Monday, August 28, 2006

The Globe and Mail exposes how ISNA hides $5 Million it got from Saudi Arabian sources



This article tells you a lot of how the Islamist network operates in Canada. In the report, the ISNA spokesperson reveals what most Islamists feel about Canada.

Kathy Bullock tells the Globe and Mail:

"There is no definable Canadian culture, merely competing versions; one from 'white, middle-class Canada,' another from orthodox Islam."

Read and reflect.

Tarek Fatah

November 8, 2005

Values at heart of Islamic tensions

Canadian Muslims are divided over sharia, funding from overseas, and religion's role in a secular society

The Globe and Mail, Toronto

MISSISSAUGA -- Several ornate chandeliers glitter in the sunlight of this well-appointed mosque, where congregants gather for Friday prayers. Women in shalwar kameez and hijabs enter through the same door as men and sit behind them on a mint-green carpet, divided by a two-foot-high, frosted glass partition. In tidy washrooms at the entrance, latecomers bathe at state-of-the-art ablution taps.

Located off a highway in Mississauga, the mosque is an impressive building, with a traditional minaret, a travel agency specializing in trips to Mecca for the hajj, a bookstore and a brand-new high school.

This is the Canadian headquarters for the Islamic Society of North America -- an umbrella group of Muslim and Islamic organizations that, according to its mission statement, focuses on building an Islamic way of life in North America.

ISNA is also one of a few facilities in Canada that is funded by the Islamic Development Bank, which is based in Saudi Arabia.

In 2002, the Saudi Ministry of Culture and Information announced that King Fahd gave $5-million (U.S.) and an annual grant of $1.5-million to the Islamic Centre in Toronto. (The Islamic Centre of Canada is also housed at ISNA.) This year, the IDB announced a $275,000 grant to ISNA's high school, as well as a scholarship program.

The IDB funding -- touted on ISNA's website, although officially denied by a society spokeswoman -- is of concern to some Canadian Muslims who advocate for a secular government. They worry about the potential ideological parity between the society and its funder.

"We are opposed to funding from foreign governments because theoretically it could change the narrative and culture of Muslims in Canada. Our fear is they will proselytize the Wahhabist message," said Munir Pervaiz, a director of the Muslim Canadian Congress, a grassroots organization based in Toronto.

Critics contend that, in the past, Saudi Arabia has funded mosques overseas in an effort to export Wahhabism, which developed in the late 18th century and emphasizes a return to the literal text of the Koran and the establishment of Islamic law.

The debate about ISNA and its funding reflects the divisions inherent in Canada's 650,000-strong Muslim community, as competing organizations struggle to control the discourse and public face of Islam. The groups are becoming increasingly sophisticated, embarking on outreach initiatives and sharpening their media message, as they refuse to allow extremists and terrorists to hijack their faith.

Yet tensions remain. They came to the fore most recently in Ontario during the furor over sharia, with the MCC advocating against religious tribunals to resolve family disputes, and ISNA and other organizations lobbying in favour them.

In the end, Premier Dalton McGuinty reversed course and decided in September that religious tribunals would no longer be permitted under the 1991 Arbitration Act. In declaring "there will be one law for all Ontarians," he said that faith-based tribunals "threaten our common ground."
In Toronto, ISNA recently organized a protest in favour of religious arbitration, with the rallying cry: "No Islamophobia, racism or Islam bashing." Proponents of sharia say the problem isn't with Islamic law, but with the way some imams apply it.

Mohamed Elmasry, president of the Canadian Islamic Congress, calls sharia critics un-Islamic. In a recent open letter, he likened opposing sharia to "smearing Islam, ridiculing the Koran, badmouthing Mohammad . . ."

In this battle for the very soul of Islam, it is hard to say which side has more to lose. No wonder ISNA is loath to disclose details of its IDB funding.

Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Saudi-financed mosques and schools in the United States and Canada have been under greater scrutiny. Saudi Arabia is the world's biggest financier of fundamentalist Islam, as well as the nationality of Osama bin Laden and 15 of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers.

A 2003 report by the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations found Saudi Arabia had spent hundreds of millions of dollars to fund 210 Islamic centres and 1,359 mosques around the world, including at least three in Canada. The report found that U.S. interests were threatened by Saudi efforts to export Wahhabism, which could foster intolerance toward the United States, Christians, Jews and other Muslims.

In 2004, the U.S. Senate finance committee, in an investigation of possible ties to terrorism, sought the tax records of ISNA in the United States.

ISNA co-operated fully, saying it had nothing to hide. The society has worked hard on outreach, inviting U.S. President George W. Bush to its annual convention, held last month in Chicago.
In Canada, ISNA has been much more low-profile, achieving prominence only during the recent sharia debate. The society, while not known for its advocacy work, enjoys a relatively mainstream image, according to one Muslim organization.

On its website, ISNA talks about advocating Islamic solutions to societal problems and becoming involved in "righteous change," guided by sharia.

Kathy Bullock, a native Australian who converted to Islam, is ISNA's articulate spokeswoman. In an interview with The Globe and Mail, she said the society does not follow Wahhabism, but practises a mainstream version of the faith, and notes that it has been active in speaking out against extremism. ISNA in the United States was one of the first organizations to issue a fatwa against terrorism after the terrorist attacks in London in July.

"ISNA is very mainstream, moderate philosophy, teaching people to be good citizens in the countries in which they live and to engage as Canadians with the non-Muslim mainstream," Ms. Bullock said. "It eschews violence as a political strategy . . . and tries to promote integration without losing your Islamic identity."

Ms. Bullock is less clear about ISNA's funding from the IDB, which was set up in 1973 by Islamic countries to foster economic development and social progress of member countries and Muslim communities, according to the principles of sharia.

In the interview, she compared ISNA's IDB funding to the Canadian International Development Agency, which supports sustainable development projects in developing countries. She said there was no pressure to follow Wahhabism as a result of the IDB money. "It is like a grant," she said.

In a follow-up e-mail, Ms. Bullock denied ISNA receives IDB funds, although ISNA's website says the opposite. An official with Saudi Arabia's embassy in Washington also said he believed King Fahd's $5-million grant went to ISNA.

Tarek Fatah, an MCC spokesman, says ISNA should be transparent about its funding. "What are they scared of? There is double-talk going on here."

A member of another Muslim organization calls the debate around sharia, and the question of ISNA's funding, "mudslinging" and corrosive to the community. "I think it is a healthy debate to have different perspectives [in the Muslim community], but unhealthy when you have pejoratives thrown around," he says. "Calling someone a Wahhabist these days is tantamount to calling someone an extremist. The term has taken on a life of its own."

Ms. Bullock says she also feels the debate over sharia has been shaped through the lens of "Islamophobia" and "us versus them." She sees Islamic law as inherently equitable, although concedes there is room for reform. (For example, in the notion that women are only entitled to three months of alimony.) Ms. Bullock calls herself a feminist who wants to work for change from within.

ISNA's understanding of the faith, however, is rooted in orthodoxy. Ms. Bullock recently told a panel on the Michael Coren Show that she has no problem with polygamy.

Muslim women must cover their bodies and hair and accept that their primary responsibility is to care for children and the home, Ms. Bullock explains. Once these obligations are fulfilled, there is nothing to stop women from pursuing a career outside the home as she does, lecturing at the University of Toronto.

Muslims should not take loans from banks that charge them interest, should not go to restaurants that sell alcohol, eat chocolates with rum-filled centres and women should not swim in pools unless they are wearing long bathing shorts and there are no men present, Ms. Bullock says. She adds that these issues are also individual and may depend on the circumstances.

ISNA's high school enforces a strict Islamic dress code and gender segregation in the classrooms, with girls on one side and boys on the other. Girls must wear a head scarf properly pinned under the chin, but may remove it for the all-girls gym class. Islamic studies is part of the curriculum, with an emphasis on Sunni Islam.

With about 75 students, the school stresses the importance of Islamic values, while exposing students to non-Islamic Canadian culture, including ski trips and excursions to Paramount Canada's Wonderland.

Critics contend that some aspects of ISNA's understanding of Islam, especially the gender segregation, are out of step not only with mainstream Canadian culture, but also with the way smaller minority sects such as Ismailis, Ahmadiyas and Sufis see their faith.

Stephen Suleyman Schwartz, a Sufi convert and executive director of the Washington-based Center for Islamic Pluralism, supported the introduction of sharia in Ontario, calling Mr. McGuinty's decision to ban religious arbitration in the province "unspeakably ridiculous."

However, he said the sharia interpretations presented by ISNA during the debate didn't include those outside the Saudi tradition. "All the stuff I could get in Kosovo, Indonesia and other Muslim communities was nowhere to be found," Mr. Schwartz said.

Adds Mr. Pervaiz of the Muslim Canadian Congress: "ISNA's version of Islam is not my vision of a moderate, mainstream Islam. As a practising, yet secular, Muslim, my fear is when you bring the principle of sharia into the public domain [instead of leaving it in religious centres] it works against separation of church and state and against integration."

Atique Azad, a Bangladeshi immigrant and regular at the ISNA mosque, attended on Aug. 12 and did not like what he described as the "anti-woman" sermon delivered by a visiting imam. Mr. Azad said the imam referred to all females as a source of temptation and seduction.

Ms. Bullock said ISNA later informed the imam his choice of words was "offensive and inappropriate." The speaker apologized and pledged not to repeat such language, she said.

She does not see ISNA's overall philosophy as contradictory with the "Canadian way" because she says there is no definable Canadian culture, merely competing versions, one from "white, middle-class Canada," another from orthodox Islam.

