The business of Muslim-bashing in Canada
Author: Mohammed Azhar Ali Khan (He is presented in the article as “a retired Canadian journalist, civil servant and refugee judge.”
Source: Saudi Gazette, June 5, 2015, p. 8
Original title: The business of Muslim-bashing in Canada
Islamophobia is big business in the United States and Europe. But in Canada, where the majority of people are fair-minded, Islamophobes, racists and bigots constitute a minority. Still, some persist in maligning Muslims and Islam through distortions and lies.
So when a friend told me about a Montreal blog that attacked me, I responded that when I wrote on controversial topics for the Ottawa Citizen I was sometimes criticized vehemently. But over 25 years, I built a reputation for fairness. I also worked with the Ottawa Muslim Association, which helped Muslims to preserve their values and to build understanding with Canadians of other faiths. I was often bashed by Muslims who – coming from diverse backgrounds, ideas and interpretations – differ often and not always politely.
So I ignored the blog. Recently, however, a friend has argued that I should respond to set the record straight.
Point de Bascule was launched in 2010 in Montreal by Mark Lebuis who is assisted by about 10 people, the Citizen has reported. Lebuis testified to the Senate Standing Committee on National Security and Defence in February and won some applause. However, Liberal Senator Grant Mitchell said Lebuis’s “very sweeping allegations” are “extremely dangerous.” Lebuis shot back that he works with Muslims and “these Muslims are extremely concerned and alerted a lot of people about the radicalization process that is occurring in mosques.”
My guess is that Lebuis’s Muslim pals number perhaps around a dozen and avoid mosques like the plague. They are correct in that some radicalization might take place at mosques – Canadian Muslims number perhaps a million and a half and it is reasonable to believe that some are radicalized. Indeed, a few have been found guilty of terrorism. Two converts also killed two innocent Canadian soldiers. Muslim leaders and imams have strongly condemned this brutality as being against Islamic teachings.
The problem with Lebuis and his friends is that they keep crying “wolf” and assert or imply that most mosques and Muslims, whom they pejoratively call Islamists, preach hatred and violence. Without evidence they malign an entire community for the crimes of a few.
They attacked Faisal Kutty, a respected lawyer, academic and human rights activist, who teaches at Valparaiso University Law School in Indiana and Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto. Kutty wrote in the Huffington Post about the Point de Bascule’s lies about him.
Another victim is Hussein Hamdani, a Hamilton lawyer, who has been building bridges between the security agencies and Muslim youth, according to the Montreal Gazette. In 1995, the government appointed him to the Cross Cultural Roundtable on National Security. Its 15 members from diverse communities discuss national security from time to time and advise the government. The US government also invites Hamdani to share his insights on radicalization.
After Point de Bascule attacked Hamdani, and Hamdani hosted a fundraiser for Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau, the government suspended him from the Cross Cultural Round Table.
The Montreal Gazette wrote that Hamdani said he plans to sue some parties for defamation. “Anyone who is an active member of the Muslim community has a dossier on Point de Bascule. It was almost a badge of honor. But this has been devastating.”
The Montreal Gazette quotes Siegfried Mathelet, a Université du Québec à Montréal researcher, as stating that Lebuis, like many US anti-Islam bloggers and groups, takes anything problematic overseas with Islam or Muslims – like the Boko Haram or Daesh (the self-proclaimed IS) – and tries to link them to Canadian Muslims. Mathelet said he knows of Lebuis as a “pseudo-expert” who has been trying to gain influence with politicians and the media though he has no ties to academic research.
Even though the Senate’s National Committee on National Security and Defence heard his testimony on Muslims and Islam, the committee has no CV or biography on file for Lebuis. Committee Chair Daniel Lang introduced him as the founding director of the “Montreal-based independent research organization Point de Bascule.” He provided no other information.
The Montreal Gazette said it had been unable to find out more about Point de Bascule. It quoted Matthew Duss, the main author of Fear, Inc. 2.0 – published by the Center for American Progress on anti-Islam organizations – as saying that Muslim-bashing is a very lucrative business in the US and that he believes that Point de Bascule may be part of an international “Islamophobia network.”
So it is not surprising that Point de Bascule attacks numerous Muslims and Muslim organizations. In my case, Point de Bascule has published several blogs and cited my articles going back to my student days. It has also written about where I was born and where and what I have done since.
While attacking my work as a journalist and a community leader, it has not mentioned in its main blog that I have received the Order of Canada, the country’s highest award, the Order of Ontario, the province’s highest honor, and the Queen’s Diamond and Golden Jubilee awards for my work as a journalist, my leadership of Muslims in Ottawa and my efforts to promote understanding between Canadians of different faiths. That is not surprising.