Canada officials met with Muslim leaders in "preemptive outreach" for "most politically correct terror bust in history"
June 9, 2006
MIM: Terror arrests (and community warnings) by police now designated as pre-emptive outreach? Muslim leaders say police should tell them about terror plots so they can 'put a stop to them' . Judging from the reassurances of Canadian officials that Muslims were not the target - i.e. the terror plotters who wanted to behead the PM and storm parliament '"just happened to be Muslims". Next time the secret services will put an ad in the local Muslim newspaper and call to make an appointment at the so as not to inconvienence the Islamists with an arrest during prayers !
*It was a form of pre-emptive outreach, for lack of a better word," said spokeswoman Barbara Campion. *Canadian Congress representative Tarek Fatah, who was at Saturday's meeting, said imams brought up a number of concerns after being told what had happened One asked why authorities hadn't told them sooner about the suspects, so the religious leaders could have put a stop to their plot, Mr. Fatah said.http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20060609.TERRORIMAMS09/TPStory/National
CSIS, RCMP briefed Muslim leaders before going public with news of arrests
OMAR EL AKKAD With a report from Colin Freeze It may have been the most politically correct terrorism bust in history. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the RCMP met with members of the Canadian Muslim community every month for a year to discuss security concerns before last Friday's 17 arrests. But the outreach program took an unprecedented turn during an 8 a.m. meeting last Saturday -- two hours before authorities briefed the world about the arrests -- when Toronto-area Muslim community leaders were told the details of the most high-profile terrorism sweep in Canadian history.
"It was a form of pre-emptive outreach, for lack of a better word," said spokeswoman Barbara Campion. Canada's secret security apparatus has been putting serious effort into softening its image for much of the past year, conscious of the fact that for many Muslim immigrants, the phrase "secret police" is synonymous with violence and coercion. Hussein Hamdani, a lawyer and member of the government's cross-cultural roundtable on security, said he and others tried to explain to police why they had to engage the Muslim community. "We would say, 'Look, you're doing a negative job when doing outreach because you have this wall of silence,' " he said. "I don't think they listened for a long time." But recently, CSIS has been listening. Under the tenure of Jim Judd, who took over as director in November of 2004, the spy agency has taken specific steps to bring the Muslim community onside.
For example, the agency has dropped phrases such as "Sunni Islamic extremist threat" from its lexicon. At last Saturday's news conference, agents very deliberately avoided using the words Muslim or Islamic when describing the arrests. Agents also made sure to mention they'd received assistance in the investigation from the Muslim community. According to Mr. Hamdani, this served two purposes: It projected a "we're in this together" message to Muslims, and it indicated to other listeners that not all members of the religion are extremist sympathizers. Authorities also quickly translated the contents of the news conference and other news releases into Arabic and Urdu. But the timing of Saturday's news conference was also very deliberate. The RCMP were able to communicate with reporters before any court appearance, thereby avoiding the possibility of a media ban. Authorities were stung by such a ban in the case of Canadian Momin Khawaja, who is accused of a plot to kill British citizens. Mr. Khawaja was the first person charged under Canada's new anti-terrorism laws. While the media were not able to report details of the case because of a publication ban, they were able to report Mr. Khawaja's family asserting that he was a victim of racial profiling.
The RCMP's image was also hurt by an ill-fated investigation three years ago known as Project Thread, in which 20 Pakistani men were held on suspicion of terrorism. The case was later exposed as being highly circumstantial, and the terror charges didn't stick. The operation eventually earned the mocking nickname Project Threadbare. But even though Canada's security apparatus has become much more savvy since then, it remains unclear whether the Muslim community's response will ultimately prove different. Muslim Canadian Congress representative Tarek Fatah, who was at Saturday's meeting, said imams brought up a number of concerns after being told what had happened. One asked why authorities hadn't told them sooner about the suspects, so the religious leaders could have put a stop to their plot, Mr. Fatah said. According to Mr. Fatah, another imam asked whether the authorities could keep the meeting a secret. "If bishops were meeting regularly with the RCMP, what do you think their congregations would think?" Mr. Fatah said.
'Real danger' of backlash against Muslims: lieutenant-governor
Last Updated Wed, 07 Jun 2006 18:24:23 EDT
Last Updated Wed, 07 Jun 2006 18:24:23 EDT
There's a "real danger" of a backlash against Muslim Canadians, says James K. Bartleman, Ontario's lieutenant-governor.
In the wake of a string of arrests in Toronto for alleged bomb plots, and vandalism at a local mosque that happened after the arrests were made, Bartleman said we must turn to our Canadian fundamental values — values such as tolerance.
"Leaders have to speak out at this time to make the point that the rights of everybody must be respected, and that we have to keep our cool in these circumstances," Bartleman said Wednesday to about 60 members of the Muslim community at the lieutenant-governor's suite at Queen's Park.
"We must always remember that we can't throw out the baby of all our values with the bathwater of our fight against terrorism."
Bartleman denounced the vandalism of the International Muslims Organization of Toronto Mosque in Rexdale, Ont., and said the 750,000 Muslims in Canada should not be tainted by the alleged actions of a few.
"[Muslims] are wonderful members of the Canadian community, and we would not condemn, for example, the Italian community because of the mafia. We would not condemn the Irish community because of the IRA," he said.
Imam Hamid Slimi of the International Muslims Organization of Toronto agreed that the community is in a "phase of a backlash."
But, he said it will only strengthen the community's connection with Canada.
"These attacks have done nothing but emphasize our commitment to this beautiful country of ours that we love and respect. And we are committed to the security of this country," he said.
Slimi commended the actions of police and the federal and provincial governments. But, he urged Canadians and the media not to judge the suspects until the trial, and to respect the families of those charged.
"Just think of the fathers and the mothers of those who are arrested, dealing with a big dilemma and shock," he said. "I am appealing to the Canadian public and everyone who cares about human values and universal values to have a look in their heart, and wait."
Muslims across Canada speak out
Muslim community leaders in Quebec and Manitoba echoed the same sentiments, and criticized the alleged acts uncovered in Toronto.
Salam Elmenyawi, president of the Muslim Council of Montreal, applauded the efforts of government officials, and said the community wants to work together to "uproot any wrong-doers."
But, he said there is a serious problem with racism and racial profiling in Quebec.
"We believe that extremism is a social phenomenon, stemming from, among other causes, the politics of social exclusion and the alienation of social communities," he said.
He said there has been an "apparent hate" since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and this must also be addressed.
Bachar Elsoth, spokesperson of the Canadian Muslim Forum, said in the wake of the arrests this is a critical time.
"With this climate there's a lot of calling out. People feel the fear, the insecurity because of their characteristics, or their racial description," said Elsoth. "They really feel they are the subject of some comments on the streets, or in various other public forums."
In Manitoba, there have been no reports of acts of violence or vandalism against Muslim schools or mosques since the Ontario arrests. But, Shahina Siddiqui, president of the Islamic Social Services Association, told CBC News on June 5 she hoped Winnipeggers don't characterize the actions of a few as the feelings of the entire community.
"We have to feel secure that we can be both Canadian [and Muslim] and that there is no contradiction, there is no threat," she said.
'This is not a Muslim issue. This is a Canadian issue.'
Canadians need to work together to address the problem, said Maryam Dadabhoy, community relations person for the Canadian Council on American-Islamic relations. She said it was not a Muslim issue, but rather, a Canadian issue.
"We are as in shock as the rest of the community," she said. "It's sort of a double impact on us, because we're feeling what everybody else is feeling, and then we have to worry about our own personal safety as well."
But, Zubain Patel, a youth representative from the Toronto Police South Asian Consultative committee, said he feels confident that Canadians are respectful and tolerant.
"It's very disturbing that someone would do that, but it's similar to the people that got arrested, that committed that act," he said.
"It's only a few individuals [who] don't represent the larger population, it doesn't speak for all Torontonians or all Canadians."e that happened after t