WHO THE HELL DO THESE PEOPLE THINK THEY ARE?
Police to hold talks with Muslim leaders
Community meeting aims to defuse tension after arrests of suspected terrorists
Prominent members of Ottawa’s Muslim community will meet with a team that specializes in defusing police-community tensions to allay fears and explain why the RCMP arrested two men suspected of planning a terrorist attack on Canada.
The time, place, and attendees of the meeting are not being revealed, but Ottawa police say their goal is “to meet with COMPAC members and other community leaders … and engage them on the matter.”
COMPAC stands for the Community and Police Action Committee, which brings together police, visible minorities and aboriginals for regular meetings, so some trust has already been built when incidents like Wednesday’s arrests strain relations.
COMPAC has critical incident teams trained to defuse any escalating concerns.
Ferruk Faraqui, a member of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, and a board member of the Ottawa Muslim Women’s Organization, said the meeting is a good idea. “That could only help allay fears and reduce unnecessary tension.”
While many Muslims would feel comfortable with government authority, others emigrating from war-torn countries may be more wary.
The news of the arrests Wednesday was particularly jarring for Ottawa’s 65,000 Muslims, as they were celebrating the 15th day of Ramadan, a period of fasting, and reflection.
“Given the history of … others caught up in overzealous activity of the authorities in the wake of 9/11, you can only wait and hope that when the details emerge, that the arrests were justified,” said Faraqui. “The police are only doing their job and we depend on them to keep us safe. We hope … that the people who need to be caught are caught and that innocent people don’t get caught up.”
Faraqui takes a longer view of the tensions around Islam and terrorism. “We live in interesting times. The times aren’t comfortable; they were when I was growing up, but they’re not anymore and that’s just reality.”
Neighbours often saw one of the men arrested walking with a woman wearing a full black niqab, with only a slit for her eyes.
“Naturally that plays into fear,” Faraqui said. “My personal belief is that covering your face is entirely unnecessary… . On the other hand, if this is something that this person believes is her right, then … it’s a very difficult terrain to negotiate, rights versus responsibilities to the greater society.”
Imam Zijad Delic, executive director of the Canadian Islamic Congress, said all the national Muslim associations are waiting for more information. “We have to know what’s going on before we speak.
“At this point, the healthiest way to approach the issue is to listen to what the RCMP say. We trust our Canadian agencies and, if it happens that we have to raise our voices, we would raise our voices, and it would be heard quite a lot in Canada.”
Delic, who signed the Canadian Council of Imams’ declaration against terrorism, said: “If anyone knew of such activities, it is not just their social responsibility to report such a case, it is their religious responsibility.”
Azhar Ali Khan, a long-time Ottawa community activist, said in an e-mail: “Being a good Muslim is the same thing as being a good Canadian.” Khan added that “many Muslims believe that the U.S. policy in Muslim countries is exploitative and harmful; for example, its attack on Iraq. But Canada has nothing to do with these policies. It is true that Canada is engaged in the war in Afghanistan. But Canada is not in Afghanistan to exploit its people or to build an empire. It is there to help the Afghan government and people fight extremism.
“Even so, many Canadians, and not just Muslim Canadians, oppose Canada’s participation … and favour the withdrawal of Canadian troops. Whatever the views of any Canadian on the Afghan war, he or she could express his or her viewpoint openly. There can be no excuse to indulge in harmful conduct. This cannot be accepted or tolerated.”
ISLAMIC TERRORISM AND CANADA SINCE 9/11
March 2010: A U.S. court refuses to free Pakistani-Canadian Tahawwur Rana from pre-trial custody. Arrested in 2009, the Chicago businessman, who co-owned a Kanata house, pleaded not guilty to charges of providing material support to terrorists for the deadly 2008 attack in Mumbai, India and an additional indictment that he provided support in an alleged plot to assassinate the editor and cartoonist at a Danish newspaper for publishing controversial cartoons of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad in 2005.
January 2010: Moroccan-born Said Namouh of Montreal becomes the second person in Canada to receive a life sentence on terrorism-related charges. He was sentenced to life and a minimum of 10 years behind bars for conspiracy to deliver, plant, explode or detonate an explosive or other device designed to cause death or injury in in Vienna.
November 2008: Hassan Naim Diab, a 55-year-old university professor, is arrested in Ottawa by the RCMP at the request of French authorities, who want him tried for the October 1980 bombing of a Paris synagogue that killed four and injured scores of others. Diab holds dual Canadian and Lebanese citizenship.
June 2006: The Toronto 18 terrorists who plotted to bomb downtown Toronto and attack the Parliament Buildings are arrested. The key suspects are convicted or plead guilty. Charges against seven of the accused were dropped early in the process.
March 2004: Ottawa software engineer Mohammad Momin Khawaja, 29, is arrested at the Department of Foreign Affairs and in 2008 is convicted in an Ottawa court of helping a group of Islamic extremists who plotted to bomb London nightclubs and other targets.
Compiled by Liisa Tuominen