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Anti-Muslim views seen here: activists

Winnipeggers report extremism

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COULD a massacre like the one that claimed dozens of lives in Norway happen in immigrant-friendly, socially democratic Manitoba?

Winnipeggers say they are seeing the kind of extremism linked to the slaughter of innocents in Norway creep into Canada.

Earlier this year, it arrived in the mail in a brown envelope addressed to the National Council of Women of Canada, said then-president Mary Scott.

"I was shocked," she said of the brochure and printed website material that came with a cover letter signed by a doctor in France.

"It was so hateful toward Muslims," said Scott, who's now past-president of the century-old organization.

"The intent was to say to Canada 'you've got to be careful -- Muslims are dangerous'," she said two days after Scandinavian Anders Behring Breivik was charged with the carnage in Norway.

"This guy is dangerous and he is reflecting a part of society," said Scott. She couldn't understand why the package from Europe -- that was widely distributed to politicians and other organizations in Canada -- was sent to their women's group.

It's connected to the Canadian Council of Muslim Women that supports human rights and equality and aboriginal women and members from diverse backgrounds.

"I don't know why they thought we'd be interested in this racist Islamophobia," Scott said.

"This upset me. It reflected a very strong, hateful message toward Muslims and it was sent to a very credible organization in Canada." The manifesto by the accused Breivik in Norway was also "anti-women" said Scott. "It is a concern." She passed along the package from the European extremists to Muslim community leader Shahina Siddiqui.

"Obviously there is a network," said Siddiqui, executive director of the Islamic Social Services Association. The cost of printing and distributing the materials shows the movement is organized and means to get a foothold in Canada.

"We know these kind of sentiments are here as well," she said.

"I've been screaming for the last decade 'Islamophobia is on the rise, we have to make it unacceptable on the political, social and community level' but it's fallen on deaf ears," said Siddiqui.

The Muslim community raised objections several years ago when a Jewish group in Winnipeg invited the public to a screening of Obsession -- an incendiary documentary about Islamic extremism.

The response was "people are entitled to their freedom of speech," recalled Siddiqui. "People would never find that acceptable if it was (vilifying) other communities," she said.

In the document he posted online, Norway's Breivik showed he had closely followed the acrimonious American debate over Islam.

His manifesto, which denounced Norwegian politicians as failing to defend the country from Islamic influence, quoted Robert Spencer, who operates the Jihad Watch website, 64 times, and cited other Western writers who shared his view that Muslim immigrants pose a grave danger to Western culture.

-- with files from the New York Times

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 26, 2011 A8

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