PM ‘concerned’ about terrorist play
By DAVID AKIN, Parliamentary Bureau Chief
OTTAWA - Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Thursday he is “concerned” about a stage play running in Toronto, financed partly with federal funding, that presents what the playwright describes as a “sympathetic portrayal” of a convicted terrorist.
The play, Homegrown by Catherine Frid, opened Thursday as part of the 20th edition of the annual Summerworks theatre festival.
Summerworks received $35,000 of federal funding, $24,500 of provincial funding and $36,000 in municipal funding this year.
“I think we’re concerned,” Harper said when asked outside Rideau Hall about the play. “I think a lot of Canadians are concerned by that. I mean, we’re living in an era where terrorism is a real and growing threat across the world.
“Thousands of people have died in recent years in terrorist acts. And terrorism’s a real threat in this country.”
Homegrown is billed as the “true story” of Frid’s 18-month relationship with Shareef Abdelhaleem, one of the so-called Toronto 18. Abdelhaleem is in jail awaiting sentencing for helping to hatch a plan to bomb a chunk of downtown Toronto.
Erica Basnicki, whose father died in the 9/11 attacks in New York, saw Frid’s play Thursday night.
“That she thinks Abdelhaleem is an underdog worth standing up for is appalling,” Basnicki wrote in a review of the play.
“I just think most Canadians would find anything that glorifies terrorism to be abhorrent,” Harper said. Harper hasn’t seen the play.
Summerworks spokeswoman Daniela Syrovy says the play doesn’t “glorify” terrorism.
“In no way does it or the SummerWorks Festival condone violence or excuse any action taken by any member of the Toronto 18,” Syrovy said.
“We hope this work will be a useful tool for learning more about our country and our city.”
HERE IS THE REVIEW FROM ERICA BASNICKI:
TORONTO – Last night, I attended the opening of Homegrown, a play about Toronto 18 terrorist Shareef Abdelhaleem.
That Catherine Frid wants to stand up for the underdog is admirable.
That she thinks Abdelhaleem is an underdog worth standing up for is appalling.
To be fair, it would take one heck of a piece of theatre for this gal to show an ounce of sympathy toward a convicted terrorist.
This didn’t come close.
In one scene, the script referenced the playwright as a character (Frid visited Abdelhaleem in jail over 18 months) talking about the post 9/11 world.
But I couldn’t help thinking: What did she know about the post 9/11 world?
I’ve been living a post 9/11 world ever since 9/11.
My father, Ken, died on 9/11.
When blowing up people, places and things becomes part of your list of acceptable activities, for whatever reason, I don’t tend to feel sorry for you. Ever.
So Frid never really had a chance in that respect.
What she did have a chance to explain is why Abdelhaleem was worth writing a play about, a question that still lacks a satisfactory answer as far as I am concerned, having seen the performance.
You see, Abdelhaleem, though he may have suffered under anti-terrorism legislation, was still at the wrong end of a plot to bomb Toronto.
I don’t care that he never meant to hurt anybody.
I don’t care that he had a small cell and worried constantly about his cats.
I don’t care that he spent too long in solitary confinement.
All I could think of at the beginning of the play, during a sequence about the time he spent in solitary, was that that’s nothing compared to what my dad suffered when he was in the Twin Towers and they filled with smoke.
It’s a life sentence for the victims.
You want drama? The 9/11 families have been through hell and back.
Their stories are 50 times more compelling than this dingbat’s story.
Somewhere, in his head, bombing Toronto was OK. Even for just a moment.
That is just not something I will side with. Ever.
Frid’s script never delivers the answers I was looking for, that’s for sure.
And because it doesn’t, she doesn’t deserve my sympathy either.
Homegrown was not a good show.