by Omar Qayum
Here we go again! The Toronto Sun’s Terry Davidson has found another example of Muslims “misbehaving” in the Greater Toronto Area. Terry is the same provocateur who fueled the East End Madrassah and Islamic Books and Souvenirs store controversies. Little is known about this individual, including his/her gender, as Terry’s bio page on the Toronto Sun website is empty. Regardless, Terry seems to be the Sun’s designated exploiter of fringe issues and individuals in the Muslim community. His latest hit piece focuses on a lone “Muslim cleric,” Al-Haashim Kamena Atangana, who preaches outside Toronto’s Eaton Centre. According to a letter written to the Sun, Mr. Atangana wishes “that Toronto becomes the first City in North America to introduce laws that would make it illegal for women to dress provocatively,” in order to protect them from being sexually assaulted or raped.
While many have attacked Mr. Atangana’s views, I see no point in condemning “village idiots” as they are best dealt with through marginalization. However, the Sun Media’s front page portrayal of him as a “Muslim cleric” reeks of tabloid journalism and is further proof of their Islamophobic agenda. Mr. Atangana is as much a “Muslim cleric” as Terry Jones and Fred Phelps are “Christian pastors.” I personally know many of the individuals who set up Islamic information booths outside the Eaton Centre. None of them are clerics or have anything to do with Mr. Atangana—he is a one man show. They have even tried to reason with him on multiple occasions but to no avail. Fortunately for his kind, our laws afford all Canadians, including the Sun Media Corporation, the right to voice their opinions no matter how bigoted, offensive or moronic they may be. Yonge and Dundas Square is host to many “colorful” individuals including “pastors” David Lynn and Philip Ness-Thomas who frequently condemn homosexuals and share their “utopian” vision for the world. You can see Phillip holding a sign saying “Jesus Makes A Better Master Than Sin” right behind Mr. Atangana here. Somehow I doubt Sun Media will do an exposé on their views as defaming Christianity is not part of their “No Spin” agenda. Their current strategy is to consistently dig dirt on Muslims and indict mainstream Islam through their lackeys at the Muslim Canadian Congress (MCC).
Tarek Fatah, founder of the MCC, took reservation to Mr. Atangana telling Western women how to dress. Yet Tarek and his MCC goons see no hypocrisy in calling for the banning of face veils worn by some Canadian Muslim women. Tarek then connects Mr. Atangana’s views to some idiotic global Islamist rape conspiracy of “uncovered” women. How does Tarek know the perpetrators are even practicing Muslims let alone Islamists? Aren’t Islamists devout Muslims who seek Shariah law to punish sexual crimes? Tarek fully well knows that the Shariah punishment for rape is capital punishment. Yet he shamelessly asks why no “mosque or mullah” has denounced the alleged sexual assault of a Muslim woman at Toronto’s Pakistani consulate. When churches and synagogues start denouncing every Christian or Jewish sexual predator, we will too. The fact of the matter is that Tarek and the MCC are not interested in distinguishing between law abiding Muslims and criminals who often have nothing to do with Islam. They are useful pawns to right-wing bigots as they are willing to brand the majority of Muslims who oppose them as “Islamists.”
Then there are the disingenuous spokeswomen of the MCC, Raheel Raza and Farzana Hassan. I used to think of Raheel as a reasonable Muslim elder until the MCC allied itself with blatant Islamophobes like the Jewish Defence League and Canadian Hindu Advocacy in order to prevent Muslim students from praying in public schools—a constitutional right guaranteed to every Canadian. She then went on the Sun News Network, with host Ezra Levant, and accused me of exhibiting “threatening” and “aggressive” behavior towards her. If that was true, why didn’t she summon one of the numerous police officers on scene? My entire conversation with her was caught on video, including the part where her husband, Sohail Raza, tells her not to talk to me and whisks her away. So much for not allowing men to tell women what to do!
