Hussein Hamdani denounces Bilal Philips as an “articulate spokesperson for (the) Wahhabi doctrine”
Authors: Hicham Safieddine and Sikander Z. Hashmi
Source: Toronto Star, July 29, 2005, p. A6
Original title: Scholar linked to suicide bomber preached in Canada; Philips’s views called ‘very balanced’ Influenced by treatment of U.S. blacks
Muslim Canadians are no strangers to the life and work of Bilal Philips, the religion professor whose teachings may have influenced a suspect in last week’s botched suicide bombings in London.
The outspoken Philips was expounding his theories about Islam in Canada, the country in which he grew up, as recently as two weeks ago.
Hundreds of Canadian Muslims listened to him preach to congregations at an Islamic centre outside Vancouver or heard his series of lectures at the University of Toronto campus in Mississauga this month.
His week-long U of T seminar, on interpretations of Islam, was organized by the Understanding Islam Academy, a Mississauga-based education project.
One of the organizers, Taha Ghayyur, denied Philips’s Wahhabi teachings are an inspiration to would-be bombers. “He certainly represents a very balanced way of thinking … from what I have heard from him and read in his books,” said Ghayyur, who attended another Philips seminar in Mississauga last summer.
Ghayyur said Philips spoke about Islamic jurisprudence and the ability to interpret the Qur’an in literal and metaphoric ways, depending on the context of each verse. And he talked about peaceful co-existence by Muslims in the West.
Philips’s own mother had deep Christian roots, but she converted to Islam after he did.
“I know my son is a good boy and he’s doing everything for the good of man,” said Joyce Philips, 82, who now lives in North York. “He’s trying to help people, not destroy people.”
Philips got the urge to help others while studying at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C., she said. That’s where he met young blacks from the southern United States who told him how badly they were treated. After two years of university, Philips decided to drop out and come back to Toronto to help other blacks.
Philips volunteered with the Black Youth Organization, tutoring young students for admission into university. In 1972, he converted to Islam and got a scholarship to study Islam in Saudi Arabia.
“He’s a great believer in the religion,” said his mother, “but he also is capable of seeing good and bad, things that are right and things that are wrong.”
For his part, Philips, 58, denounced the London violence as well as suicide bombings in general. “These are terrorist acts that are not sanctioned by the religion in any way shape or form,” he said in a telephone interview.
But a young GTA Muslim leader familiar with some of Philips’s work has a different take on the effect he might have had on some of his followers.
“I think the Wahhabi doctrine is an inspiration for many of these wayward youths and he is an English-speaking, Arabic-speaking, well versed, articulate spokesperson for that ideology,” said Hussein Hamdani, head of the Ihya Foundation, a non-profit Muslim group in the GTA.
Hamdani said Philips’s ideology is harmful to Islam.