"The Canadian way to me is a way that accepts my religion, and makes the greatest attempt legally to accommodate religious practices including the right to pray, wear a hijab and all the rights that flow from religious accommodation," Ms. Bullock says.

She hopes that one positive effect of the sharia debate and the spotlight on Muslim organizations will be to foster a greater understanding of Islam, and a breaking down of negative stereotypes about the religion.

"I'm committed to a more orthodox, conservative faith, but it is not contrary to Canadian values. I see them as very much in sync," she said. "There are no monolithic Canadian values and no monolithic Muslim values."

Hezbollah's Nasrallah say Oops...I am Sorry!


After causing the death of a thousand people and giving Israel the excuse of reducing parts of Lebanon to rubble, Hezbollah's Nasrallah, says, Oops...I am sorry.

He told a Lebanese TV:

"Had we known that the kidnapping of the soldiers would have led to this, we would definitely not have done it...We did not think that there was a 1% chance that the kidnapping would lead to a war of this scale and magnitude...Now you ask me if this was 11 July and there was a 1% chance that the kidnapping would lead to a war like the one that has taken place, would you go ahead with the kidnapping? I would say no, definitely not, for humanitarian, moral, social, security, military and political reasons."

How many more latter day Saladins will appear as mirages, before the Arab people, realize that hero worship and the blind following of charismatic pied pipers, will not deliver the dignity and freedom that has been denied to them for so long.

Only the creation of democratic and secular Palestinian state will trigger that renaissance. Unfortunately, the only person who can deliver such a promise, Abu Mazen, has now been marginalized by the Islamists and Iran as a US agent and a Zionist stooge. The fact that Mahmood Abbas is the only Arab in human history to be elected President by the people of the country, is tragically lost on many.

Palestine will be won on the merits of the case, not through the barrel of a gun or the sloganeering of the Islamists.

Here is Nasrallah saying "Oops".

Read and reflect.

Tarek Fatah
Sunday, 27 August 2006

Nasrallah sorry for scale of war

BBC News

Hezbollah chief Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah has said he would not have ordered the capture of two Israeli soldiers if he had known it would lead to such a war.

"Had we known that the kidnapping of the soldiers would have led to this, we would definitely not have done it," he said in an interview on Lebanese TV.

He added that neither side was "heading towards a second round" of fighting. More than 1,000 Lebanese died in the 34-day conflict which left much of southern Lebanon in ruins.

The Israeli offensive began after two Israeli soldiers were seized during a cross border raid by Hezbollah militants on 12 July.

Annan visit

"We did not think that there was a 1% chance that the kidnapping would lead to a war of this scale and magnitude," Sheikh Nasrallah said.

"Now you ask me if this was 11 July and there was a 1% chance that the kidnapping would lead to a war like the one that has taken place, would you go ahead with the kidnapping?

"I would say no, definitely not, for humanitarian, moral, social, security, military and political reasons. Many thousands have been left homeless by the offensive"Neither I, Hezbollah, prisoners in Israeli jails and nor the families of the prisoners would accept it."

Sheikh Nasrallah was speaking on the eve of a visit to Beirut by United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan to discuss the expanded UN peacekeeping force to be deployed in southern Lebanon.

A force of 15,000 soldiers, 7,000 of them from European Union states, will be deployed to maintain the fragile ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah.

The UN hopes to have some of the troops on the ground within a week, although the foreign minister of Finland - which currently holds the EU presidency - has said it will be two to three months before the whole force is deployed.

The force will be led by France until February, at which time Italy will take command.

Speaking in Brussels on Friday, Mr Annan said the plan would only work if the enlarged UN force, called Unifil 2, was "strong, credible and robust".

Mr Annan said the force offered the possibility of a "durable ceasefire and long-term solution" to the Middle East crisis.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Sayyid Qutb was obsessed with sexuality and a contempt for the West


The name Sayyid Qutb is synonymous with the agenda of the Political Islamist movement. This Egyptian from the 50s and 60s, along with his Indian-Pakistani counterpart, Abul Ala Maudoodi, are to the Islamists today what Marx and Lenin were to communists, when they mattered.

Yesterday, the London Independent carried a piece extracted from a book on Qutb by journalist Lawrence Wright.

In my opinion, two things stand out as the defining characteristics of all Islamists; their obsession and fear of sexuality and their contempt for modernity as represented by the West.

Qutb, says the author, "had been unable to find a suitable bride from the "dishonourable" women who allowed themselves to be seen in public." This, from 1948 when, unlike today, the niqaab and the burqa were a rarity in Egypt.

According to Wright:

"Qutb divides the world into two camps, Islam and jahiliyya, the period of ignorance and barbarity that existed before the divine message of the Prophet Mohamed. Qutb uses the term to encompass all of modern life: manners, morals, art, literature, law, even much of what passed as Islamic culture. He was opposed not to modern technology but to the worship of science, which he believed had alienated humanity from natural harmony with creation. Only a complete rejection of ationalism and Western values offered the slim hope of the redemption of Islam. This was the choice: pure, primitive Islam or the doom of mankind."

Read and reflect.

August 18, 2006

Sayyid Qutb:
The father of Al-Qaida, extracted
from The Looming Tower

They're the shadowy foe at the centre of the War on Terror. But how did al-Qa'ida come into being? Award-winning journalist Lawrence Wright explains that the group which almost destroyed New York owes its existence to an Egyptian writer who, in 1948, set sail for the flourishing metropolis in search of sanctuary. There Sayyid Qutb found godlessness, not freedom. And his rage inspired others to rise up against the West...

In a first-class stateroom on a cruise ship bound for New York from Alexandria, Egypt, a frail, middle-aged writer and educator named Sayyid Qutb experienced a crisis of faith. "Should I go to America as any normal student on a scholarship, who only eats and sleeps, or should I be special?" he wondered.

"Should I hold on to my Islamic beliefs, facing the many sinful temptations, or should I indulge those temptations all around me?" It was November 1948. The new world loomed over the horizon, victorious, rich, and free. Behind him was Egypt, in rags and tears. The traveller had never been out of his native country. Nor had he willingly left now.

The stern bachelor was slight and dark, with a high, sloping forehead and a paintbrush moustache somewhat narrower than the width of his nose. His eyes betrayed an imperious and easily slighted nature. He always evoked an air of formality, favouring dark three-piece suits despite the searing Egyptian sun. For a man who held his dignity so close, the prospect of returning to the classroom at the age of 42 may have seemed demeaning.

And yet, as a child from a mud-walled village in Upper Egypt, he had already surpassed the modest goal he had set for himself of becoming a respectable member of the civil service. His literary and social criticism had made him one of his country's most popular writers. It had also earned the fury of King Farouk, Egypt's dissolute monarch, who had signed an order for his arrest. Powerful and sympathetic friends hastily arranged his departure.

At the time, Qutb (pronounced kuh-tub) held a comfortable post as a supervisor in the Ministry of Education. Politically, he was a fervent Egyptian nationalist and anti-Communist, a stance that placed him in the mainstream of the vast bureaucratic middle class.

The ideas that would give birth to what would be called Islamic fundamentalism were not yet completely formed in his mind; indeed, he would later say that he was not even a very religious man before he began this journey, although he had memorised the Koran by the age of 10, and his writing had recently taken a turn toward more conservative themes.

Like many of his compatriots, he was radicalised by the British occupation and contemptuous of the jaded King Farouk's complicity. Egypt was racked by anti-British protests and seditious political factions bent on running the foreign troops out of the country - and perhaps the king as well. What made this unimposing, mid-level government clerk particularly dangerous was his blunt and potent commentary.

He had never got to the front rank of the contemporary Arab literary scene, a fact that galled him throughout his career; and yet from the government's point of view, he was becoming an annoyingly important enemy.

He was Western in so many ways - his dress, his love of classical music and Hollywood movies. He had read, in translation, the works of Darwin and Einstein, Byron and Shelley, and had immersed himself in French literature, especially Victor Hugo. Even before his journey, however, he worried about the advance of an all-engulfing Western civilisation.

Despite his erudition, he saw the West as a single cultural entity. The distinctions between capitalism and Marxism, Christianity and Judaism, fascism and democracy were insignificant by comparison with the single great divide in Qutb's mind: Islam and the East on the one side, and the Christian West on the other.

America, however, stood apart from the colonialist adventures that had characterised Europe's relations with the Arab world. At the end of the Second World War, America straddled the political chasm between the colonisers and the colonised. Indeed, it was tempting to imagine America as the anti-colonial paragon: a subjugated nation that had broken free and triumphantly outstripped its former masters. The country's power seemed to lie in its values, not in European notions of cultural superiority or privileged races and classes.

And because America advertised itself as an immigrant nation, it had a permeable relationship with the rest of the world. Arabs, like most other peoples, had established their own colonies inside America, and the ropes of kinship drew them closer to the ideals that the country claimed to stand for.

And so, Qutb, like many Arabs, felt shocked and betrayed by the support that the US government had given to the Zionist cause after the war. Even as Qutb was sailing out of Alexandria's harbour, Egypt, along with five other Arab armies, was in the final stages of losing the war that established Israel as a Jewish state within the Arab world. The Arabs were stunned, not only by the determination and skill of the Israeli fighters but by the incompetence of their own troops and the disastrous decisions of their leaders.

The shame of that experience would shape the Arab intellectual universe more profoundly than any other event in modern history. "I hate those Westerners and despise them!" Qutb wrote after President Harry Truman endorsed the transfer of 100,000 Jewish refugees into Palestine. "All of them, without any exception: the English, the French, the Dutch, and finally the Americans, who have been trusted by many."