Both Raheel and Farzana blasted Mr. Atangana for his views and asked that he be prevented from speaking in public; Raheel went to the extent of saying that “he should be locked up for life.” Imagine this coming from the same MCC that claims to stand for free speech. If these useless Desi aunties find opposing views so overbearing, I will gladly pay for their tickets back to Pakistan—on the condition that they never come back. The reality is that when organizations like the MCC and Sun Media speak of “freedom of speech and religion,” they really mean freedom for their speech and religion, not yours! Furthermore, Raheel had the audacity to claim that Mr. Atangana was blaming victims when this is precisely the MCC’s shtick. Since 9/11 the MCC has been working overtime to tarnish mainstream Muslims while downplaying the rise of Islamophobia in the West.
It is my view that Tarek Fatah and the MCC are either self-hating Muslims or only Muslims by name. In a recent Facebook post, Tarek proudly states that he has “two lovely agnostic daughters.” This is interesting considering his daughter, Natasha Fatah, claims to be a Muslim in a March 2012 Toronto Life article on the Valley Park Middle School prayer controversy. Either Natasha lost her faith in the last four months or one of them is a liar. Then again, according to the “MCC School of Islamic Thought,” Muslims can be agnostics and atheists too. Perhaps many of the personalities at the MCC would make excellent cast members in future Transformers movies—only as Deceptions of course.
The Sun’s resident Catholic bigot Michael Coren also weighed in on the issue. Michael immediately took a jab at Mr. Atangana’s middle name “Kamena,” claiming it to be an insult from “his time in the Middle East.” Aside from the fact that it is a South Asian slur meaning scoundrel, Michael is the real kameena for advocating nuclear strikes on the Iranian people in a past article. Furthermore, Michael contradicted himself when he disapproved of regulating Western women’s clothing, but approved of banning Muslim girls from playing soccer while wearing headscarves. He also wasted no time in spinning Mr. Atangana’s views as inherent to Islam and went on to make the ludicrous claim that the New Testament teaches “gender equality.” I challenge Michael to refute the following blatantly misogynistic passages in the New Testament as they are precisely why Catholic women are forbidden from becoming ordained priests:
►men are the heads of women, 1 Corinthians 11:2-10
►women are to be submissive to their husbands, Ephesians 5:21-24
►women are to remain silent in church, 1 Corinthians 14:34-35
►women are not to have authority over men, 1 Timothy 11:15
►women are to be domestic, Titus 2:4-9
It is sad to see how we have degenerated into a society of extremes and ignorance. People who think decency laws alone are the solution must ask why societies with conservative dress codes have significant levels of sex crimes. Experts partly attribute this to the alarming rates of pornography consumption in the Muslim world coupled with absurd cultural demands that make marriage extremely difficult. To ignore this reality and indict Islamists instead is blatant fear and hate mongering. Our Prophet Muhammad (SAW) warned us not to make marriage difficult, lest there be tribulation in the land.
Then there are those who believe “re-appropriating” the word “slut” via a “SlutWalk” will yield fruitful results. This is akin to hip-hop artists popularizing the usage of the word “nigga” as a means of combating racism—this is misguidance at best. A recent study conducted by Professor Susan Fiske of Princeton University showed that when men were exposed to bikini-clad women, they tended to associate them with first-person action verbs like I “push,” “handle” and “grab,” but associated third-person action verbs like she “pushes,” “handles” and “grabs” when shown fully clothed women. Perhaps Sun Media should consider this when exploiting women daily through its “Sunshine Girls.” Ignoring the negative effect that provocatively dressed women have on both genders in an increasingly hyper sexualized society is grossly irresponsible. Does this mean that women, regardless of the way they are dressed, should be sexually abused? Absolutely not! But men and women must make informed decisions on how their attire will impact them and society at large—pragmatism alone will not suffice.
There is no doubt that adultery, rape, incest, fornication and other forms of sexual immorality are abominations in Islam and other faith traditions. Sex crimes are committed globally for various reasons and under unique social circumstances. Hence, a holistic approach is required to effectively combat this evil that not only affects women, but children and men too. This includes serious education, resources, wisdom and spirituality. Individuals and organizations like Mr. Atangana, Tarek Fatah, the MCC and Sun Media Corporation do us all a disservice by trivializing such serious issues for petty gain. The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) called us an ummatun wasatun, a middle nation, and it is in moderation that I believe the best solution lies.
Omar Qayum is a volunteer at the North American Muslim Foundation (NAMF).