Canadian media is reporting on the controversy surrounding plans for a proposed Islamic school in Edmonton, Canada. According to a report in the Edmonton Sun:
A letter to the editor in a west-end newspaper suggesting a local Muslim association has ties to extremists could be the final straw in an increasingly shrill campaign against a proposed Islamic school in Lessard. The chairman of the Muslim Association of Canada’s Edmonton chapter says the organization is considering suing a tiny handful of “people exhibiting Islamophobia” who are spreading distortions and outright falsehoods about the organization. “Very much so,” said Issam Saleh. “Our lawyers are compiling a case and we’re considering legal action.” He said last month an opponent of MAC’s plan told the media that the group might be funding terrorism. MAC plans to turn a vacant, run-down strip mall in the tony west end neighbourhood into a mosque, community centre and Islamic primary school. Saleh says that while most of the neighbours have welcomed them – especially the four churches and two synagogues in the area – a small group is “promoting misconceptions” to turn public support against them. In this month’s issue of the West End News, a letter to the editor signed only by “concerned residents of Lessard/Gariepy Community” warns of “MAC’s affiliation with the Muslim Brotherhood.” “The Muslim Brotherhood is a political group, who calls for an Islamic political and social system and opposes western political and cultural influences,” the letter says. “Given the above, we would like to know what the new centre will be preaching.” Safwat Girgis, vice president of the Lessard Community League and one of the people behind the letter, said he and his group were initially opposed to MAC’s plan because they feared it would bring too much traffic to the area and cause parking problems. But when they discovered its “ties” to the Muslim Brotherhood, “it added a different dimension.” The brotherhood “has a bit more of a radical view of Islam,” he said, “and that’s something to be concerned about.” But Saleh calls that a complete distortion. MAC’s national website says it traces its roots to “the Islamic revival of the early 20th century, culminating in the movement of the Muslim Brotherhood.” What that means, he said, is that they follow the spiritual teachings of Imam Hassan al-Banna, who taught his followers such virtues as understanding, perseverance, personal sacrifice, and service to the whole community. In some parts of the Islamic world, the brotherhood became politicized, but that’s not the case here in Canada. “We get no funds from overseas, and we don’t send any funds out of the country,” Saleh said. “We want to be part of the social fabric of Canadian society. We want to integrate.” One of MAC’s biggest programs is the Educational Muslim Achievement Awards Night, where students are honoured for their success. This year 280 local Muslim students from elementary school to university were given trophies and scholarships. “This is what we’re trying to do in the community, things like promoting education,” said Saleh. MAC has applied to the city to rezone part of its building for a school. He said they plan to begin with a preschool and slowly work up to Grade 3. The organization eventually wants to have a K-9 school somewhere in the west end, but not at that location, he said. “They’re using scare tactics, (suggesting links to) terrorism and things like that,” he said. “On the basis of goodwill and building the community, we haven’t responded in a legal way to this, but they’re pushing it to the point that we have no choice but to respond by taking legal action.”
Despite the denial by the MAC of it ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, the MAC appears to be one of the only organizations in the world that acknowledges its ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. According to the MAC website, the complete MAC statement about such ties goes beyond what was reported above:
MAC’s roots are deeply enshrined in the message of Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him). Its modern roots can be traced to the Islamic revival of the early twentieth century, culminating in the movement of the Muslim Brotherhood. This movement influenced Islamic activities, trends and intellectual discourse throughout the world including those of Muslims who came to Canada in search of freedom, education and better opportunities. MAC adopts and strives to implement Islam, as embodied in the Qur’an, and the teachings of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and as understood in its contemporary context by the late Imam, Hassan Albanna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood. MAC regards this ideology as the best representation of Islam as delivered by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
In addition, a 2007 MAC webpage lists US Muslim Brotherhood leader and Canadian National Jamal Badawi as a director of the organization. Dr. Badawi is a leader in many of the most important organizations of the global Muslim Brotherhood including the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the Council on American Islamic Relations (Canada), the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA), the Muslim American Society (MAS), and the European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR). As previous posts have noted, recently released documents indicate that he was (and probably still is), a member of the leadership structure of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood. He can be characterized as one of the leading ideologues of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood and has traveled widely all over the world as a representative of the U.S. Muslim community. Dr. Badawi was also listed by US federal prosecutors as an unindicted co-conspriator in the Holy Land terrorism financing trial.
It should also be noted that the a course on Islamic Studies developed by the Edmonton Public schools with the assistance of MAC Chairman Saleh includes the most well-known work of Global Muslim Brotherhood leader Youssef Qaradawi as well a work by Jamal Badawi. Mr. Saleh also holds several other positions including serving on the Edmonton Community Services Advisory Board.
A previous post reported on the construction of a large mosque to be built in downtown Montreal to be managed by the MAC.
For the statement by the neighborhood group opposing the school, go here.