The man in the stateroom had known romantic love, but mainly the pain of it. He had written a thinly disguised account of a failed relationship in a novel; after that, he turned his back on marriage. He said that he had been unable to find a suitable bride from the "dishonourable" women who allowed themselves to be seen in public, a stance that left him alone and unconsoled in middle age. He still enjoyed women - he was close to his three sisters - but sexuality threatened him, and he had withdrawn into a shell of disapproval, seeing sex as the main enemy of salvation.

As he prayed in his stateroom, Sayyid Qutb was still uncertain of his own identity. Should he be "normal" or "special"? Should he resist temptations or indulge them? Should he hang on tightly to his Islamic beliefs or cast them aside for the materialism and sinfulness of the West? Like all pilgrims, he was making two journeys: one outward, into the larger world, and another inward, into his own soul. "I have decided to be a true Muslim!" he resolved. But almost immediately he second-guessed himself.

"Am I being truthful or was that just a whim?"

His deliberations were interrupted by a knock on the door. Standing outside his stateroom was a young girl, whom he described as thin and tall and "half-naked". She asked him in English, "Is it OK for me to be your guest tonight?"

Qutb responded that his room was equipped with only one bed.

"A single bed can hold two people," she said.

Appalled, he closed the door in her face. "I heard her fall on the wooden floor outside and realised that she was drunk," he recalled. "I instantly thanked God for defeating my temptation and allowing me to stick to my morals."

This is the man, then - decent, proud, tormented, self-righteous - whose lonely genius would unsettle Islam, threaten regimes across the Muslim world, and beckon to a generation of rootless young Arabs who were looking for meaning and purpose in their lives and would find it in jihad.

Qutb arrived in New York Harbour in the middle of the most prosperous holiday season the country had ever known. In the postwar boom, everybody was making money - Idaho potato farmers, Detroit auto-makers, Wall Street bankers - and all this wealth spurred confidence in the capitalist model, which had been so brutally tested during the recent Depression. Unemployment seemed practically un-American; officially, the rate of joblessness was under 4 per cent, and practically speaking, anyone who wanted a job could get one. Half of the world's total wealth was now in American hands.

The contrast with Cairo must have been especially bitter as Qutb wandered through the New York streets, festively lit with holiday lights, the luxurious shop windows laden with appliances that he had only heard about - television sets, washing machines - technological miracles spilling out of every department store in stupefying abundance. Downtown and in the outer boroughs, vast projects were under way to house the immigrant masses.

It was fitting, in such a buoyant and confident environment, unprecedented in its mix of cultures, that the visible symbol of a changed world order was arising: the new United Nations complex overlooking the East river. The United Nations was the most powerful expression of the determined internationalism that was the legacy of the war, and yet the city itself already embodied the dreams of universal harmony far more powerfully than did any single idea or institution.

The world was pouring into New York because that was where the power was, and the money, and the transforming cultural energy. Nearly a million Russians were in the city, half a million Irish, and an equal number of Germans - not to mention the Puerto Ricans, the Dominicans, the Poles, and the largely uncounted and often illegal Chinese labourers. The black population of the city had grown by 50 per cent in only eight years, to 700,000, and they were refugees as well, from the racism of the American South.

Fully a quarter of the 8 million New Yorkers were Jewish, many of whom had fled the latest European catastrophe. Hebrew letters covered the signs for the shops and factories on the Lower East Side, and Yiddish was commonly heard on the streets. That would have been a challenge for the middle-aged Egyptian who hated the Jews but, until he left his country, had never met one. For many New Yorkers political and economic oppression was a part of their heritage, and the city had given them sanctuary, a place to earn a living, to raise a family, to begin again. Because of that, the great emotion that fuelled the exuberant city was hopefulness, whereas Cairo was one of the capitals of despair.

At the same time, New York was miserable - overfull, grouchy, competitive, frivolous, picketed with No Vacancy signs. Snoring alcoholics blocked the doorways. Pimps and pickpockets prowled the mid-town squares in the ghoulish neon glow of burlesque houses. For a man whose English was rudimentary, the city posed unfamiliar hazards, and Qutb's natural reticence made communication all the more difficult.

He was desperately homesick. "Here in this strange place, this huge workshop they call 'the new world', I feel as though my spirit, thoughts, and body live in loneliness," he wrote to a friend in Cairo. "What I need most here is someone to talk to," he wrote to another friend, "to talk about topics other than dollars, movie stars, brands of cars - a real conversation on the issues of man, philosophy, and soul."

Two days after Qutb arrived in America, he and an Egyptian acquaintance checked into a hotel. "The black elevator operator liked us because we were closer to his colour," Qutb reported. The operator offered to help the travellers find "entertainment". "He mentioned examples of this 'entertainment', which included perversions. He also told us what happens in some of these rooms, which may have pairs of boys or girls. They asked him to bring them some bottles of Coca-Cola, and didn't even change their positions when he entered! 'Don't they feel ashamed?' we asked.

He was surprised. 'Why? They are just enjoying themselves, satisfying their particular desires.'" This experience, among many others, confirmed Qutb's view that sexual mixing led inevitably to perversion.

The end of the World War had brought America victory but not security. Many Americans felt that they had defeated one totalitarian enemy only to encounter another far stronger and more insidious than European fascism. The fight against Communism was being waged inside America as well. J Edgar Hoover, the Machiavellian head of the FBI, claimed that one of every 1,814 people in America was a Communist. Under his supervision, the bureau began to devote itself almost entirely to uncovering evidence of subversion.

Qutb took note of the obsession that was beginning to dominate American politics. He was himself a resolute anti-Communist for similar reasons; indeed, the Communists were far more active and influential in Egypt than in America. "Either we shall walk the path of Islam or we shall walk the path of Communism," Qutb wrote the year before he came to America.

In Qutb's passionate analysis, there was little difference between the Communist and capitalist systems; both, he believed, attended only the material needs of humanity, leaving the spirit unsatisfied. He predicted that once the average worker lost his dreamy expectations of becoming rich, America would inevitably turn toward Communism. Christianity would be powerless to block this trend because it exists only in the realm of the spirit - "like a vision in a pure ideal world". Islam, on the other hand, is "a complete system" with laws, social codes, economic rules, and its own method of government. Only Islam offered a formula for creating a just and godly society. Thus the real struggle would eventually show itself: It was not a battle between capitalism and Communism; it was between Islam and materialism. And inevitably Islam would prevail.

No doubt the clash between Islam and the West was remote in the minds of most New Yorkers during the holiday season of 1948. But, despite the new wealth that was flooding into the city, and the self-confidence that victory naturally brought, there was a generalised sense of anxiety about the future.

"The city, for the first time in its long history, is destructible," the essayist EB White had observed that summer. "A single flight of planes no bigger than a wedge of geese can quickly end this island fantasy, burn the towers, crumble the bridges, turn the underground passages into lethal chambers, cremate the millions."

White was writing at the dawn of the nuclear age, and the feeling of vulnerability was quite new. "In the mind of whatever perverted dreamer might loose the lightning," he observed, "New York must hold a steady, irresistible charm."

Soon after the new year began, Qutb moved to Washington, where he studied English. "Life in Washington is good," he admitted in one letter, "especially as I live in close proximity to the library and my friends."

He enjoyed a generous stipend from the Egyptian government. "A regular student can live very well on $180 a month," he wrote. "I, however, spend between $250 and $280 monthly."

Although Qutb came from a village in Upper Egypt, it was in America that he found "a primitiveness that reminds us of the ages of jungles and caves". Social gatherings were full of superficial chatter. Though people filled the museums and symphonies, they were there not to see or hear but rather out of a frantic, narcissistic need to be seen and heard. The Americans were altogether too informal, Qutb concluded. "I'm here at a restaurant," he wrote to a friend in Cairo, "and in front of me is this young American. On his shirt, instead of a necktie, there is a picture of an orange hyena, and on his back, instead of a vest, there is a charcoal picture of an elephant. This is the American taste in colours. And music! Let's leave that till later."

On 12 February 1949, while Qutb was in hospital having his tonsils removed, news came of the assassination of Hasan al-Banna, the Supreme Guide of the Society of the Muslim Brothers in Cairo. Qutb relates that there was a hubbub in the street outside his hospital window. He inquired about the reason for the festivities.

"Today the enemy of Christianity in the East was killed," he says the doctors told him. "Today, Hasan al-Banna was murdered." It is difficult to credit that Americans, in 1949, were sufficiently invested in Egyptian politics to rejoice at the news of Banna's death. But for Qutb, lying in his hospital bed in a strange and distant country, the news came as a profound shock. Like Qutb, Banna was precocious and charismatic, but he was also a man of action. He founded the Muslim Brothers in 1928, with the goal of turning Egypt into an Islamic state. Within a few years, the Brothers had spread across the country, and then throughout the Arab world, planting the seeds of the coming Islamic insurgence.

Banna's voice was stilled just as Qutb's book Social Justice in Islam was being published - the book that would make his reputation as an important Islamic thinker. Qutb had held himself pointedly apart from the organisation that Banna created, even though he inclined to similar views about the political uses of Islam; the death of his contemporary and intellectual rival, however, cleared the way for his conversion to the Muslim Brothers. This was a turning point, both in Qutb's life and in the destiny of the organisation. But at this pregnant moment, the heir apparent to the leadership of the Islamic revival was alone, ill, unrecognised, and very far from home.

