Truth or Scare: Raheel Raza’s Fear Mongering

She’s at it again. No too long ago Krista covered Raheel Raza’s critique of a supposed Islamist* threat in Canada. Well, Raza’s published another piece, but this time in the right-wing American Thinker. And this time her claims have become even more questionable, and to be honest a little ludicrous.

Now it seems Raza, through her piece in the American Thinker, is trying to warn Americans of the Islamist threat to the north, here in Canada. In the process she has pointed a very damning finger at the NDP, or New Democratic Party, our left-leaning, socialist party. (Just an aside to our American readers – socialist in Canada is not a bad word.) Although the NDP has never been in power federally, they have held provincial governments, and do consistently increase support from the Canadian electorate with each federal election. But Raza is obviously not a fan, because according to her, “the left-leaning NDP has shown an incredible lack of understanding of the Islamist agenda and how soft jihadis are using democratic institutions by manipulating our respect for multiculturalism.” Raza even introduces the party in a deceptive manner by stating that they hold a “permanent 4th place in Canada’s parliament.” Yes, but she fails to inform the readers that the party, which holds third place, can only be voted for by one province – Quebec. Therefore, for English Canadians, the NDP is actually third place, just after the official opposition party.

So who are these scary Islamists and soft jihadis Raza speaks of? Apparently they are “suave and polished” people “who appear in expensive suits and with a flourish of legalese and the right disarming accents.” By disarming accents, I’m assuming she means the Canadian accent. So in other words, they are young Canadian Muslim lawyers. According to Raza, their agenda is to “fundamentally change western foreign policy in favor of the foreign governments that find them and organizations they ideologically adhere to, such as the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Although she does not mention it explicitly, she is here speaking of the young Muslim lawyers who, along with the Canadian Islamic Congress, (CIC – who Raza paints as Islamists) a conservative Canadian Muslim organization, sued Mark Steyn, a portion of whose book America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It, was published in Canadian national magazine MacLeans. The reason for the suit was that Steyn’s book incited hate toward Muslims. And from this critique by Johann Hari, a man who does not like religion, any religion, this accusation was right on. Of Steyn, Hari states “Mark Steyn – an uneducated former Disk Jockey turned pundit – is today being greeted as a sage.” He continues with “Steyn’s story is – very loosely – based on demographics ” and “[e]very delusional statement is sweetened with such a screwball one-liner; like Ann Coulter, Steyn writes in a demonic demotic that makes you chuckle even as you retch.” Hari points out the many flaws and holes in Steyn’s argument smoothly and intelligently and exposes Steyn for the hateful, Islamophobe and racist he is (he refers to Europe’s “White” population who is under threat). Hence, the lawsuit. And for Raza, because these young Muslim lawyers sued Mark Steyn along with conservative organization CIC, they must be Islamists. After all, they are not with Raza or like-minded people so they must be with the Islamists, hence Islamists themselves. (See Krista’s post linked above for an explanation.)

By using the description of “suave and polished” young men, the reader, who is most likely going to be a conservative reader, is free to make the assumption that what Raza is trying to say is don’t trust any Muslims – ever (except her and her friends – I’ll get to that below). An Islamist need not look stereotypical. Those who fear Muslims need not rely on their racist imaginings of Muslim extremists. These Islamists can look and sound just like you and me. They can be educated. And they can be Canadian-born. According to Raza and her “moderate” Muslim friends–the ones the readers shouldn’t be afraid of but rather find comfort in–who she mentions in her piece, Islamists are hiding everywhere in Canada and pose a very real threat to the country. See here, and here.

Raza continues to criticize the NDP and further paint an image of the omnipresent Islamist in Canada. The NDP, according to her “allows itself to be used by…radical Islamism.” As the NDP was created to fight for the rights of the working class, Raza then explains why Muslims are attracted to the NDP. “The working class in the West now includes immigrants, who as ethnic and religious minorities complain of the classic oppression against which the NDP wished to be a voice of protest.” In the latter statement, Raza appears to be mocking the complaints immigrants make of the racism they face in Canada. Her use of the words “the classic oppression” seem to imply the “same old, same old” story, with a disrespectful eye-roll thrown in. I’m sure many Canadian organizations and academics who work in anti-racist work would strongly disagree. It is unfortunate to read such dismissive words regarding racism from a woman of colour. Also makes one wonder if she is actually in touch with the experiences of people of colour in Canada.

