Posts Tagged ‘religion’
Of all the potential spokespeople for Muslims in Canada and Québec, Adil Charkaoui is among the worst. Martin Patriquin of MacLean’s writes about how a man once suspected of terrorist connections has become a prominent figure.
Hints of [Adil Charkaoui]’s alleged former life as a terrorist have crept into Charkaoui’s present-day narrative. Two of Charkaoui’s former students, who attended his Muslim community centre in east-end Montreal, were found to have made a trip overseas to join jihadi groups in their fight against Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. More recently, two of 10 individuals arrested before they could leave on a similar mission had frequented Charkaoui’s classes.
Charkaoui, who didn’t respond to interview requests, has vehemently denied that he coaxed his former students into jihad—and none of those students has spoken about Charkaoui at all. He has further denied that he planned a “biochemical attack in [Montreal’s] Metro” in 2002, or that he ever talked of “taking control of an airplane for aggressive purposes,” as the federal government alleged in court filings from 2013.
He has since become a Canadian citizen—proof positive, Charkaoui has said, that the government’s own allegations of terrorism were far-fetched. On the day of his citizenship ceremony, Charkaoui happily quoted from the letter sent to him from Prime Minister Stephen Harper, “welcoming him to the Canadian family.”
While he continues to draw the ire of old foes—the PQ’s Agnès Maltais, now in opposition, recently labelled him “a merchant of hate”—he is also facing criticism from an unlikely source: Muslims themselves. In March, the tabloid Journal de Montréal published an open letter to Charkaoui by Omar Kesraoui, an Algerian-born Montrealer. “In Algeria, I didn’t have a childhood or an adolescence because of Islamists like you . . . The community needs real leaders to speak in the public sphere, not charlatans like you,” reads the letter, in part. Kesraoui goes on to call Charkaoui a “self-proclaimed sheik.”
Kesraoui didn’t respond to requests for further comment, and many others from the community seem to be wary of criticizing Charkaoui in public, for fear of adding to the perceived anti-Muslim bias in Quebec society. “By coming out and saying that Adil Charkaoui is a bad person, you end up joining the ranks of those who criticize Muslims in the public sphere, and perpetuate the idea that there’s something wrong with Islam,” says Stephen Brown, a Muslim activist in Montreal and a Charkaoui critic. “So, guys who proclaim themselves to be spokespeople can say anything and nothing is going to happen to them.”