Qutb returned to Cairo on 20 August 1950. Like him, the country had become more openly radical. Racked by corruption and assassination, humiliated in the 1948 war against Israel, the Egyptian government ruled without popular authority, at the whim of the occupying power. Although the British had nominally withdrawn from Cairo, concentrating their forces in the Suez Canal Zone, the hand of Empire still weighed heavy on the restive capital. The British were present in the clubs and hotels, the bars and cinemas, the European restaurants and department stores of this sophisticated, decadent city.

As his people hissed, the obese Turkish king, Farouk, raced around Cairo in one of his 200 red automobiles (his were the only cars in the country allowed to be red), seducing - if one can call it that - young girls, or else sailing his fleet of yachts to the gambling ports of the Riviera, where his debauchery tested historic standards. Meanwhile, the usual measures of despair - poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, and disease -grew recklessly out of control.

In this rotten political environment, one organisation steadily acted in the interests of the people. The Muslim Brothers created their own hospitals, schools, factories, and welfare societies; they even formed their own army and fought alongside other Arab troops in Palestine. They acted less as a countergovernment than as a countersociety, which was indeed their goal.

Their founder, Hasan al-Banna, completely rejected the Western model of secular, democratic government, which contradicted his notion of universal Islamic rule. "It is the nature of Islam to dominate, not to be dominated, to impose its law on all nations, and to extend its power to the entire planet," he wrote.

The fact that the Brothers provided the only organised, effective resistance to the British occupation ensured their legitimacy in the eyes of the members of Egypt's lower-middle class, who formed the core of Brothers membership. The government officially dissolved the Muslim Brothers in 1948 but by that time the Brothers had more than a million members and supporters - out of a total Egyptian population of 18 million. Although the Brotherhood was a mass movement, it was also intimately organised into cooperative "families" - cells that contained no more than five members each, giving it a spongy, clandestine quality that proved difficult to detect and impossible to eradicate.

There was also a violent underside to the Society of the Muslim Brothers, which would become deeply rooted in the Islamist movement. Although most of the Brothers' activity was directed at the British and at Egypt's quickly dwindling Jewish population, they were also behind the bombings of two Cairo cinemas, the murder of a prominent judge, and the actual assassinations - as well as many attempts - of several members of government.

In retaliation for raids against their bases, British forces assaulted a police barracks in Ismailia in January 1952, firing at point-blank range for 12 hours and killing 50 police conscripts. Upon hearing the news, agitated mobs formed on the streets of Cairo. They burned the old British haunts of the Turf Club and the famous Shepheard's Hotel. The arsonists, led by members of the Muslim Brothers' secret apparatus, slashed the hoses of the fire engines that arrived to put out the flames, then moved on to the European quarter, burning every cinema, casino, bar, and restaurant in the centre of the city. By morning, a thick black cloud of smoke lingered over the ruins. At least 30 people had been killed, 750 buildings destroyed, 15,000 people put out of work, and 12,000 made homeless. Cosmopolitan Cairo was dead.

Something new was about to be born, however. In July of that year, a military junta, dominated by a charismatic young army colonel, Gamal Abdul Nasser, seized control of the government, which fell without resistance. For the first time in 2,500 years, Egypt was ruled by Egyptians.

Qutb published an open letter to the leaders of the revolution, advising them that the only way to purge the moral corruption of the old regime was to impose a "just dictatorship" that would grant political standing to "the virtuous alone". Nasser then invited Qutb to become an advisor to the Revolutionary Command Council.

Qutb hoped for a cabinet position in the new government, but when he was offered a choice between being the minister of education or general manager of Cairo radio, he turned both posts down. Nasser eventually appointed him head of the editorial board of the revolution, but Qutb quit the post after a few months. The prickly negotiation between the two men reflected the initial close cooperation of the Brothers and the Free Officers in a social revolution that both organisations thought was theirs to control. In fact, neither faction had the popular authority to rule.

In a story that would be repeated again and again in the Middle East, the contest quickly narrowed to a choice between a military society and a religious one. Nasser had the army and the Brothers had the mosques. Nasser's political dream was of pan-Arab socialism, modern, egalitarian, secular, and industrialised, in which individual lives were dominated by the overwhelming presence of the welfare state. His dream had little to do with the theocratic Islamic government that Qutb and the Brothers espoused.

The Islamists wanted to completely reshape society, from the top down, imposing Islamic values on all aspects of life, so that every Muslim could achieve his purest spiritual expression. That could be accomplished only through a strict imposition of the Sharia, the legal code drawn from the Koran and the sayings of the Prophet Mohamed, which governs all parts of life. Anything less than that, the Islamists argued, was not Islam. In retrospect, it is difficult to see how Qutb and Nasser could have misunderstood each other so profoundly. The only thing they had in common was the grandeur of their respective visions and their hostility to democratic rule.

Nasser threw Qutb in prison for the first time in 1954, but after three months he let him out and allowed him to become the editor of the Muslim Brothers magazine. Presumably Nasser hoped his display of mercy would enhance his standing with the Islamists and keep them from turning against the increasingly secular aims of the new government.

Qutb wrote a number of sharply critical editorials calling for jihad against the British at the very time Nasser was negotiating a treaty that would nominally end the occupation. In August 1954 the government shut the magazine down. By that time, ill will between the Brothers and the military leaders had hardened into cold opposition. It was clear that Nasser had no intention of instituting an Islamic revolution, despite his highly publicised pilgrimage to Mecca that same month. Qutb was so infuriated that he formed a secret alliance with the Egyptian Communists in an abortive effort to bring Nasser down.

The ideological war over Egypt's future reached a climax on the night of 26 October 1954. Nasser was addressing an immense crowd in a public square in Alexandria. The entire country was listening to the radio as a member of the Muslim Brothers stepped forward and fired eight shots, wounding a guard but missing Nasser. It was the turning point in Nasser's presidency. Over the chaos of the panicked crowd, Nasser continued speaking even as the gunshots rang out. "Let them kill Nasser! What is Nasser but one among many?" he cried. "I am alive, and even if I die, all of you are Gamal Abdul Nasser!"

Had the gunman succeeded, he might have been hailed as a hero, but the failure gave Nasser a popularity he had never enjoyed until then. He immediately put that to use by having six conspirators hanged and placing thousands of others in concentration camps. Qutb was charged with being a member of the Muslim Brothers' secret apparatus that was responsible for the assassination attempt. Nasser thought he had crushed the Brothers once and for all.

Through confessions of other members of the Brotherhood, the prosecution presented a sensational scenario of a planned takeover of the government, involving the destruction of Alexandria and Cairo, blowing up all the bridges over the Nile, and numerous assassinations --an unprecedented campaign of terror, all in the service of turning Egypt into a primitive theocracy. The testimony also demonstrated, however, that the Brothers were too disorganised to accomplish any of these dreadful tasks. Three highly partisan judges, one of them Anwar al-Sadat, oversaw these proceedings. They sentenced Qutb to life in prison, but when his health deteriorated, the sentence was reduced to 15 years.

Qutb was always frail and experienced two heart attacks in prison, and bleeding in his lung. He moved to the prison hospital in May 1955, where he stayed for the next 10 years, spending much of his time writing a lucid, highly personal, eight-volume commentary called In the Shade of the Koran, which by itself would have assured his place as one of the most significant modern Islamic thinkers. But his political views were darkening.

Through family and friends, he managed to smuggle out, bit by bit, a manifesto called Milestones. It circulated underground for years in the form of letters to his brother and sisters, who were also Islamic activists. The voice of the letters was urgent, passionate, intimate, and despairing. When finally published in 1964, the book was banned, but not before five printings had been run off. Anyone caught with a copy could be charged with sedition. Its ringing apocalyptic tone may be compared with Rousseau's Social Contract and Lenin's What Is to Be Done? - with similar bloody consequences.

"Mankind today is on the brink of a precipice," Qutb posits at the beginning. Humanity is threatened not only by nuclear annihilation but also by the absence of values. The West has lost its vitality, and Marxism has failed. "At this crucial and bewildering juncture, the turn of Islam and the Muslim community has arrived." But before Islam can lead, it must regenerate itself.

Qutb divides the world into two camps, Islam and jahiliyya, the period of ignorance and barbarity that existed before the divine message of the Prophet Mohamed. Qutb uses the term to encompass all of modern life: manners, morals, art, literature, law, even much of what passed as Islamic culture. He was opposed not to modern technology but to the worship of science, which he believed had alienated humanity from natural harmony with creation. Only a complete rejection of rationalism and Western values offered the slim hope of the redemption of Islam. This was the choice: pure, primitive Islam or the doom of mankind.

"We need to initiate the movement of Islamic revival in some Muslim country," he writes, in order to fashion an example that will eventually lead Islam to its destiny of world dominion. "There should be a vanguard which sets out with this determination and then keeps walking the path," Qutb declared. "I have written Milestones for this vanguard, which I consider to be a waiting reality about to be materialised." Those words would echo in the ears of generations of young Muslims who were looking for a role to play in history.

Extracted from The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright, published by Allen Lane ( on 31 August, priced £20. ©Lawrence Wright 2006. To order the book for £18 including p&p, call Independent Books Direct on 08700 798 897 or visit

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Globe and Mail report on Canada's Muslim Communities: It's the "Spiritual" vs. "Religious"

Today's Globe and Mail carries an excellent report on the composition of Toronto's Muslim community. Sarah Elton, a CBC Radio producer, pens the piece.