Raza then criticizes the NDP’s acceptance of endorsements from organizations she calls Islamist, such as the CIC. Now, I’m not a big fan of the CIC nor their president, as he too has made some comments which have made me uncomfortable, as well as their Arab-centric view. However, many of their opinions and complaints should not be dismissed as Islamist just because some people may not be comfortable with them. For example, the question of whether the Canadian government is indifferent to the case of Omar Khadr because he is Muslim and/or Brown has popped into the heads of many Muslims. Considering, as Sherene Razack tells us, that Muslims are being racialized to support the war on terror, Khadr could very well be a victim of such racializing and thus othering. However, I digress. The CIC describes itself as “Canada’s largest national non-profit and wholly independent Islamic organization. It is an exclusively Canadian non-governmental organization (NGO) with no affiliation to any group, body, ideology or government, absolutely none. CIC is the independent voice of Canada’s Muslims — Sunni and Shi’a, men and women, youth and seniors.” They try to make it very clear that they are not funded by any foreign organization, as Raza would tell us. Whether they tell us the truth or not, the fact remains that Raza’s accusations come into question as it becomes a “she said, they said” situation.

But why the Islamist label? In the past, during the Ontario Sharia debates, the CIC did support the implementation of Sharia in Ontario for use within the Muslim community in minor, civil matters, something which Jews and Christians had been doing for the 10 years prior. Now I am no Sharia supporter (yes, my bias is showing) but the hysteria created over the Sharia with accusations of Islamism being thrown around was overblown. And it is this support of the Sharia in Ontario that led to the CIC being labeled as Islamists.

Along with the CIC, which is just one organization, there are two particular NDP candidates which Raza paints as Islamists. We have covered the first, Samira Laouni, before. Her past affiliation with the CIC troubles Raza, as she sees Laouni’s support of what Raza points out “real Shariah” (Laouni’s words) as a clear sign that Laouni is an Islamist with an agenda to Islamicize Canada. This is greatly troublesome. Raza completely ignores the fact that Sharia has manifested itself in many ways, some not so nice ones. What Raza tries to do in her piece is paint the Sharia as just one set of rules, which have only been interpreted in one way from the Prophetic teachings. There are many patriotic, Canada-loving Muslims who truly believe that Sharia in it’s purest and original form, as it was meant to be, is egalitarian and just. This is most likely the ‘real’ Sharia Laouni is referring to. But Raza does not reveal this nuance of the global Muslim community, instead choosing to covertly scare her readers into thinking that Laouni supports stonings and beheadings. She does not acknowledge that there may indeed be a ‘real’ Sharia utopia which most Muslims today do not follow, but does exist. Sharia, a legal system which most people in the West have not studied, may not be as evil as it has been made out to be. At least no more so than any other religious law.

Raza also attacks El-Farouk Khaki, who in reference to the case of the Toronto 18, stated that in Canada Muslims are guilty until proven innocent. Raza felt this accusation played “into the victim-hood complex Islamists want Muslims in the West to fall into.” Again, Raza trivializes the real problem of Islamophobia in Canada – a trivialization which becomes clear when she states”[t]here is no rampant Islamophobia in Canada.” It is at points like these when the reader begins to wonder where she has been in the past few years. Khaki’s comments make complete sense and are clearly justified when one realizes that of the original Toronto 18, only 11 are left after two years of being in prison. 18 to 11. That’s a difference of 7. Seven young Muslim men who were in jail for 2 years without charge, without guilt. Guilty, until proven innocent. What more can I say? Additionally, Raza’s insinuation that Khaki is an Islamist becomes ludicrous when one considers that Khaki is an openly gay Muslim man and founder of Salaam Canada, an organization for the “Queer Muslim Community of Toronto.” An openly gay, not to mention ultra-liberal, man an Islamist? Really? Need I say more?

