Muslim Council Of Montreal urges local Muslims to exercise caution when out in public in light of recent stabbing of Montreal ImamFebruary 13, 2006
Montreal February 13, 2006: In light of recent events which have taken place in our community over the past several days, the Muslim Council Of Montreal urges local Muslims to exercise caution when out in public and to immediately report any hostile or suspicious incidents.
The Muslim Council Of Montreal looks upon this incident with very grave concerns and directly holds some of the media outlets responsible for what has happened. Recent hyperbolic comments and reporting by certain radio talk show hosts and media commentators regarding the cartoon issue has created a poisonous and hostile social environment and, as a result, passions have been inflamed to the point where some people are getting the idea it is acceptable to physically attack Muslims or anyone they think looks like one.
This incident comes on the heels of two recent acts of vandalism on two Montreal area mosques, the Islamic Cultural Centre and the Al-Hissane Islamic Centre, which were pelted with stones.
MCM is also receiving informal reports that Muslims are being verbally abused on the streets, feeling threatened and, as a result, feel unsafe.
What is most disturbing regarding what happened to Sheikh Faycal is that the Montreal police are trying to avoid treating this incident as a hate-crime even though it is obvious he was attacked because he was visibly a Muslim. This decision needs to be seen in the context of a previous incident which took place on December 1, 2005, when Moroccan born Mohamed Annas Bennis was shot dead by a police officer as he was returning from morning prayers. He was accused of attacking the officer but based on the testimony of those who knew Mohamed, the police allegations against him are completely incompatible with his personality and character. After more than 2 months since his death, neither his relatives nor the Muslim community have any clear information relating to what happened. (click here for details).
"In the light of all these matters one can understand why our community is feeling apprehensive these days," stated MCM President Salam Elmenyawi.
"Some media outlets are irresponsibly ratcheting up the rhetoric in a fevered pitch and getting everyone worked up in the process," he further stated.
On February 9th, The Government of Québec issued a condemnation of the attacks on the two Mosques, and Immigration and cultural communities minister Lise Thériault congratulated "the Muslim community for its constructive response to this difficult situation."
"Its efforts to inform and reach out to the broader community by opening the doors of mosques on two consecutive weekends is a first step toward a better understanding of Islam and a definite bridge between Muslims of Québec and all Quebecers," added Mrs. Thériault.
"The freedom of expression recognized in the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms is a central value of Québec society. However, it must be used responsibly in order not to spread prejudice against an entire community," the Government of Québec statement said. (see full statement here)
"We do appreciate these statements coming from the Government of Québec," stated Elmenyawi.
"Our community, however, has to pay the price for all of this media rhetoric to the point we have to be constantly looking over our shoulders and issuing safety warnings," he said.
"In addition, several media outlets tend to always be focusing on negative news or writing with a negative slant while ignoring the good issues, such as the positive dialogues and interactions taking place between Muslims other groups regarding this issue," he stated.
"Journalists and media outlets should use their public positions to foster mutual understanding and cooperation between cultures and not inflame passions which only lead to public harm and instability."
He was careful to note, however, that the vast majority of journalists are responsible in their reporting, but that it only takes a few to tarnish the image of the profession.
Elmenyawi further called upon local Muslims to be extra careful when using the public transportation system, especially at night, and to ensure people travel in at least pairs and never alone. This advice is especially important for women wearing the Islamic head scarf or those who wear Islamic looking dress, he said.
Elmenyawi encouraged everyone to immediately report any incident, including hateful and racial slurs, to the police and then to MCM so that records can be kept of all incidents. In addition, he urged Muslims not to confront or engage attackers.