He’s sorry some were offended by what he wrote. But he’s not sorry for having written it.
That’s how Haroon Salamat, chairman of the Toronto and Region Islamic Centre, summed up his feelings about a controversy brewing at the North York mosque.
Some worshippers are upset Salamat used the congregation’s newsletter to condemn NATO and Western efforts to defend Libyans from longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
While they may not be surprised by his words because the centre was built by money provided by the Libyan government, they maintain, “It’s not good to mix religion and politics.”
“Many people don’t agree with the chairman,” said worshipper Ali, who refused to give his last name for fear of retribution. “It’s wrong that he wrote that . . . People may think all Muslims are supporting a regime like that.”
In the four-page newsletter, Salamat suggests the West is waging a war on Islam and disputes reports that Libya was bombing its own citizens and that the local population was being massacred.
He goes on to highlight the “tremendous amount of good (Gadhafi) has done and continues to do,” such as providing free medical care, free housing, and free education.
“That’s not true. He has no right to say that because he doesn’t know what it is like to live there,” said Ibrahim Momen, a Libyan who came to Canada in 1980.
“He insults Libyans and Canadians,” said Momen, who first raised objections about the piece.
“Gadhafi destroyed Libya. And he insults Canada because it is part of NATO, which is helping civilians.”
On Friday, Salamat told the Toronto Star, he wrote the opinion piece because he wanted to provide an alternative to what is in the mainstream media. He added that even though the centre has received funds from Libya for 20 years, it is not a mouthpiece for the regime.
“They don’t ask us to say or do anything but, obviously, you don’t bite the hand that feeds you,” he said...Well, duh.
Update: From the mosque's website:
The TARIC ISLAMIC CENTRE was established by the Toronto and Region Islamic Congregation (TARIC) and The World Islamic Call Society and is located at the busiest intersection in Canada. Built on 2.2 acres on the northeast corner of Highways 400 and 401, the Islamic Centre is one of the largest in the city with a Muslim population of over 400,000. In the summer, when overflow crowds are accommodated on the lawn, attendance at
Salat ul Jumma exceeds 2,000. The issue of Gulf Weekly of 25-31 May 1995 says "..The TARIC Islamic Centre, probably the most vibrant and effective in reaching out to non-Muslims is, perhaps the premier Muslim outfit in Metropolitan Toronto. Founded in 1977, it opened in 1991 the first of a two-phase complex of buildings. Today, it has over 2,000 worshippers, a library, a gymnasium and a school that teaches Arabic and the Muslim religion. It also puts out a bulletin called Community News. Unlike some other Islamic organisations, those at the helm of affairs here seem to have succeeded in projecting Islam to the Canadian public in a very favourable light."
The policy makers at TARIC realize that many Muslims are unaware of the basics of Islam and therefore do not have the knowledge to practice their faith. Consequently, the power and confidence that comes from prayer and the remembrance of Allah is absent in their lives. Peace and serenity that is the promise of Allah to those who worship Him is unattainable, and stress, conflict, confusion, alcoholism, drug abuse and suicides become the alternatives.
TARIC's goal is to bring the simple, honest message of Islam to Muslims and non-Muslims alike. This means, stressing the importance of the five pillars of Islam encouraging Muslims to read the Qur'an, and to constantly practice zikkir (the remembrance of Allah)...
The site is replete with this sort of touchy-feely stuff about "outreach" and putting Islam "in a very favourable light," but there's nary a word about the source of the mosque's funding, i.e. the preening lunatic currently hunkering down in some Tripoli bunker. And no wonder. Any mention of the Colonel would be bound to give the credulous kafirs the "wrong" impression.