In a crucial departure from conventional classification of various Muslim communities, Elton, a Muslim herself, categorizes Muslims, not between "fundamentalists vs. moderate" or "liberal vs. extremist," but broadly splits them between "spiritual " and the "religious," with the former being the majority.

She writes:

"The first group, spiritual Muslims, form the majority here. They believe in the fundamentals of the religion but are flexible in their interpretations -- they don't pray five times a day and they may not eat halal meat. For these people, religion involves a personal set of beliefs and behaviours."

"The next largest group is religious Muslims, who are more observant in their dress, food and prayers. They go to mosque, yet they're not extremely involved in religious activities, unlike the third and smallest category, who are not only strictly observant but believe it is their duty to influence others to adopt a religious way of life."

This may not be a definitive classification, as many are split by class, race and political leanings of the right vs. left, but generally speaking, she is right. In a 2001 survey, CAIR in the US reported that only 10% of American Muslims regularly attended the mosque, and this holds true for Canada as well.

He report also provides a much needed statistical report of the ethnic makeup of the Muslim communities.

1. South Asians (Pakistanis, Indians and B'deshis) 130,000
2. Iranians 80,000
3. Somalis 70,000
4. Afghans 65,000
5. Arabs 22,000

The above numbers are accurate, but will surprise many media personalities and politicians alike.

Read and reflect.

August 19, 2006

The many meanings of Muslim

World events have placed the city's Muslims 'under a microscope.' So why are they still so misunderstood?

Special to The Globe and Mail

It was at a Saturday afternoon Jays' game last month that it happened. During the seventh inning, Toronto teacher Riyad Khan and a few friends went to grab something to eat at a concession stand; as they made their way back to their seats, says Mr. Khan, "One guy looked at us and started screaming 'Hezbollah!' " Mr. Khan was wearing jeans, a T-shirt -- and a fez cap, which, along with his beard, visibly marks him as a Muslim.

This was not the first time his appearance has drawn attention. He often finds that people stop and stare at him on the street. On some occasions, he's been called Bin Laden by strangers. With the ongoing conflict between Israel and Lebanon, the recent arrest in Toronto of 17 alleged terrorists and this month's breaking news of an alleged plot by British Muslims to blow up as many as 12 airplanes in mid-air, he and other Muslims living here are preparing themselves to be on the receiving end of more suspicious looks.

"It almost feels like the whole Muslim community is put under a microscope, and anything you do or say is scrutinized," he says. "That's frustrating."

But does the notion of a "Muslim community" even make sense in a city like Toronto?

As it happens, the city's 250,000-strong Muslim population is one of the most diverse in the world. Toronto Muslims come from Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and the Caribbean. There are Shiites and Sunnis. (The division in the religion occurred at the time of the Prophet Mohammed's death, when a dispute arose over who his successor should be -- the Shiites believe in 12 saints that the Sunnis don't recognize.)

There are also Shia sects such as the Bohras, Ishnashris and Ismailis, a community that made news last year with its ambitious plans to create a spiritual centre, museum of Islamic art and public park at the site of the former Bata shoe-company headquarters.

Mr. Khan owes his Muslim roots to his parents' background in Trinidad, about as far from the hard-line madrassas (religious schools) of Pakistan as one can imagine.

Because there has been a huge influx of new Muslims into Toronto, particularly from India and Pakistan but also from Africa and Afghanistan, many recent immigrants bring cultural traditions that affect their interpretations of the religion.

This means in Toronto, you can find people practising an Islam that is moulded by Albanian culture in one mosque -- saying an additional set of prayers roughly comparable to saying Catholic rosaries, with men and women praying together -- while in mosques with a predominantly Indo-Pakistani congregation women pray separately, sequestered from the men.

There are also variances in the way different Muslims practice religion and interpret and follow the words of the Koran.

Mohammad Qadeer, a Toronto Muslim and professor emeritus of Queen's University who has studied the social geography of ethnic neighbourhoods in the GTA, explains these differences by identifying three distinct categories of Muslims.

The first group, spiritual Muslims, form the majority here. They believe in the fundamentals of the religion but are flexible in their interpretations -- they don't pray five times a day and they may not eat halal meat. For these people, religion involves a personal set of beliefs and behaviours.

The next largest group is religious Muslims, who are more observant in their dress, food and prayers. They go to mosque, yet they're not extremely involved in religious activities, unlike the third and smallest category, who are not only strictly observant but believe it is their duty to influence others to adopt a religious way of life.

People from all sects and all ethnicities can belong to any one of these three categories, because Muslim religious habits vary greatly, no matter one's sectarian affiliation, says Mr. Qadeer.

You could be an extremely religious Sufi, subscribing to this mystical form of Islam that puts the religion of acceptance and love over all other things; or you could be a deeply committed Wahhabi, and apply the teachings of the Koran without interpreting them, in the same way a fundamentalist Christian chooses to read the Bible. Rather, it is the level of a person's religiosity that affects the day-to-day life, he says.

"Spiritual Muslims . . . would be more lax. They may not keep all 30 fasts in the month of Ramadan. They may dress in a very Western way, and when going out they wouldn't be strict about eating non-halal. A spiritual woman wouldn't wear a veil. A spiritual man wouldn't wear a beard," he says.

Religious Muslims, on the other hand, will be more regular in their prayers and strict about eating halal meat. The women will also demonstrate their religiosity through dress -- by wearing a hijab, and perhaps even a niqab, which covers everything but the face -- while the men will wear a flowing, untrimmed beard.

In Farideh Afshar's family alone, there exists a huge range of practices.

Ms. Afshar, a Shiite originally from Iran, prays everyday, but she rarely goes to mosque. Her daughter believes in God and prays as much as she can, but she doesn't go to mosque, either. Whereas Islam is so important to her one brother that every week when his daughters were young he spent hours driving them to a madrassa, her other brother doesn't even believe in any particular religion. They all identify themselves as Muslims.

For Ali Asaria, a 25-year-old engineering consultant and recent graduate who was born in Toronto to South Asian parents who immigrated here from Tanzania, these cultural and religious influences keep people here from discovering a way to practise a version of Islam that is both true to the religion and to the larger cultural norms of Canada.

"I think the overwhelming issue that hasn't been dealt with in Toronto is this notion of the split identity. Muslims in Toronto don't know how to be Muslims and Canadians at the same time," he says, adding that as a second-generation Canadian, he's searching for what it means to be Muslim here.

The biggest hurdle, when trying to create this new identity, he says, is that once you say you're Canadian, others often assume that you are giving up your Muslim ideals and becoming entirely "Western."

"There's no such thing as a Canadian Muslim," he says. "So how can you be Canadian and Muslim? We're trying to solve that."


AFGHANS: 65,000

Afghans are relative newcomers to Toronto, the first wave of immigrants arriving in the early 1980s after the then-Soviet Union invaded their country. Because of ongoing political turbulence, Afghans have continued to settle here.

Today, the community numbers approximately 65,000. Virtually all are Muslim, with the majority being Sunni.

"In general, Afghans are people of faith," says Adeena Niazi of the Afghan Women's Organization. However, in Toronto, she stresses, they do not practise a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam like that of the Taliban. Rather than rejecting a religion that has often been used as a tool of repression in their homeland, Afghans here often rely on Islam for support when confronted with stress, she says.

"They are all survivors of trauma," she notes, pointing out that almost every single Afghan here is a refugee or comes from a family of refugees.

In the past decade, however, the community has become fairly well established, says Jamal Kakar, executive director of the Afghan Association of Ontario. "Ten years ago, there weren't many families who owned houses. Now I'd say that seven out of 10 own them."

In the Greater Toronto Area, Afghans live and attend mosques near Don Mills and Overlea; in Scarborough, along Markham Road near Ellesmere; in Regent Park; and in Mississauga, as well. On Sundays in Scarborough, crowds of Afghans head to Bluffers Park and Milliken Park to fly kites.

Toronto's most famous Afghan is probably Nelofer Pazira, a journalist, filmmaker and human-rights activist, best known for her role in the movie Kandahar.

IRANIANS: 80,000

Perhaps because Toronto's first wave of Iranian-Muslim immigrants were fleeing the repressive religious regime that rose to power after the fall of the relatively liberal, but politically oppressive, Shah of Iran, they have a reputation for being more culturally Muslim than religious.

Most are Shiites who began to immigrate in large numbers after the revolution in 1979, continued throughout the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s and still arrive today. The number of Iranian-Muslim immigrants in Toronto is currently estimated to be about 80,000.

North on Yonge, near Finch, is the heart of the community, a.k.a. Tehranto, home to dozens of Iranian grocery stores, jewellery shops, hairdressers, real estate agents, restaurants and fast-food joints.

Further north, in Richmond Hill, is where wealthier, more established families have chosen to buy their homes and settle.

The Imam Ali Centre at Bermondsey and Eglinton is a Shia mosque where many Iranians go to celebrate weddings and high holidays and also attend funerals.

SOMALIS: 70,000

There are more Somalis living in Toronto than anywhere else in the world outside of Africa and almost all of them are Muslim, says Ibrahim Absiye of Midaynta Community Services. The vast majority arrived in Toronto between 1993 and 1996 after being displaced by civil war.

The major Somali enclaves in the city are in Jamestown, Lawrence Heights, East and West Mall and Regent Park, where you'll find a mix of Somali businesses including restaurants, stores selling traditional clothes like masr and diraa for women and khamis for men, as well as mortgage brokers and real estates agents catering to the large number of people who are now buying homes. Many Somalis also live in Toronto Community Housing -- so many in fact that Somali is the number one language spoken on these properties.

