Islam in Canada – First Eid al-Fitr at Parliament Hill
By Faisal Kutty – More than 300 persons attended a function at Parliament Hill in Ottawa marking the end of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting. The event was co-sponsored by the Muslim Educational and Cultural Association (MECA), Al-Shura, the Ottawa Muslim Association (OMA), the Islamic Society of Kingston and Human Concern International. Although an Eid al-Adha dinner was held last year, this was the first annual Eid al-Fitr gathering at the Hill.
Members of the House of Commons were invited to attend by Member of Parliament Dan McTeague, who read out on Feb. 12 a Standing Order in the House;
“Mr. Speaker, for Muslims in Canada and throughout the world, last week marked the end of the holy month of Ramadan. A month of fasting in order to gain self-restraint and foster inner strength and fulfillment in God. The end of Ramadan is celebrated with Eid al-Fitr, one of the most joyous occasions in the Muslim calendar. Over one billion Muslims worldwide, including nearly 500,000 in Canada, use Eid al-Fitr to give prayers of thanks, celebrate with friends and family and rejoice in the love of God and Islam. On behalf of this House, I extend our warmest best wishes to Canadians of the Islamic faith on the conclusion of Ramadan and on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr. I also want to take this opportunity to remind members here, and in other places, that they are warmly invited to join members of the Diplomatic Corps and Muslims who are gathered this evening for an Eid al-Fitr celebration here on Parliament Hill.”
The Honorable Gilbert Parent, speaker of the House of Commons, and the Honorable Gildas Molgat, speaker of the Senate, both attended the event and spoke about the changes taking place within Canadian society and the importance of fostering diversity.
Senator Marcel Prud’homme told the gathering that Muslims must spread the message of Islam and the essence of its existence. He added that “Muslims and Christians can come together.”
Other speakers at the function included OMA president Dr. Naim Malik; retired political science professor Dr. Khalid Bin Sayeed; Minister of Agriculture Ralph E. Goodale; Toronto Star editorial page editor Haroon Siddiqui; Imam Dr. Taufiq Shaheen of the OMA Mosque; and Dr. Mohammad Bayoumi of the Islamic Society of Kingston.
CBC Ombudsman Questions Credibility of “Jihad in America” Consultant
CBC ombudsman Mario Cardinal has ruled that a May 12, l996 segment of the French-language radio program “Dimanche Magazine” “failed to uphold the principle of accuracy” in its reporting on the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) and Markaz al-Islam, a Montreal mosque.
ICNA, founded in Montreal in 1968, is a grassroots organization headquartered in Chicago. It currently has active chapters in all major North American cities. The organization is primarily composed of professional Muslims from India and Pakistan.
The ombudsman’s report also challenges the credibility and credentials of Khalid Duran, a widely-quoted “expert” on Islamic revivalism. Duran was editorial consultant for the controversial 1994 PBS program “Jihad in America.” Duran also was consulted as an “expert” for the segment of “Dimanche Magazine” which was the subject of the complaint.
In the segment, journalist Danny Braun of “Dimanche Magazine” introduced the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) as a secretive organization which endorses jihad, which the program translated as “holy war.” The broadcast alleged that “fanatical” members of ICNA, which it described as part of a “fundamentalist” Islamic movement, forced their way into the leadership of Markaz al-Islam. The mosque and its ICNA leadership were accused of using charitable contributions to finance arms for Bosnia and Kashmir.
In fact, Sheema Khan, who initially filed a complaint with the CBC, told the Washington Report that only a few members of ICNA were even involved at the leadership level of the mosque.
Duran was quoted on the program as follows: “Here in America, Canada, the U.S., the people of ICNA come across as very sophisticated, very pleasant…The people who are here are for the most part technocrats, who do not participate directly in war…They have the capacity to help people in Kashmir, etc., with money.”
When questioned whether the money raised in Montreal would end up funding holy war, Duran said, “Absolutely.” The reporter then asked Duran why fundamentalist Muslims were coming to Montreal. Duran, the head of the Washington-based Institute for International Studies, responded, “Montreal has become the target of fundamentalist Islamic immigration.” He continued, “They are Algerian as well, not just the Pakistanis of ICNA.”
Braun, a regular contributor to “Dimanche Magazine,” claimed that it was impossible to say how much of the finances raised in Canada by ICNA and its “twin” organization, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), “have been used to finance the activities of Jamat-Islami, and its paramilitary groups Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and Hizb-ul-Islami.”
Members of the 80,000-strong Muslim community in Montreal filed a complaint with the CBC on July 2, 1996. The 12-point complaint filed by Khan, a pharmaceutical researcher, challenged the accuracy of the program’s claims and questioned the credibility of some of the “experts” consulted. Khan was instrumental in forming a Montreal chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), which aims to deal with matters such as this in the future.
Duran dodged inquiries concerning his real name.
Following consultations with more than 30 academics and other experts, CBC ombudsman Cardinal released his nine-page report on Jan. 10, 1997. It supported many of Khan’s complaints, clarified some issues and defended the producers on some other points.
The strongest comments in Cardinal’s report were aimed at Khalid Duran. Among them:
- In 1993, Duran was sentenced for making defamatory comments about the Islamic Center of Aachen in Germany. “His sentence was to retract his statements or pay a heavy fine or, failing that, to go to prison…Following this sentence, he was ousted from the Institute of Oriental Studies in Hamburg…”
- Duran was dismissed from Temple University in Philadelphia for professional misconduct, according to Sheila McDonough, a professor at Concordia University and an expert on Muslims in Canada.
- There was mystery surrounding Duran’s true identity. He dodged inquiries concerning his real name.
- “Finally, the fact that Mr. Duran was closely involved with ‘Jihad in America’… leads us once again to question his real motivation…Mr. Emerson [‘Jihad’s’ producer] and Mr. Duran were among the first experts to link the Oklahoma City explosion to the Muslims.”
Cardinal concluded by pointing out “that the Institute for International Studies, which Mr. Duran heads in Washington…has no ties with any university and is funded by private donations.”
Note: First Published: April/May 1997 pg. 74
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