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Publications - May 6, 2003
 

37th PARLIAMENT, 2nd SESSION

Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade


EVIDENCE

CONTENTS

Tuesday, May 6, 2003




¿ 0910
V         The Chair (Mr. Bernard Patry (Pierrefonds—Dollard, Lib.))
V         Professor John Sigler (Adjunct Professor of Political Science, Carleton University)

¿ 0915

¿ 0920

¿ 0925
V         The Chair
V         Ms. Aileen Carroll (Barrie—Simcoe—Bradford, Lib.)
V         The Chair
V         Ms. Aileen Carroll
V         The Chair
V         Ms. Aileen Carroll
V         The Chair
V         Ms. Aileen Carroll
V         The Chair
V         Mrs. Wahida Valiante (National Vice-President and Vice-Chair for the Board, Canadian Islamic Congress)

¿ 0930

¿ 0935

¿ 0940

¿ 0945

¿ 0950
V         The Chair
V         Professor Saleem Qureshi (Professor Emeritus of Political Science, University of Alberta)

¿ 0955

À 1000

À 1005
V         The Chair
V         Professor Houchang Hassan-Yari (Professor of Political Science, Royal Military College of Canada)

À 1010

À 1015

À 1020
V         The Chair

À 1025
V         Mr. Stockwell Day (Okanagan—Coquihalla, Canadian Alliance)
V         The Chair
V         Mr. Stockwell Day
V         The Chair
V         The Vice-Chair (Hon. Diane Marleau (Sudbury, Lib.))
V         Mr. Deepak Obhrai (Calgary East, Canadian Alliance)

Á 1105
V         Mrs. Wahida Valiante
V         The Vice-Chair (Hon. Diane Marleau (Sudbury, Lib.))
V         Ms. Francine Lalonde (Mercier, BQ)

Á 1110
V         Mr. Houchang Hassan-Yari

Á 1115
V         The Vice-Chair (Hon. Diane Marleau (Sudbury, Lib.))
V         Mr. Murray Calder (Dufferin—Peel—Wellington—Grey, Lib.)
V         The Vice-Chair (Hon. Diane Marleau (Sudbury, Lib.))
V         Prof. Saleem Qureshi

Á 1120
V         Mrs. Wahida Valiante
V         Mr. Murray Calder
V         The Vice-Chair (Hon. Diane Marleau (Sudbury, Lib.))
V         Mr. Stockwell Day
V         The Vice-Chair (Hon. Diane Marleau (Sudbury, Lib.))
V         Mr. Houchang Hassan-Yari

Á 1125
V         Mr. Stockwell Day
V         Mr. Houchang Hassan-Yari
V         Mr. Stockwell Day
V         The Vice-Chair (Hon. Diane Marleau (Sudbury, Lib.))
V         Mrs. Wahida Valiante
V         Mr. Stockwell Day
V         Mrs. Wahida Valiante
V         The Vice-Chair (Hon. Diane Marleau (Sudbury, Lib.))
V         Mr. Art Eggleton

Á 1130
V         The Vice-Chair (Hon. Diane Marleau (Sudbury, Lib.))
V         Prof. John Sigler

Á 1135
V         The Vice-Chair (Hon. Diane Marleau (Sudbury, Lib.))
V         Ms. Aileen Carroll
V         Prof. Saleem Qureshi
V         Ms. Aileen Carroll
V         Prof. John Sigler
V         The Vice-Chair (Hon. Diane Marleau (Sudbury, Lib.))
V         Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan (York North, Lib.)

Á 1140
V         The Vice-Chair (Hon. Diane Marleau (Sudbury, Lib.))
V         Mr. Irwin Cotler (Mount Royal, Lib.)
V         Mrs. Wahida Valiante
V         The Vice-Chair (Hon. Diane Marleau (Sudbury, Lib.))
V         Mrs. Wahida Valiante
V         The Vice-Chair (Hon. Diane Marleau (Sudbury, Lib.))
V         Prof. Saleem Qureshi

Á 1145
V         The Vice-Chair (Hon. Diane Marleau (Sudbury, Lib.))
V         Mr. Houchang Hassan-Yari
V         The Vice-Chair (Hon. Diane Marleau (Sudbury, Lib.))