Politically charged hip hop artist K'naan Warsame, who fled war-torn Mogadishu, is probably the most famous Somali-born Torontonian. His struggle to rise to the top of the hiphop world parallels the struggles many Somalis face as they try to join the Canadian mainstream.

Somali Muslims are Sunni and quite homogeneous, with one language, one sect and one religion, Mr. Absiye says. And it is religion that has become particularly important to women in the community, according to Muna Mohamud who is a Somali family violence counsellor.

"Most diaspora mothers are people who were not educated. . . . Religion became their escape. That's why you see so many people wearing the veil."


South Asian Muslims of Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi descent represent the largest group of Muslims living in the GTA. This group has been moving to the Toronto area since Canada's immigration policy opened up in the 1960s.

It's people from this community in Britain who have experienced the greatest mistrust and animosity from non-Muslim Britons ever since the 2005 suicide bombings in London.

Even in Canada, South Asian Muslims are mistakenly associated with extremist madrassas, fundamentalist ideology and terrorism.

However, South Asian Muslims do not share one common definition, but instead hold a wide range of beliefs, from mystic Sufism to rigorous Wahhabism. Many belong to such Shia sects as the Ismailis and the Ishnashris.

There's a truism that newcomers start off in East Scarborough and then move to Mississauga when things get better.

Those who settle more centrally tend to land in Thorncliffe Park. Because the South Asian community is well established here, some of their mosques are now undergoing a process that Toronto Muslim Mohammad Qadeer refers to as Canadianization. "In the old country, the mosque was a prayer place.

Here it is a community centre; it organizes picnics, it has summer schools," he says, citing the Islamic Foundation mosque in Scarborough, which caters largely to Indian and Pakistani Torontonians.

Testimony to the diversity of beliefs can be found in the Noor Cultural Centre in Don Mills, a progressive non-sectarian Islamic centre that welcomes gay and lesbian Muslims.

ARABS: 22,000

About half of Toronto's Arab population is Muslim (the other half is Christian), with the majority being Sunni.

"The Arabs are the least religious in the sense of attending mosques," says Khaled Mouammar, national president of the Canadian Arab Federation. However, that doesn't stop them from identifying as Muslims here or supporting Muslim causes in other countries -- the war in Lebanon has demonstrated this recently, since Toronto's largest Arab groups are Lebanese and Palestinian (followed by Egyptians and Iraqis).

Whereas some Sunni scholars on the international scene are debating whether to support Hezbollah, which is Shia, here these distinctions between sects don't hold much weight.

Many Arabs here don't preoccupy themselves with the politics of the Middle East as they have lived in the GTA for decades, cultivating a vibrant cultural scene that serves to keep them connected with their heritage. The cinema at Square One sometimes shows mainstream Arabic films from Egypt.

There is no single mosque in the city with a primarily Arab congregation. Those who pray often do so near their place of work: for example, at the Masjid Toronto, which is attended by downtowners and government employees, on Dundas Street near University Avenue. There are also prayers at the University of Toronto, the Hydro building on University and at Ryerson University, according to Ameena Sultan, a lawyer who grew up here.

Friday, August 18, 2006

"Why should the state tolerate the Burkha," asks Yasmin Alibhai-Brown

Published: 06/12/2005

Veiled Threats

By Yasmin Alibhai-Brown
The Evening Standard

Last week when I was browsing in shops on Chiswick High Road, I became aware of awoman shadowing me, rather too close in that private space we all subconsciously carry around us.

She was covered from head to toe in a black burkha Tight, white gloves covered her hands and her heels clicked. She wore perfume or hair oil smelling of roses . At one point, I nearly tripped over her foot and she said ‘sorry’ softly.

I drove home and twenty minutes later the doorbell rang. I opened the door to see thewoman standing there, her raven cloak billowing as gusts of wind blew up from the park opposite. Her eyes were light brown. She said nothing at first, then asked in perfect English if she could come in. I felt panic rising. Because I write on controversial issues at this fraught time, death threats come my way and I have been advised by the police to be extremely careful about loitering strangers.

‘Please, please, l know who you are and I must speak to you, I saw you in the shops, and followed you in my friend’s car. I must show you something’ . ‘Who are you?’ I asked, even more scared now. She pleaded some more, told me her name, showed me her EU passport.

She was from somewhere near Bolton she said. I let her in. She took off her burkha to reveal a sight I shall never forget.

There, before me was a woman so badly battered and beaten, that she looked painted in deep blue, purple and livid pink. The sides of her mouth were torn- ‘he put his fist in my mouth because I was screaming’, she explained.

‘Who did?, who did this to you?’ ‘My father and two brothers and then they forced me to wear the niqab (burka) , so no-one can see what they’ve done.

Many families do this, to keep their black secrets. They beat up the women and girls because they want them to agree to marriages or just because the girls want a little more independence, to go to college and that. Then they make them wear the burkha to keep this violence a secret. They know the police are now getting wise to honour killings and so they have this sheet to hide the proof’.

Over the afternoon she sobbed and told me about the horrors of her own life and her dead friend, killed, she claims by family members who felt she had shamed them:’ But she had done nothing at all. Someone told the family they saw their daughter talking to a couple of guys at the bus stop and that she was holding the hand of one of them. It was a lie.

But this gossip can kill us’. In her own case she says at first her father and brothers wanted to know if she too was as ‘bad’ as her friend. So they beat her to get her to confess to things she hadn’t done. Then they tried to get her to quit her teacher training course and when she refused, they locked her in a bedroom and carried on abusing her, the youngest brother in particular who was, she said, maddened with suspicion.

A few days ago she escaped, with her passport and a friend drove her to London. I have a contact who runs an safe refuge in the north west of the city. We trust each other. I got ‘S’ a place there and gave her some money, enough to live on for a few weeks.

She has my number and I hope she calls if she needs to. As I dropped her off she said she was feeling guilty that the escape would break her mother’s heart. Her mother’s heart, I said, should have broken to witness what was done to her daughter. ( including what I did next to help I THINK YOU NEED TO GIVE AN IDEA: IECALLED A RFEUGE) Some of what she told me has to be kept confidential for her safety and mine.

‘S’ was twenty five, from a chemistry graduate, and a battered woman imprisoned in black polyester.
This incident set me thinking again about the burka and whether we, as a liberal country, should accept it. There has been a marked increase in the use of burkhas in Britain. This is the next frontier for puritanical Muslims who believe females are dangerous seductresses, liable to drive men mad with desire.

Women and girls as young as twelve, they say, must cover up to avoid suchprovocation. ( Don’t Muslim men mind that they are portrayed as wildly lusty? And if they are, why don’t they wear blindfolds or avert their gazes?)

The pernicious ideology is propagated by misguided Muslim women who claim the burkha is an equalizer and liberator. In a film I made for Channel4 I met an entire class of teenagers at a Muslim secondary school in Leicester who told me negating their physical selves in public made them feel great.

I confess I respond to this garment with aversion. I find the hijab and the jilbab ( long cloak) problematic too because they again make women responsible for the sexual responses of men and they define femininity as a threat. But the burkha is much, much worse as it totally dehumanizes half the human species. Why do women defendthis retreat into shrouds?

When I try to speak to some of them on the street they stare back silently. In a kebab café in Southall last week, a woman in burkha sat there passively while her family ate - she couldn’t put food into her own mouth.

One mother told her young daughter in Urdu to walk away from me, a ‘kaffir’ in her eyes.

Domestic violence is an evil found in all countries, classes and communities. Millions of female sufferers hide the abuse with concealing clothes and fabricated stories. But this total covering makes it absolutely impossible to detect which is why S and other victims of family brutality are forced to wear it.

I now have twelve letters from young British Muslim women making these allegations, all too terrified to go public. Several say that in some areas where hard line imams hold sway the hijab is seen as inviting because it focuses attention on the face. If the women refused to comply they were beaten.

Heena, Iman write that their husbands insist on the covering because it is easier to conceal the brutality within the marriage. Mariyam writes:’ He says he doesn’t want his name spoilt- that his honour is important. If they see what he is doing to me, his name will be spoilt’. Not all woman in burkha are the walking wounded, but some are and the tragedy is that it is impossible to pick up the signs.

The usual network of concerned people- neighbours, colleagues, pupils, teachers, police or social workers would need to be approached by the traumatised women and girls- as I was by ‘S’. There are other risks too.

A body denied any contact with the sun must lack vital vitamins. Some London University colleges have decided to disallow the garment for security reasons. (What will happen when ID cards come in? And how do examiners recognise candidates?)

Should the nation support all demands in the name of cultural or religious rights? In several schools already Muslim parents are refusing to let their girls swim, act or take part in PE, interference I personally find appalling. This is a society which prizes individual autonomy and the principle of absolute gender parity.

The burkha offends both these principles and yet no politician or leader has dared to say so. Even more baffling is the meek acceptance of the burkha by British feminists who must be eepelled by the garment and its meanings.

What are they afraid of? Afghani and Iranian women fight daily against the shroud and there is nothing ‘colonial’ about raising ethical objections to this obvious symbol of oppression.

The banning of the headscarf in France was, in fact, supported by many Muslims. The state was too arrogant and confrontational but the policy was right. A secular public space gives all citizens civil rights and fundamental equalities and Muslim girls have not abandoned schools in droves as a result of the ban.

Shabina Begum should have been the moment to confront the challenge. This spring Shabina Begum took her school to Appeal Court for refusing to let her ‘progress’ from the hijab to the jilbab, a full body cloak. She won the right. For many of us modernist Muslims this was a body blow and today we fear the next push is well underway for British Muslim woman to wear the body cage of Afghani women under Taliban.

