen and Tom Quiggin apparently sought to educate the public about the threat of terrorism.

Instead, they presented a conspiracy-laden diatribe that, in a sweeping stroke, smeared our long-standing Canadian organization as “terrorists” and despicably suggested we intend to destroy Canada from within.

By painting a far-fetched plot of sedition, the writers deliberately avoided the truth and mimicked the documented anti-Muslim cottage industry south of the border.

Rather than educate, their article misled readers by suggesting associations between known terrorist groups and Canadian Muslim organizations that have roundly condemned terrorism and extremism.

Since 2000, the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) has engaged with fellow Canadians, promoting active citizenship and outreach. As a mainstream organization, we have worked tirelessly, educating Canadian Muslims about their rights and responsibilities, building mutual understanding between communities, participating in major public inquiries and appearing before the Supreme Court of Canada.

We participate in important coalitions with respected organizations such as Amnesty International Canada and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association to uphold fundamental rights and the rule of law — indeed, to help make Canada an even better place for all.

NCCM’s entire body of work is public and we have consistently denounced all forms of violent extremism and specifically condemned terror groups such as al-Qaida and Hamas. No amount of mudslinging will change these facts.

Apparently, this was not enough to escape the shameful suggestion NCCM is among the “terrorists in our midst.” Why? The writers absurdly claim NCCM’s predecessor organization, CAIR-CAN, was founded by the Muslim Brotherhood, a foreign political group. This is patently false. The public record shows our organization was launched in July 2000 in Ottawa by prominent Canadian Muslims led by Globe and Mail columnist Dr. Sheema Khan.

The writers then base their shoddy claims on an obscure document dated May 1991. This 23-year-old document featured one person’s ravings about “sabotaging” western civilization and contained a list of American Muslim groups in existence at that time.

Some claim this document was the Egyptian-based Muslim Brotherhood’s plan in America, but experts such as George Washington University’s dean of the School of Public Affairs, Michael E. Brown, say “(n)obody has ever produced any evidence that the document was more than something produced by the daydream of one enthusiast.”

How this document has anything to do with NCCM is beyond any comprehension of reality.

Yet, this single, two-decade-old article has now taken on a role analogous to that of the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion. It has been used by far-right conspiracy theorists and their sympathizers to suggest an all-out Muslim plot to subvert Canada and the United States.

But Eisen and Quiggin are not alone in dressing up false statements as facts.

Earlier this year, NCCM sent an open letter urging Prime Minister Stephen Harper to reconsider inviting an individual to officially accompany him on his visit to the Middle East because that person had publicly endorsed two prolific anti-Muslim campaigners.

Rather than address our legitimate concern, the prime minister’s spokesman tried to silence us with an egregious smear by saying NCCM has “documented ties to a terrorist organization such as Hamas.” When confronted, the PMO has remained tight-lipped about their dangerous accusation.

We subsequently issued a legal notice for defamation to the PMO. Any level-headed Canadian would do the same.

As noted, NCCM has consistently condemned terrorism and terror groups and openly advocates pluralism and a human rights agenda. How then could we be associated with such a group?

The writers seem to want people to believe NCCM is “tied” to Hamas through a “Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy” of which we and Canadian Muslims are unaware. The ludicrous nature of their claim instead speaks volumes about them and their intentions.

Eisen, like many Muslims in Canada and abroad, has suffered personal loss from al-Qaida’s terrorism. He has spoken publicly about it with the prime minister and purportedly shares a close relationship with the governing Conservatives.

This, however, does not justify smearing us and other Canadian Muslims with the tar of terrorism any more than it would justify saying all Catholics are stealth supporters of IRA-style terror. Such a divisive approach only plays into the hands of extremists.

Recall the Protocols of the Elders of Zion was an anti-Semitic hoax claiming a Jewish plan for global domination. It was an extremely perilous lie as history attests. Surely, we have learned much from that time.

Whether talking about Jews or Muslims, there is no conspiracy for societal domination. Suggesting as much is more than just false and offensive — it is outright dangerous and it should be shunned.

Canadians deserve a basic standard of evidence and honest debate from both our elected leaders and our media instead of peddling baseless claims that spread fear and suspicion.

Ihsaan Gardee is the executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM).