Controversial Canadian Muslim Leader Fuels Sectarian Controversy
Controversial Canadian Muslim Leader Fuels
Anti-Ahmadiyya Sectarian Controversy:
Claims Ahmadiyya Muslims Are British Creation
By Ahmed Nassef Jehad Aliweiwi
At a time when Ahmadiyya Muslims are been persecuted in Bangladesh and Pakistan by fundamentalist Islamists and banned from entering Saudi Arabia, the leader of the Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC) has brought the sectarian controversy to North America by accusing Ahmadiyyas of being a product of British Colonialism and implying that they are non-Muslim.
In a message widely circulated on the advent of Ramadan, Mohamed Elmasry, National President of CIC, said the Ahmaddiya Movement in Islam came about as a result of the British "approach to encourage, support and even finance a religion of their liking in order to control and subjugate Muslims in India and the Middle East."
His remarks drew anger and outrage from other Canadian Muslim groups. Tarek Fatah of the Muslim Canadian Congress, a group that campaigns for strict separation of religion and state, condemned what he called an attack on the Ahmadiyya community. "It is inflammatory, provocative and absolutely unnecessary. Is this the best way to welcome Ramadan?" said Fatah, speaking to MWU!
"In Bangladesh, Ahmadiyya Muslims are facing a fight for their lives, being hounded and attacked by Islamic fundamentalists. Elmasry's remarks clearly fuel the fire and will encourage Islamist vigilantes to further attack the life and property of Ahmadiyya Muslims," he said.
Tarek Fatah, himself a Sunni Muslim who lives in Toronto, said one does not have to agree with the beliefs of the Ahmadiyya Muslims to come to their defense.
"Mainstream Muslims, especially their conservative fundamentalist leadership, must realize that we cannot ask for the majority Christian community to treat us with respect and dignity without according the same respect and dignity to minority sects within Islam. Where will we stop? Ahmadiyyas today, will it be Ismailis, Bohras and the Druze tomorrow?" asked Fatah.
Mohamed Elmasry first made these remarks at a speech to the University of Calgary that was later submitted as an op-ed to the right-wing Canadian newspaper, The National Post. However, the paragraph about the Ahmadiyya Muslims was omitted from the Post article.
CIC Vice-President Waheeda Valiante said that Elmasry is not responding to media inquiries, but she defended his statements. �He was just giving the historical facts. He didn�t say they are not Muslims,� she said.
However, in his speech, Elmasry referred to Ahmadiyya Muslims as one of �two new religions� created by the British (the Baha�i faith being the other) thereby aligning himself with extreme fundamentalists who have declared Ahmadiyyas as outside the fold of Islam, a position that has given rise to violent attacks against the community in Bangladesh and Pakistan.
"[The British] succeeded only in setting the stage for two new religions that exerted little influence on the masses -- Bahai'ism and the Ahmadiyya Movement. But Islam itself managed to survive the ravages of Anglicization," Elmasry said.
Ironically, Elmasry�s statements were couched in the middle of a speech that called on Muslims to display greater tolerance. "Canadian Muslims must use all the hospitality and generosity of spirit at their command to inform and engage here at home with non-Muslims, not shun or try to convert them," he said.
Munir Pervaiz, a prominent poet and writer in the Pakistani-Canadian community, said he was saddened and deeply disappointed by Elmasry's remarks. "If this is Elmasry's formula for Muslims on how to engage in �genuine interfaith relationships,� God help us all,� he said. �Muslims have huge challenges. They not only need to fight Islamophobia , but also need to confront bigotry and hate within their own Muslim community."
The Muslim Canadian Congress and the Canadian Islamic Congress usually find themselves on opposite sides of most issues facing Canada's Muslims. While the CIC is pushing for the introduction of Shariah Law in Canada's family law arbitration system with the support of the some Jewish groups, the MCC vigorously opposes the Shariah Law in Canada, suggesting that it is a power grab by Islamic fundamentalists who are "hell-bent upon further isolating the Muslim community from its rightful place in the Canadian mainstream."
The embattled CIC leader has recently been embroiled in another controversy that has been given wide coverage in the Canadian press owing to statements he made on a television program justifying attacks against Israeli civilians over the age of 18 years. Referring to Israel�s compulsory military service, Elmasry said: "They [Israeli adults] are part of the Israeli army, even if they have civilian clothes." He later expressed �regret� for the statement.
Ahmed Nassef is editor-in-chief of MWU! Jehad Aliweiwi is former Executive Director of the Canadian Arab Federation.