Hussein Hamdani acknowledges that mosques and Muslim groups may be radicalizing Muslim youth
Author: Sharon Boase
Source: The Hamilton Spectator, September 22, 2005, p. A4
Original title: Muslims urged to stop adding to intolerance
A local Muslim says Muslim Canadians who want to stop being the targets of racial profiling must begin by ridding their own communities of radicalism and intolerance.
Mosques and Muslim groups need a “zero tolerance” policy toward the demonization of other faith and ethnic groups, such as Jews and Christians, and should stop dwelling on the plight of Muslims in other parts of the world, says Hussein Hamdani, a Hamilton lawyer and political activist.
“They need to take a look at what’s being taught and the sermons that are given on the Friday pulpits so we don’t contribute to increasing the rage among young people,” said Hamdani, a member of the 15-member civilian roundtable that is advising federal officials on national security.
“We need to do away with talk like ‘Woe is us, look at what’s happening to us in all these other parts of the world. Even our own government is sending troops to Afghanistan to kill our brothers and sisters and rape our women,’ etc., etc.”
Hamdani’s comments come after two Muslim groups and an Arab group told a Commons subcommittee on national security Tuesday that Canadian security officials should focus anti-terrorism efforts on actual terrorist acts rather than on Muslims.
The Canadian branch of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Canadian Arab Federation and the Canadian Muslim Lawyers Association presented eight recommendations. They urged security agencies to stop criminalizing Islam and to start working with Muslims, for instance as intelligence officers.
Hamdani believes the federal government has to work harder at making Muslim Canadians feel a part of their communities. Canadians, he said, should reach beyond their comfort zone and get to know people from other faiths and ethnic groups.
Spokesmen for Justice Minister Irwin Cotler and Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan say the ministers will wait for a report from the security subcommittee before commenting.
Neither the RCMP nor Canadian Security Intelligence Service actively recruits Muslims. CSIS spokeswoman Barbara Campion said focusing on a specific ethno-cultural group in hiring would discriminate against others and could be viewed as racial profiling.
David Harris, an Ottawa-based security consultant and former chief of strategic planning for CSIS, said hiring or not hiring on the basis of religion is something a Canadian agency shouldn’t do.
“The U.S. is already terribly concerned about penetration of its organizations by Islamic extremists,” said Harris. “I would be very concerned if standard approaches to screening and hiring were to be leapfrogged over as a result of public pressure.”
Retired major general Lewis Mackenzie disagrees. The veteran of many conflicts and former advisor to the Ontario government on counter-terrorism and emergency measures after 9/11 said he would be disappointed if CSIS and the RCMP wasn’t recruiting Muslims to work in intelligence gathering.
When he served in Bosnia, Mackenzie worked with two Sarajevo-born Canadian Forces officers. After key meetings, they would tell Mackenzie what the other side said, a version that often differed from what translators said. But there is no denying Islamic extremism is a significant part of modern terrorism, he said. It would be “wrong-headed” to ignore the extreme interpretation of some aspects of Islam cited in the Bali, London and 9/11 attacks.