Peter Worthington, The Toronto Sun
Moderate Muslims show courage speaking out against extremists
TORONTO – It’s somewhat misleading to compare Farzana Hassan to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the extraordinary woman from Somalia who fled to escape an arranged marriage to a Toronto man, and became an MP in Holland and a powerful voice against Islam’s treatment of women.
Hirsi Ali sought refuge in the U.S. as Islamists vowed to assassinate her, as they killed a Dutch movie producer who filmed her story. Courage, integrity and insight distinguish Hirsi Ali.
Those same traits could be used to describe Hassan, who writes a column in the Toronto Sun on themes similar to those Hirsi Ali explores.
Just as Hirsi Ali wrote books about her Muslim background (Nomad and Infidel), so Hassan has written about her background and concerns involving Islam (Prophesy and the Fundamentalist Quest and her latest book, Unveiled).
Unveiled is important because much of it deals with Canada and Toronto — especially the closing chapters. Hassan is more restrained than Hirsi Ali, and seeks to reconcile differences between Muslim newcomers and other Canadians. But she, like Hirsi Ali, is repelled by the oppression of women by the Islamic faith.
And even moreso by Muslim women who think Shariah law is enlightening.
A practising Muslim who grew up in Pakistan, she says, “Perhaps 9/11 was the starting point in my public career as a reformist Muslim.”
She was appalled at the jubilation in Pakistan at 9/11, that someone had “stood up to America, the big bully and ‘Great Satan.'” Palestinians, too, danced in the streets.
Even so, she recalled Jewish women coming to the mosque in Mansfield, Mass., to sympathize with Muslims who were experiencing a backlash of New England opinion. Even U.S. President George W. Bush went on TV to say Islam was “a religion of peace” — a debatable issue, but a view devoid of knee-jerk Islamophobia.
Still, Hassan questioned Islam’s values, and has been labelled an apostate. She questions Islamic fanaticism, as does her colleague (mentor?) in Toronto, Tarek Fatah, president of the Muslim Canadian Council (MCC), who opposes Islamists and jihadists.
Canadians are encouraged to view the Canadian Islamic Congress (CIC) as a middle-road representative for Islam. Yet, she notes its positions are “pro-Palestinian, pro-Shariah law, pro-orthodoxy.” One wonders if CIC plays a double-game?
Most Muslim organizations (including CAIR-Can) have ties to the Muslim Brotherhood now in ascendency in the Middle East. Only MCC challenges the Brotherhood. That makes MCC — and Fatah and Hassan potential targets.
In Canada, Islamists uphold Shariah and “insulate their children from Western influence “¦ demand outrageous faith accommodations in public schools, engage in surreptitious polygamous relations,” perform genital mutilation on girls, indulge in “honour killings” for infractions as minor as girls refusing to wear veils.
Hassan recalls Toronto’s Valley Park Middle School turning its cafeteria into a prayer hall on Fridays, and girls barred from attending swimming or gym classes at other schools unless they wore long clothes that fully covered their bodies.
As for Muslim prayer rooms in schools, Farzana quotes Liberal MPP Kathleen Wynne (a leading contender to be Ontario’s next premier): “We’ve had religious accommodation in our schools for many years. We are simply providing space. It’s a practice that’s making us stronger.”
Maybe that’s a signal that more school cafeterias will become Friday prayer rooms if Wynne wins the premiership.
Muslim girls are the big losers — confined to the back of classes and all that. Even Catholic secondary schools in London and Kitchener now provide Muslim prayer halls.
Freedom of speech and tolerance are being exploited by Islamists to impose restrictions and dogma — with even moderate Muslims fearful of speaking out.
Women are rendered invisible and anonymous by the burka, and by “upholding the uncontested guardianship of the husband over the wife.” Plus other aspects.
These are some of what Hassan, Fatah and the MCC oppose.
And that makes them apostates and subject to threats — and requires both courage and conviction to stand up for what’s right, and for Canada.