This year is certainly proving to be a year to remember for Calgary’s ever-growing Muslim community.
Calgary’s Muslim mayor, Naheed Nenshi, is basking in the glow of a triumphant re-election, and has become a nationally recognized political figure. City council has recently approved plans for a $28-million mosque and community centre in southeast Calgary.
Of course, like any large community, Calgary’s Muslims are not monolithic. Different sects of Islam are represented. There are Muslims who have been here for generations, and those who are new arrivals to Canada. Many different countries of origin are represented. A diversity of viewpoints exists.
Therefore, it is fair to say that no one individual or group speaks for all Calgary Muslims. However, there are groups who purport to be voices for the community, perhaps none more high profile than the Muslim Council of Calgary.
And at a time when there is more attention being placed on Calgary’s Muslim community, there ought to be a high level of concern with regard to the featured speakers the group is bringing to Calgary and the sorts of materials being linked to and displayed on their website.
This Saturday, the group is featuring Imam Siraj Wahhaj as a guest speaker at an event at a northeast Islamic centre. Later this month, it is presenting a speech by Abdullah Hakim Quick at the University of Calgary. Now, the group is free to invite whomever they want to come speak. However, it’s also reasonable to judge them by whom they choose to extend those invitations to.
Last year, they brought in Dr. Bilal Philips as the main speaker at an event billed as a “celebration of Islam in a Multi-Cultural Canada.”
Philips is on record describing homosexuality as “evil and dangerous,” and believes that AIDS represents divine punishment for gays. He is also of the belief that the Islamic punishment for homosexuals is death.
This year’s roster of speakers is no better.
Wahhaj, for example, argues that the Islamic penalty for “fornication” (which would include adultery and even premarital sex) is 100 lashes. He has said of thieves and adulterers, “If Allah says 100 strikes, 100 strikes it is. If Allah says cut off their hand, you cut off their hand. If Allah says stone them to death, through the Prophet Muhammad, then you stone them to death.”
Like Philips, Quick has some rather harsh views of homosexuality. He shares the belief that Islam mandates the death penalty for homosexuals, whom he has referred to as “sick” and “not natural.” But he says it’s “not enough to call names” and that Muslims “are going to have to take a stand” against homosexuals.
Quite a contrast from the image of Calgary’s Muslim mayor embracing and taking part in Calgary’s annual gay pride festivities.
Quick has also ranted about the “filth” of Christians, Jews and other “kuffar” (unbelievers). Unfortunately, such beliefs have been reflected in some of the materials presented on the Muslim Council of Calgary’s website, MuslimsofCalgary.ca.
In April, for example, B’nai Brith Canada filed a complaint with the Calgary Police Service over two posts in particular at MuslimsofCalgary.ca. One post spoke of the “debauchery and immorality” of the Jews, while another cited the notorious anti-Semitic forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. No charges were ever filed, and the postings were later removed and condemned.
However, it’s a different matter with their featured guest speakers. There are individuals specifically selected and invited by the group. There has been no condemnation of their extreme and hateful views.
These are the imams whom the group believes Calgary Muslims want to hear from and should hear from. I can’t speak to the extent to which the demand exists for radical imams, but it’s evident that the Muslim Council of Calgary is prepared to offer the supply.
The group needs to ask itself what message it is sending to the broader community about the nature of their own beliefs and the beliefs of Calgary Muslims. Furthermore, those in the Muslim community should be aware of the fact that this groups is purporting to represent them.
If we value diversity, we should all be alarmed by this.