CANADA

Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade


NUMBER 034 
l
2nd SESSION 
l
37th PARLIAMENT 

EVIDENCE

Tuesday, May 6, 2003

[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]

¿  +(0910)  

[English]

+

    The Chair (Mr. Bernard Patry (Pierrefonds—Dollard, Lib.)): Good morning, everyone.

    Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), we are considering relations with Muslim countries.

    We have the privilege to have today as witnesses, from the Canadian Islamic Congress, Madam Wahida Valiante, who is the national vice-president and vice-chair of the board; from the University of Alberta, Mr. Saleem Qureshi, professor emeritus of political science; from Carleton University, Mr. John Sigler, adjunct professor of political science; and later on, we hope, from the Royal Military College of Canada, Mr. Houchang Hassan-Yari, professor and head of political and economic science.

    Today is the first hearing in the committee's study of Canada's relations with the countries of the Muslim world. In addition to being tremendously important, this subject is also very complex, and we thank the witnesses here today for helping us learn about the topic. Our hearings will continue in the fall, and at that time we hope to divide into two groups and visit key countries with Muslim majorities in the Middle East, Africa, and southern and southeast Asia. We hope to have our report, with recommendations for Canadian policy, ready by the end of the year.

    This morning we will start with Professor Sigler. You have between 12 and 15 minutes, and after that we have questions and answers from the members. Also, I was advised there might be a vote in the House of Commons. At that time we're just going to adjourn for about 15 to 20 minutes.

    Mr. Sigler.

[Translation]

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    Professor John Sigler (Adjunct Professor of Political Science, Carleton University): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

[English]

    I'll begin by talking about the whole history of the way the West, in that broad sense, has dealt with the question of Islam. I'll start from the assertion that far too much of the current focus in western political circles has been on alleged differences between Islam and the West, rather than on similarities and shared values. This is a danger in any extravagant use of labels to summarize very complex phenomena, such as history and culture, particularly when they bear on the sensitive subject of identity. It is frequently said that a major contribution of history is to show how fallible so many of our gross generalizations are, that major world decisions reflect local conditions, specific personalities, and differences among decision-makers, not such labelling exercises as the clash of civilizations.

    One of the major quarrels in academe over the past decade has been the validity of the arguments about such a class of civilizations. The reasons for the emergence of the clash arguments may well lie more in political ideology and vested interest than in intellectual merit. Edward Said, a Columbia University professor of English and comparative literature, set off an earlier academic quarrel, which has not ended, over the place of a Eurocentric orientalist bias in the treatment of the Muslim world by western scholars. Said argued that rapidly expanding European empires first encountered the Muslim world of the southern and eastern Mediterranean and that the identity of the new Europe was partly defined by drawing a sharp dichotomy between the values of the new Europe and the values of the seemingly traditional societies they encountered. Whatever the Muslims were, the West was not, and vice-versa. This had little to do with serious and critical scholarship, but much to do with justifying the colonial and imperial expansion of western Europe vis-à-vis seemingly backward peoples.

    With the end of the long Cold War and an expansive United States in an era of globalization, it is perhaps no accident that the old argument about the West versus the rest, or more specifically the West and Islam, has been revived, replacing the east-west identities of Communism and the free world. The “us versus them” argument is one of the oldest and most exploitable forms of political mobilization, and it has been given very strong form since the tragic terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on September 11, 2001. But even from the beginning of the debate over the war on terrorism, strong and sensitive voices have urged us to be aware of excesses.

    European prejudices about Islam have a long history. The University of Edinburgh historian Norman Daniel showed how monks in northwestern Europe in the middle ages interpreted Islam as a Christian heresy and misrepresented its teachings in the personality of the prophet Mohammed. Interestingly enough, the monks who lived adjacent to the Muslims in the Mediterranean did not write these prejudiced treatises about Islam.

    In an environment of deep prejudice and hostility, European Christians mounted the crusades to recover the Holy Land, and a series of western historians, led by the late Sir Stephen Runciman of Oxford, have documented the incredible massacres by European Christians of Muslims, Jews, and even eastern Orthodox Christians. Muslim historians of the crusades demonstrated a much greater awareness of the differences among Christians, the differences among Muslims, and how alliances occurred between Christian and Muslim, perhaps the most notable being the turning over of Jerusalem by the Muslims to the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, who, as King of Sicily, had learned Arabic fluently and had an intimate awareness of Muslim culture and institutions. It is still said today that one of Mu'ammar Qadhafi's great heroes is Frederick II.

