‘We are not the enemy,’ Muslim leader

Asks Ottawa for help fighting radicalization of youth

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OTTAWA -- A well-known Manitoba Muslim leader begged senators and Canadians during a committee hearing Monday to stop faulting all Muslims for the actions of terrorists who are perverting her faith.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/02/2015 (2777 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

OTTAWA — A well-known Manitoba Muslim leader begged senators and Canadians during a committee hearing Monday to stop faulting all Muslims for the actions of terrorists who are perverting her faith.

Shahina Siddiqui, appearing at the Senate committee on national security and defence as part of a study on security threats facing Canada, was forced to defend herself and other Muslim organizations in Canada against accusations they have ties to extremist groups.

“Please do not treat Muslim Canadians as if they are the enemy, because we are not,” Siddiqui implored.

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS files Shahina Siddiqui

Siddiqui was appearing at the committee as the executive director of the Winnipeg-based Islamic Social Services Association. She is also on the board of the National Council of Canadian Muslims.

Conservative Sen. Lynn Beyak, from northwestern Ontario, asked Siddiqui how organizations such as NCCM can be trusted when it has connections to the Council on American Islamic Relations.

Beyak called the organization “an unindicted co-conspirator in a successful” U.S. criminal case on terrorist financing for Hamas, and has been listed as a terrorist organization by the United Arab Emirates.

“How can we trust community organizations to help us develop a counter-radicalization narrative when they themselves are affiliated with organizations that have ties to terrorists?” Beyak asked.

Siddiqui said NCCM is independent from CAIR, and that the term “unindicted co-conspirator” doesn’t make sense since if they were not indicted, then they were not charged.

“A lot of accusations were made, a lot of slander and innuendo were thrown around here, and I am very sad about that,” she said.

Later, Beyak asked Siddiqui if she didn’t agree it’s time for Muslims to stop being so thinned-skinned whenever discussions arise about the role Islam plays in the problem at hand.

“Canadians don’t want to hear all that,” Beyak said.

“They are tired of us being offended. They want us to do something about people who are threatening to blow up malls.”

Siddiqui said Muslims deal with slander every day — she herself gets called a terrorist supporter — and there is a growing sense among Muslim Canadians that they are all being blamed for the radical behaviour of the Islamic State and are being ostracized because of it.

“Don’t give into the fear, don’t give in to the propaganda,” she said.

‘These are our kids. We don’t want them to die in foreign lands.

— Shahina Siddiqui, executive director of the Islamic Social Services Association

We don’t want them to commit acts of violence’

The demonization of Islam and giving into stereotypes of Muslims will only exacerbate the feelings of isolation, anger and fear that help drive kids toward the Islamic State in the first place, Siddiqui said.

She said Canadian Muslims need to be treated as part of the solution, not as the problem themselves. She said her organization is well-suited to helping families prevent their children from succumbing to radicalization, but the government has provided it with no funding.

She said she works for free and has one staff member at the Islamic Social Services Association.

“There is very little capability across Canada within the Muslim community to handle this,” she said.

“They are not trained.”

She said the recruiters to radicalization are well-trained, well-funded and very savvy, and Muslim organizations don’t have the resources to fight the propaganda.

“These are our kids,” she said. “We don’t want them to die in foreign lands. We don’t want them to commit acts of violence.”

mia.rabson@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Tuesday, February 24, 2015 8:54 AM CST: Replaces photo

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