Interviewed by the journalist Andrew Anthony, Rahmanara Chowdhury, a teacher of interpersonal and communications skills in Loughborough defended her burkha by saying she felt more empowered being just a voice. A teacher, can you believe it? Well soon some Imam will pronounce that the voice or scent of a woman are too seductive to be allowed in public spaces. Then what?

Who said a mother had to hide her face from her babies in the park?
Not the holy Koran for sure. Its injunctions simply call for women to guard their private parts, to act with modesty. Scholars disagree about the wrap and even the hijab. More than half the world’s Muslim women do not cover their hair except when in mosque.

There are some who do choose the garment without coercion, the nun’s option you might say. I judge this differently. My experience of S and other women who have written to me in despiar is that many are being forced or brainwashed into thinking their invisibility is what God wants. That is not a choice. The British state is based on liberal values- individuals can decide what they want to do as long as it doesn’t cause harm to others. Sometimes that right is taken even if there is harm caused to others- smoking and excessive drinking for example.

But within this broad liberalism, there are still restrictions and denials for the sake of a greater good. Nudists cannot walk our streets with impunity, and no religious cult can demand the legal right to multiple marriages.

Why should the state then tolerate the burkha, which even in its own terms turns women into sexual objects to be packed away out of sight?


There is much anxious tip-toeing around the issue but it affects us all. Thousands of liberal Muslims would dearly likethe state to take a stand on their behalf. If it doesn’t, it will betray vulnerable British citizens and the nations most cherished principles, including liberalism.

Worst of all it will encourage Islam to move back even faster into the dark ages instead of reforming itself to meet the future.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Toronto Star reporter writes about Islamophobia and his frustration with "shockingly anti-western views" of many Muslims

San Grewal is a Toronto Star reporter who first burst into limelight after 9/11 when he did a story on the hate being preached in Totonro area mosques.

In today's Toronto Star, Grewal, writes with sadness how the "fear of Muslims" has seeped into Canada as well as the UK, and how, as repugnant as this fear is, in his opinion many Muslims are actually contributing to this fear, by their anti-westren views, while living in the west.

Grewal writes:

"But I regret to say that, in five years reporting since 9/11, I have met too many Muslims across the GTA who express extremely anti-western views. I have visited more than two dozen mosques and, in 2001, wrote of shockingly anti-western views expressed in many of them. I have also heard recent evidence in court against many of the 18 co-accused in the alleged terrorism plot by young Canadian Muslims to destroy buildings, kidnap politicians and harm innocent civilians. Yes, they are innocent until proven guilty. And yes, many Muslims in Canada have responded to the charges with the level of disgust the allegations warrant. But as each community Muslim steps forward to tell me — the brown-skinned reporter who surely must be sympathetic — that the charges of possible "homegrown" terrorism are part of a government conspiracy, I can't help but shake my head and wonder, just how far apart are we from them."

These are words from a journalist who sees himself as friend of the Muslim community. If Muslims do not pay heed to him, we risk a crisis that we will not be able to handle. By burning Israeli flags and waving Hizbollah's Kalashnikov banners in Toronto, Muslim Canadians do no service to themselves. We simply alienate those who would be more than happy to be on our side as our advocates in our time of need.

The real problem is that many of these Islamists wear multiple masks. Within the poltical sphere, be it the NDP, the Liberal Party or the Tories and the Bloc, the same men and women who spout hate, masquerade as 'moderate' Muslims, and sprinkle just enough words about 'multiculturlaism', 'charter rights' and 'pluralism' to fool many in all the parties.

In the meantime the vast majority of Muslim Canadians, the 9-to-5 middle class secular liberal folks go unnoticed. Why? Because we don't "look like Muslims".

It is astonishing that the same guys who give feiry anti-west sermons are also working hand in glove with the RCMP and CSIS! (Read this story from the Globe & Mail).

Read and reflect.

Tarek Fatah
Aug. 13, 2006. 01:00 AM

Fear of Muslims ties T.O. to Heathrow
Star's San Grewal plumbs deep hate

San Grewal

I walked out of Heathrow Airport yesterday afternoon in London. Before boarding the plane Friday in Toronto it was impossible for me, a Sikh male with brown skin, black hair and a goatee, not to wonder if travelling would be as it was after 9/11.

For about four months after the attacks on New York and Washington, many fellow passengers on flights I took to Winnipeg, New York and Las Vegas reacted to me as a child does on the first day of kindergarten. They were scared.

A lady in her 60s on a WestJet flight out of Hamilton told me she didn't mean to be rude, but would feel more comfortable if she could move from our row.

I don't really mind being the object of people's fear. People fear what they fear. It helps them cope, stay away from danger, as our ancestors did when some large-toothed beast walked into their cave.

But I'm about to write something that's not very politically correct: Increasingly, when I encounter people who are scared of me, after a terrorist act or threat, I get more and more frustrated, not with those who are scared of me, but with Muslim communities in countries such as Canada and England.

I get frustrated by what's behind the fear I meet: People in the West are growing more uncomfortable, whether Muslim communities hold anti-western views or not, because the rest of us — I am not a Muslim — feel completely closed off from certain quarters of Muslim society.

As we wonder if extremists inside those quarters really do hate the West, we reflexively grow increasingly uncomfortable about their presence near us because we have no idea how deep that hatred might run.

A new Gallup poll revealed the discomfort Americans have about being near Muslims: "22 per cent say they would not like to have a Muslim as a neighbour; 18 per cent say they would feel nervous if they noticed a Muslim woman flying on the same airplane as themselves; while 31 per cent say they would feel nervous if they noticed a Muslim man on their flight; fewer than half believe U.S. Muslims are loyal to the United States."

There are theories that these American perceptions are largely constructed by the media, which sensationalizes stories about Islamist terrorism, by the Republican U.S. government, which needs an enemy to justify its national security platform, and by run-of-the-mill racists, who enjoy fear-mongering.

More disturbing than any look I've gotten on planes are the number of mosques torched across North America and backlash attacks against Muslims reported since 2001. These are as unacceptable as any terrorism.

But I regret to say that, in five years reporting since 9/11, I have met too many Muslims across the GTA who express extremely anti-western views. I have visited more than two dozen mosques and, in 2001, wrote of shockingly anti-western views expressed in many of them.

I have also heard recent evidence in court against many of the 18 co-accused in the alleged terrorism plot by young Canadian Muslims to destroy buildings, kidnap politicians and harm innocent civilians.

Yes, they are innocent until proven guilty. And yes, many Muslims in Canada have responded to the charges with the level of disgust the allegations warrant. But as each community Muslim steps forward to tell me — the brown-skinned reporter who surely must be sympathetic — that the charges of possible "homegrown" terrorism are part of a government conspiracy, I can't help but shake my head and wonder, just how far apart are we from them.

I wonder if I'll ever step on a plane again and sit next to a friendly stranger who greets me with an honest smile.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Maclean's: A Muslim scholar is in Canada illegally -- teaching an extreme brand of Islam

July 17, 2006

Good morning Mrs. Hashmi

A Muslim scholar is here illegally -- teaching an extreme brand of Islam

Maclean's Magazine, Toronto

A controversial Pakistani scholar living in Canada who, critics charge, teaches her female students a fundamentalist brand of Islam promoting polygamy and subservience to men, remains here illegally some nine months after immigration officials demanded she leave the country, federal court documents obtained by Maclean's reveal.

Farhat Hashmi arrived in October 2004 on a visitor's visa, and has twice been denied the work permit she sought to teach her interpretation of the Koran in Canada. But she has nevertheless established a school where she lectures to mostly young, middle-class women from mainstream Muslim families, not only from across the country but also from the U.S. and as far away as Australia.

Moderate Muslims believe her lessons encourage extremist views among her students in Mississauga -- the same Toronto suburb where many of the 17 men arrested last month on terrorism-related charges grew up and allegedly developed into radicals. Some of those young men's militant views are reputed to have been influenced by their ideologically inclined wives.

A charismatic figure who cloaks her face and body in orthodox garb, Hashmi amassed considerable wealth in the 1990s by establishing a chain of religious schools across Pakistan.

Focusing her instruction on young Westernized women from monied families who had hitherto preferred a pair of jeans to the hijab, Hashmi became famous converting them to a stricter form of Islam.

Stories abound of young Muslim party girls changing their ways after just a few lectures, donning the black veils that Hashmi is said to make available for purchase at her schools, along with her lectures in print, audio and DVD formats. "Her network of schools in Pakistan caters exclusively to the upper class," says Tarek Fatah, of the Muslim Canadian Congress. "And that is where she is turning women into mothers who are then converting their sons into extremists."

Perhaps more worrying, Hashmi, who claims to have come to Canada to teach at the request of local Muslims, has been the subject of observation by Pakistani intelligence, a highly placed federal government source told Maclean's. Although it is not clear what would drive Pakistani authorities to monitor the woman, who holds a doctorate in Islamic studies from the University of Glasgow, that investigation and subsequent complaints in this country may have led authorities to deny her permission to work as a teacher in Canada, the source adds.

"We regret to inform you that we are unable to approve your request," wrote an immigration official in a letter dated Sept. 30, 2005, and addressed to Hashmi and her family. "You are required to leave Canada immediately. Failure to depart Canada may result in enforcement action being initiated against you."

