Thursday, June 07, 2007

Imam held at U.S.-Canada border

A lot of themes that I blog about come together in this story. A scholar from London, Ontario was flying from Quebec City to Milwaukee last month to speak at an interfaith conference. He was stopped in Detroit, admitted to a Customs and Border Protection agent he was on his way to give a lecture on Islam, and was detained and questioned for what he says was 4 hours. According to C-News/Sun Media,

...the imam said he was intimidated.

The Islamic scholar said he was asked if he knew Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein and whether he loved "God or Allah."

"You can't help but be intimidated, and the thought of Maher Arar when he fell in the hands of U.S. authorities without any regard for innocence or anything else," [Dr. Munir] El-Kassem said yesterday.

Let's unpack what's going on here a little:
  • Giving a lecture on Islam can be enough to qualify you for detention.
  • Flying exposes you to U.S.-government mandated interference with your freedoms.
  • Racial (and religious) profiling is a recipe for false positives.
  • The operatives entrusted with acting out this "security" theater are ignorant bigots with apparently no purposeful training whatsoever.
  • Canadians suffer particularly onerous distortions of their expectations of free travel, coming from a diverse and sensible country which happens to border an increasingly paranoid superpower.
  • Torture serves not only to break the individual subjected to it, but also to intimidate and isolate persons who know it can happen. El-Kassem's first thought was Mahar Arar.
This article does not make clear whether he continued on to give the lecture. Dr. El-Kassem's elected member of parliament is pressing the Conservative Canadian government to take up his mistreatment with United States authorities. Good luck!


Grandmère Mimi said...

It's happening here.

Anonymous said...

Let's pretend that there aren't radical moslem imams that promote terrorism and islamism.
Let's pretend that there aren't radical moslems in the world that get pumped up weekly at their mosques.
Let's pretend that in nearly every conflict on today's planet that moslems aren't involved.

Instead of complaining, the Imam should cooperate and show that he's on OUR side.

sfmike said...

Exactly what is "OUR" side? A bunch of torturers, rapists, and pillagers (see Iraq)? Israel (see above)? The Bush administration (see above)?

And your phrase, "Let's pretend that in nearly every conflict on today's planet that moslems aren't involved" would make much more sense if the misspelled word "moslems" were replaced by "Americans." Go crawl back under your rock, please.

Blazing Cat Fur said...

I will not endorse anyone who in standard islamofascist apologist form of moral equivalency defends the Talibans decision to destroy the Buddha statues. Who has given a ringing endorsement to Louis Farrakhan. Both of which th good doctor has done- he talks out of both sides of his mouth.

janinsanfran said...

Blazing Cat Fur - thank you for your comment. I did the research to find a speech by Dr. El-Kassem on the Taliban's destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas. It is true that he called out the hypocrisy of the detractors in that speech.

"If the West claims to be the guardian of cultural heritage, how come no one moved a pen to condemn the destruction of the historical Babri Mosque in India? ...Where were the guardians of cultural heritage when mosques, libraries, historic buildings, and museums were destroyed in Bosnia, Kosovo and Palestine? The real culprits who displayed ‘medieval barbarianism’ and committed a ‘great crime against humanity’ were not the Taliban but those who killed the Imams and the civilians while destroying the historic monuments."

He does seem perhaps to be obsessed by the moats in others eyes when he wrote this.

Still, we do not do justice to Dr. El-Kassem if we ignore the conclusion of this talk.

The Koran tells us, “We have not set you as a keeper over them, nor are you responsible for them… Abuse not those whom they worship besides God, lest they out of spite abuse God in their ignorance.” Muslims are supposed to carry the message of God to humanity. They are not supposed to force people to accept Islam or to destroy other people’s sacred symbols and places of worship. However, as mentioned earlier, what the Taliban did in Afghanistan was not triggered by contempt towards another religion, but rather, by the hypocrisy of some members of the world community. Justice demands that condemnation should not only be directed at the weak, but also at the strong.

If he means what he says, he seeks peace between peoples of different faiths. I choose to believe he means what he says.

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