Such accusations are extremely scary and must be seen for what they are – bullying tactics. According to Raza’s definition, all a Muslim must do to be labeled an Islamist is defend Muslims against the racism and Islamophobia of institutions. Institutions who Raza seems to think that, contrary to what the work of anti-racists has found, are free of Islamophobia and racism. Oh, and it seems being affiliated with the NDP, or at the least have left-leaning sympathies, can also qualify one for Islamism. Therefore, if Muslims in Canada do not want to be labeled as Islamists they should join forces with those like Raza. Sound famliar? More of the ‘either you’re with us, or you’re evil’ argument which has been become a joke now.

But Raza does not stop here. The gem of her article is the following:

In two districts (ridings as they are called in Canada) the Muslim candidate who lost were openly hostile to the Islamist agenda. Wajid Khan in Toronto and Rahim Jaffer in Edmonton. It is rumoured that the full force of the Islamist establishment and the mosque structure came out to defeat these two Muslims because they were seen, in the words of one cynic “too good looking to be considered authentic Muslims.”

Yes readers, you read right. You may want to read this one again. They were considered “too good looking” to be real Muslims. Even I need a moment for that one. Let me tackle the rest of the paragraph first.

Wajid Khan ran in Mississauga and won twice as a Liberal – in 2004 and 2006. Where were the Islamists then? Maybe he wasn’t good looking enough then. In 2007 Wajid, elected as a Liberal by his riding, betrayed his supporters and crossed the floor to join the in-power Progressive Conservatives. Check out the comments here to see how those in his riding reacted. Immoral and selfish were a few of the words used. As these news reports from his riding would inform us, it was this switch in parties that cost him his seat. So much so in fact that even some Conservative supporters did not vote for him because they did not trust him. No Islamist conspiracy here.

Rahim Jaffer served as MP for his Edmonton riding four times! I’ll say it again – four times! He was elected in 1997 at the age of 25, and continued to serve until he was defeated this year. That’s 11 years of service. Eleven years as MP. Four elections won by him. Again, where were the Islamists then? They had four chances over the span of 11 years. Have both these men become better looking with age? Is that what it is? It appears that even in Alberta, a Conservative stronghold, there were some who were discouraged by the party and felt neglected. It seems that his loss was more of a result of strategic voting by non-Muslim Canadians. This past election Canadians were so desperate to get the Conservatives out of power that many of them engaged in strategic voting – vote for whoever will win who is not a Conservative. No Islamist conspiracy here, either.

And of course, what to make of her “good looking” argument. It’s absurdity stands on its own. All I can say to that is that I know a lot of Muslims now whose authenticity I will be questioning. We’re a fine looking group of people readers! But I guess that means we’re not authentic enough.

Raza’s disingenuous presentation of the ‘facts’ depicts an argument so desperate to spread fear about Muslims that she left out large details of the fate of the aforementioned ousted MP’s. Details that make all the difference. Details that seriously hurt her fear-mongering.

Finally, at the end Raza has some advice for Muslims.

“The lesson for all Muslims is written on the wall: If they are unwilling to stand up to the Islamists in their communities and stop the influence of Saudi Arabia and Iran, we will all suffer because of the actions of a few. “

In other words, “agree with me or else.”

Raza’s argument does nothing but paint the Muslim community in black and white terms, with no room for grey. It creates an image of Muslims as evil demons wandering everywhere around you with the only beacon of hope among them Raza and her friends. Because according to her, if you are a Muslim with even a hint of support for Sharia, to whatever degree or in whatever way, you are an Islamist and want to destroy Canada. You cannot be reasoned with, you cannot be trusted, and you cannot be considered a true Canadian. You make up stories about racism and Islamophobia to further your own agenda, because regardless of what the evidence states, racism and Islamophobia are a myth.

Sure, we need to stand up to the extremists in our midst. This is a problem the Muslim community seriously needs to address. However, it is not as rampant as Raza would have us believe. Therefore, we also need to stand up to such ludicrous hate and fear mongering. Muslims hold a variety of beliefs from very conservative to very liberal, but no one set of beliefs implies that one would support the implementation of Sharia as Canada’s law. Therefore, at the risk of being called an Islamist, I say that we need to keep fighting racism and hate where we see it. And this includes from fellow Muslims.

* An Islamist in this context refers to Muslims who believe in the implementation of the Sharia as the law of the land. It implies with it a desire to ‘take over’ the country in which one resides and make it an Islamic state. I use it in this sense as well for the sake of the post.

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