October 27, 2004
Muslim Leaders’ Statements Affirm National Post’s Position
Dear HonestReporting Canada subscriber:
Canadian Arab and Islamic groups have consistently singled out CanWest, publisher of the National Post, Ottawa Citizen and other newspapers, for alleged anti-Arab and anti-Islamic biases.
Mazen Chouaib, head of the National Council on Canada Arab Relations, accused CanWest of "a pattern of anti -Arab and Muslim bias that permeates ? editorials, columns and news reports." Mohamed Elmasry, head of the Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC), called the National Post, CanWest’s flagship newspaper, "a benchmark of what a newspaper should not be." In its annual media scorecard, Elmasry’s Canadian Islamic Congress further accused the National Post of being "anti- Islamic."
News organizations have criticized CanWest newspapers for using terms like "terrorist" and "Islamist terrorism" to describe Muslim or Arab attacks on Israelis and Western civilians, arguing that terms like "militant" and "suicide bomber" are less "loaded" and inflammatory.
Through it all, CanWest continued calling terrorism by its name, urged other media organizations to do the same, and suggested that Canadian Muslim and Arab groups take a stronger and more clearly defined stance against premeditated violence against civilians.
In an October 12 editorial entitled "The National Post and Islam," the Post defended its policy of calling people who murder civilians "terrorists" and calling people who do so in the name of Islam "Muslim terrorists." The Post highlighted the (incorrect) remarks of the CIC’s Elmasry’s that "Israeli Jews spend more than 10% of their adult life serving Israel’s people’s army," noting that "This is the same fact that Hamas and other terrorist groups cite when they argue that Israel’s civilians and soldiers are one and the same, and so the slaughter of all the country’s Jews is permissible under the laws of Jihad."
The Post continued, "Any person who dared speak about Canadian Arabs the way Mr. Elmasry describes Israeli Jews would be rightly denounced for his small-mindedness. If Mr. Elmasry seeks to improve the quality of public debate in this country, he might start by examining his own organization."
One week later, the Post’s statements were affirmed in a way that even its "biased" editors could not have imagined.
Appearing on an October 19 panel discussion on The Michael Coren Show — on the topic "What is a terrorist?" — CIC president Mohamed Elmasry was asked whether any Israeli over the age of 18 is a valid target of Palestinian attacks. Elmasry replied: "Anybody above 18 is part of the army." Host Michael Coren offered Elmasry an opportunity to clarify, asking: "Anyone in Israel, irrespective of gender, over the age of 18 is a valid target?" "Yes, I would say," Elmasry responded.
A professor of engineering and an occasional contributor to the Globe and Mail and other newspapers, Elmasry reiterated his position to the Globe and Mail, stating: "Israel has a people’s army and a draft and therefore they should be considered legitimate targets. They are part of the occupying power, and Palestinians consider them targets for suicide bombers as well as other means." Elmasry has since said that he regrets "that my comments were misunderstood and, as a result, caused offence."
In its October 12 editorial, the Post also warned that "the spread of militant Islam in radicalized mosques is also the greatest threat to Canada’s own multicultural society: By the admission of its adherents, Islamism is incompatible with Western liberalism. To ignore such a high-stakes issue in the name of eggshell cultural sensitivities, as the CIC urges, would be an abrogation of our journalistic responsibility."
And just as the Elmasry scandal unfolded, the Post’s warning on Canadian mosques spreading militant Islam appeared to be validated as well, as Canadians news organizations revealed that federal authorities are investigating BC mosque leader Sheikh Younis Kathrada for giving lectures in which he called Jews the "brothers of monkeys and swine" and called for an " offensive jihad" (audio and video available). Kathrada urged his followers to become martyrs, saying that "For one of you to be in the front row of the Muslims . . . with the mujahedeen is better than him standing in prayer for 60 years." ( Rudwan Khalil Abubaker, who frequented Kathrada’s mosque, may have taken him at his word: Abubaker was recently killed alongside three Chechen gunmen in a shootout with Russian special forces.) Like Elmasry, Kathrada now claims his comments were taken out of context.
Muslim and Arab organizations’ attempts to distance themselves from Elmasry and Kathrada’s statements seemed incomplete. Rather than rejecting its president’s televised statements outright, the CIC issued an anemic communiqu? entitled "Islamic Congress Says President’s Remarks ‘Regrettable.’" CIC explained that "Dr. Elmasry’s remarks on that show were ‘regrettable and misunderstood,’ in that they failed to articulate his organization’s position on terrorism, while addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Within the context of discussion on the show, Dr. Elmasry was presenting not his own views — but those of a significant segment of Palestinians under occupation." CIC vice-president Wahida Valiante told reporters the CIC no plans to ask for Elmasry’s resignation and wouldn’t accept it if he offered.
And while calling on Elmasry to resign and declaring that "you can’t kill civilians and we don’t support suicide bombings," Tarek Fatah, a founding member of the Muslim Canadian Congress, asserted that "Palestinians have a moral and legal obligation to fight the Israeli occupation."
While the CIC stand by their man, others, including Michael Coren, the Globe and Mail and the Toronto Star, suggest that he should resign from the CIC. Whether he stays or goes, Prof. Elmasry has disqualified himself as a credible spokesperson for Canadian Muslims or as a credible source of information on issues pertaining to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
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