Days after that stern letter, which has yet to be followed up by a removal order that would permit the federal government to force her from Canada, Lorne Waldman, a high-profile Toronto immigration lawyer who also represents Maher Arar, filed an application for leave and for judicial review on Hashmi's behalf. That application, should it succeed, would lead to a review of the case. (Waldman did not return calls seeking comment for this story.) Yet the legal gambit does not supersede the official's request that Hashmi and her family leave Canada, where she continues to live and to teach.

Hashmi is no stranger to controversy. Last year, an undercover documentary filmmaker and freelance journalist, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, infiltrated the al-Huda Islamic Centre of Canada, Hashmi's Mississauga-based school, and heard her describe the Kashmiri earthquake as God's punishment for "immoral activities." According to Hashmi, "The people in the area where the earthquake hit were involved in immoral activities, and God has said that he will punish those who do not follow his path." She has also been quoted arguing that Muslim women should permit their husbands to marry more than once so that "other sisters can also benefit."

Such views frighten more progressive Muslims, concerned that her teachings could further marginalize their communities. "You ought to be worried about her in Canada, because there are young women who are growing up here who are being sent by their parents to her and who are coming out really conservative in their outlook of Islam," says Obaid-Chinoy.

Farzana Hassan-Shahid, a researcher and freelance journalist who has attended several of Hashmi's lectures -- including one last month at al-Huda -- describes as many as 200 women sitting on the classroom floor, turning the pages of their textbooks in unison so as not to irritate Hashmi. "These women are sitting just absolutely rapt," she says, noting the students call Hashmi "madam" and carry her purse behind her. "She's not loud and vociferous -- in her gentle, meek way she's very assertive."

Hashmi arrived in 2004 with her husband, Idrees Zubair, also an Islamic scholar educated at the University of Glasgow, and two of their children. In interviews with immigration officials, court documents show, Hashmi said "her focus is to liberate and educate the Islamic women." Indeed, she calls herself an "Islamic feminist" whose teachings provide women a voice in their families. Still, she instructs them to "listen to your husband -- he's your leader," says Hassan-Shahid.

At the time, Hashmi and her family prompted no concern from Canadian authorities. Her first work permit in Canada was denied because of an error in the application. Her second -- which like the first was based on an invitation for employment by the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) -- was denied because at $43,500, the proposed salary exceeded the amount allowed to religious teachers, who are expected to work on a volunteer basis and are permitted only a small stipend.

In a reply filed at federal court in March, Waldman argues that the $43,500 is just enough to cover the family's living expenses "and, therefore, met the definition of stipend."

Mubeen Qureshi, who works with Hashmi and was a key figure in bringing her to Canada, refused comment on this story and said Hashmi does not speak with media. She added: "Do you want to speak to my lawyer?" Asked for her lawyer's name, Qureshi hung up the telephone.

Calls to Hashmi's home met with similar protestations. "Being a lady, she can't speak with gents," said a man at her number who refused to identify himself. When asked about Hashmi's status in Canada, he too hung up the telephone.

But Mohammad Ashraf, secretary general of ISNA Canada and the man who signed Hashmi's letter of employment, defended her. "We need people like her -- men and women who really teach what the Koran says," he told Maclean's. "These people who are criticizing her, they are just going around the bush because they don't practise Islam themselves."

Among those who have expressed concern about Hashmi is Wajid Khan. MP for Mississauga-Streetsville, Khan made news last month when he revealed he'd confronted Qayyum Abdul Jamal, 43, one of the 17 Toronto-area men arrested in June on terrorism-related charges, after he told a congregation of Muslims that Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan were raping women.

But last August, Khan's office also made inquiries into Hashmi's work permit application, which Khan told Maclean's he could not support. "If she's been asked to leave the country, she should leave the country," he says. The federal government, he adds, should move to have her returned to Pakistan. "I don't understand why they haven't taken action so far."

Ottawa Citizen: "Saudis fund radicals in Canada" $1.5 million annually to just one Toronto mosque


Hello all,

Here is a story from the Ottawa Citizen archives. The writer made some specific allegations in 2004 that went unchallenged by those named in the story.

The July 2004 reports says:

"...Saudi Arabia has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to fund 210 Islamic centres and 1,359 mosques around the world, including in Canada. It cites an official Saudi report in 2002 that stated ''King Fahd donated $5-million US for the cost of an Islamic Center in Toronto, Canada, in addition to $1.5-million US annually to run the facility. The Saudi government's official Web site also said King Fahd provided funds to the Calgary mosque, the Ottawa mosque and the Islamic centre in Quebec. Toronto has numerous Islamic centres and the Saudi embassy in Ottawa refused to say which received millions of dollars from King Fahd."

For nearly two years ISNA refused to identify itself as the Toronto mosque that recieved the Saudi money until exposed by a Globe and Mail report in Nov. 2005.

Read and reflect.

Tarek Fatah
Friday, July 30, 2004

Saudis fund radicals in Canada
Centre propagating Islamic extremism given millions: U.S.

By Robert Fife
Ottawa Citizen

OTTAWA - Saudi Arabia is funding radical Islamic extremism in Canada, where King Fahd has contributed millions of dollars to a mysterious Islamic centre in Toronto, a U.S. panel on terrorist financing says.

The Saudis have also funded mosques in Ottawa and Calgary and an Islamic centre in Quebec, according to official statements from the Saudi government.

A task force report on terrorist financing by the Council on Foreign Relations, which included former White House counterterrorist chief Richard Clarke and David Cohen, the CIA's former director of operations, says U.S. strategic interests are threatened by Saudi efforts to extend its brand of extremist Islam to North America and elsewhere.

''Saudi Arabia funds the global propagation of Wahabism, a brand of Islam that, in some instances, supports militancy by encouraging divisiveness and violent acts against Muslims and non-Muslims,'' the report said.

''This massive spending is helping to create the next generation of terrorists and therefore constitutes a paramount strategic threat to the United States.... This massive spending is an integral part of the terrorist financing problem. It fosters virulence and intolerance directly at the United States, Christians, Jews and even other Muslims.''

The task force said Saudi Arabia has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to fund 210 Islamic centres and 1,359 mosques around the world, including in Canada.

It cites an official Saudi report in 2002 that stated ''King Fahd donated $5-million US for the cost of an Islamic Center in Toronto, Canada, in addition to $1.5-million US annually to run the facility.''

The Saudi government's official Web site also said King Fahd provided funds to the Calgary mosque, the Ottawa mosque and the Islamic centre in Quebec.

Toronto has numerous Islamic centres and the Saudi embassy in Ottawa refused to say which received millions of dollars from King Fahd.

CanWest News Service was also unable to determine the identity of the Saudi-financed centre, despite numerous telephone calls to Islamic organizations in Toronto, including the Salaheddin Islamic Centre, which preaches Wahabism and has been a target of investigations by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the RCMP.

The Salaheddin centre runs a mosque and a private elementary school where the Khadr family and other radicals linked to Osama bin Laden belong and where the organization's Web site preaches against Jews and Christians.

''Why do we hate the Jews? We hate them for the sake of Our Lord, we hate them for the sake of Allaah because they slandered Allaah and they killed and slandered His Prophets,'' according to one of many statements against Jews and Christians on the Web site.

''The purpose of jihad in Islam is not ... to shed the blood of Kaafirs [disbelievers] and take their wealth; rather the purpose is so that all religion will be for Allaah alone, and the religion of Allaah will prevail over all other religions.''

Imam Aly Hindy of the Salaheddin Centre and Toronto director of the Canadian Islamic Congress, a place of worship for 2,500 Muslims, did not return phone calls. The former principal of the Salaheddin school, Mahmoud Jaballah, has been held in detention and is facing extradition to Egypt on suspicion of links to bin Laden's elusive second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

The Islamic Centre of Canada and the Jami Islamic Centre -- both based in Toronto -- denied receiving any Saudi money.

The imam of the Ottawa Mosque, Dr. Gamal Solaiman, could not say how much money the Saudis provided his mosque, nor did he know which Islamic centre in Toronto was funded by the Saudis.

Dr. Solaiman referred all inquiries about Saudi funding to the mosque's board of directors, but they did not return phone calls. Hussein Paiman of the Calgary Mosque, whose imam was a professor at Saudi Arabia's King Saud University, also did not know how much the Saudis had contributed.

The Islamic Centre in Quebec -- run by Sheikh Syed Bukhari, a graduate of Madina University in Saudi Arabia, was also unable to discuss Saudi funding.

All three institutions are posted on the Saudi government Web site as receiving an unspecified amount of money from the kingdom, but their individual Web sites do not appear to preach radical Islamic doctrines.

The task force, which also included former deputy U.S. treasury secretary Stuart Eizenstat, said Saudi Arabia is training and sending radical clerics abroad to propagate extremism and said every Saudi embassy has a well-funded branch that provides ''inflammatory materials'' to mosques and Islamic centres.

''This spending is fundamentally problematic from the standpoint of U.S. strategic interests. We find that it must be directly, immediately and unequivocally addressed,'' the report said.

The task force said Saudi Arabia has recently taken steps to curtail its charities from financing terrorism and money-laundering, but noted the kingdom has not arrested or jailed anyone, even though ''Saudi Arabia has been the most significant source of funds for al-Qaeda.''

''Not only have there been no publicly announced arrests in Saudi Arabia related to terrorist financing, but key financiers remain free or go unpunished,'' it said.

The panel also said Riyadh has done little to stop the ''radicalization of millions of Muslims'' through the global spread of Wahabism. The report called on the U.S. government to demand an accounting of the support and money the Saudis provide to religious schools, mosques, centres of learning and other religious organizations globally.