The news pages, both in print and online, are routinely splashed with a plethora of stories about groups that claim to represent Muslims (think: CAIR) and that contribute to the demonization of the Global War on Terror (GWT). Rarely are readers exposed to a Muslim group that fights this demonization.
But in Canada, a new group called the Progressive Muslims Institute Canada (PMIC) has been vocal in its opposition to Islamic jihadists, and they’ve been able to build bridges with the Jewish community.
In a wide-ranging interview not only with PMIC but with representatives of B’Nai B’rith of Canada, one of the groups that has reciprocated PMIC’s extended hand, FrontPage Magazine was able to get a view of these activists’ unique perspective of the GWT.
Tahir Gora is the Director General of PMIC, and he said that the goal of the group is not only to fight extremism but to make sure that there is a clearly separated marker between religious and political affairs:
Progressive Muslims Institute Canada (PMIC) strongly denounces all forms extremism and terrorism in the name of Islam. The group advocates and promotes gender equality. It promotes liberal, progressive and secular values among Muslims and believes in clear separation between religion and state.
As part of its efforts, PMIC has also formed the Muslim Committee against Anti-Semitism (MCAAS), which, according to Gora, was “established to counter and discourage ideas and concepts of anti-Semitism amongst Canadian Muslim Diaspora. It conducts monthly seminars, workshops, conferences and rallies in order to curb anti-Semitism.”
Included in those efforts was a rally held on Sunday, June 9, 2013, at Queens Park in Toronto, Canada. That rally was organized in response to a series of terrorist attacks committed around the world by Islamic terrorists.
One speaker, Arshad Mahmood the PMIC honorary director, said, “I stand here today and publicly announce that I am sorry. I am sorry that I did not come here before. I am sorry that I did not stand up when my religion was being hijacked.”
Among those who covered that rally was the Jewish Tribune of Canada, the media arm of B’nai B’rith of Canada.
B’nai B’rith is a worldwide organization that operates on behalf of the social welfare of Jews the world over. Sam Eskanasi handles press matters for B’Nai B’rith in Canada, and he said that PMIC is part of a number of Muslim groups in Canada, locked in a struggle between those looking to stand up to extremists and reach out to the Jewish community and others that tacitly approve of Islamic extremism while demonizing the Jewish race. According to Eskanasi,
The Jewish community has a good, working relationship with the certain branches of the Muslim community in Canada. Some personalities such as Tahir Gora and, Asma Mahmood, Salma and Naseema Siddiqui … are among those with whom we work on a regular basis and on a variety of issues. We regularly interface with them through interfaith dialogues, but also express our concerns regarding radicalization.
However, there are many other groups in Canada with whom B’nai B’rith has not been able to form such a nice relationship:
There are groups within the community that are not as open to dialogue with us such as the Canadian Arab Federation (CAF), whose former president Khaled Mouammar, who had made hateful remarks, or the Canadian Islamic Congress, who have, with the CAF, been accused of spreading “hateful sentiments” toward Israel and Jews. This is in addition to those who hold a yearly “Al-Quds day rally” or who have held rallies blaming “Zionists” for the sectarian violence in Pakistan[.]
Both Gora and Eskanasi said that Canadians in general underestimate the threat from Islamic jihadists because there hasn’t yet been a successful attack on Canadian soil. Both say that Canada’s long-time official stance against Islamic extremism makes the country an inviting target. Eskanasi noted that this is a double edged sword:
There is a clear and present danger to Canada as we continue to be outspoken against the threats of Islamic extremism. One need not look much further than a recent government report or the VIA Rail Bombing plot, let alone the infamous Toronto 18 from 2006. Canada is one of, if not the only country, mentioned by Osama Bin-Laden and Al-Qaida that has not been hit.
Many long-time observers of the Middle East note with great sadness that the Jewish, Arab and Muslim people have a great deal of natural similarities that aren’t being recognized as a result of longstanding bad blood and the growth of Muslim extremism. Movements PMIC are meant to counteract that dynamic and bring people together.
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