    Europe learned enormously from its contact with the Muslims in the crusades and in trade with the east. In our all too common historical view, Europe somehow moves from the Greeks to the Renaissance, eliminating a thousand years when a vast eclectic Muslim civilization dominated the world intellectually, economically, and militarily. The crusaders brought back from the Middle East the Muslim institutions of the hospital, the charitable foundation, the pharmacy, science, philosophy, mathematics, navigation, and perhaps most importantly, the university. We still wear the flowing robes of the Muslims inside our universities. The Greek legacy was largely rediscovered by Europe from learning Arabic and studying Greek philosophy and science in Arab universities. The great medieval Christian synthesis of faith and reason was largely copied from Muslim text.

    Too often I hear the argument that present-day conflicts in the Middle East are rooted in ancient quarrels, that these people have always been fighting, that it is all out there somewhere and distant from us, who are only innocent observers. Ethnocentrism is, of course, endemic in all cultures, but its consequences are certainly more destructive when held by the powerful. It is surely a form of collective amnesia for westerners to forget the violence of our wars of religion in Europe or to ignore that westerners have caused by far the vast majority of battle deaths over the last 500 years, most of all over the past century. It is less that our culture places a greater value on violence, but that our technology has so vastly increased the efficiency of the killing fields. This is the cruel dilemma of the effort to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, when the large arsenals of the powerful remain largely unregulated and remain major indicators of influence and prestige.

    Many anthropologists have been critical of the merits of the argument about a clash of civilizations. The argument is put forward that cultures learn from their interactions with other cultures, just as we saw how Europe emerged from the Dark Ages through its contact with Muslim civilization. One could easily show how much the advancing Muslims learned from others, incorporating the ideas, and even personnel, of the other into their own institutions, providing new elements and creating change. We show our debt in science and mathematics in having acquired the Arab numerals. The Arabs themselves called them Hindi numerals, recognizing how they were acquired from others. For many of these same anthropologists cultures are like great sponges, and it is difficult to imagine a clash of sponges. Others have spoken about the need for a dialogue of civilizations. The UN adopted that as a major theme three years ago, only, I am afraid, to be severely set back by the dramatic events of 9/11. As continuing advice on how to deal with our own shortcomings, Mahatma Gandhi, when asked what he thought of western civilization, replied that he thought it would be a good idea.

¿  +-(0915)  

    Another part of the compromised history between Europe and the Muslim world was the period of great colonial expansion. The vast majority of the Muslim world came under direct invasion and colonial rule by the British, the French, the Dutch, the Spanish, the Italians, and the Russians. In that long process Muslims interacted intensively with their new rulers, and many studied in western universities, particularly science and engineering. While there was mutual learning, it was largely asymmetrical, as is perhaps inevitable where there are gross disparities of power.

    We have had important centres of the study of Islam in major western universities. Canada has world-recognized centres of Islamic studies at McGill and the University of Toronto. The late Wilfred Cantwell Smith, the founder of the McGill institute, was a major figure in Islamic studies. In one of his major works, Islam in Modern History, he argued that a basic challenge for modern Muslims is how to explain the domination of secularism from the West--note that he is saying not the West, but secularism from the West--over a people who try to follow their faith in God and his laws. This is a challenge facing the faithful Christian and Jewish communities in the West as well. What is relatively new in this long debate is the recent rise of what is called political Islam. Some comment from a political scientist may be acceptable, particularly if you believe the explanations for religious political movements have as much to do with the politics of power, and probably more, than they do with theology.

    Most of us avoid the term fundamentalist, as this term is taken from the Christian evangelicals of the early twentieth century who emphasized a literal interpretation of the Bible. This Protestant Christian movement was dedicated to combatting erroneous ideas in modern culture, the teaching of evolution, interfaith dialogue, and the idea of a higher critique of the Bible, and particularly to the social gospel. Today it has taken a political form in the Christian coalition that plays an active role in American politics. For Muslims the Koran is the literal word of God and is foundational, so “fundamentalist”, in the Christian sense, has no meaning. There is, however, great diversity in Islam, as in Christianity and Judaism, with five different schools of religious law, the shariah, that have widely differing practices. The new political religious movements in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam insist on not accepting any innovations or corrections in law and practice to adapt to changing social conditions.

    The other parallel in the new militancy in all three faiths is the emphasis on political engagement, to the extent of making political faith into a kind of political ideology whose goal is the control of the state. That is why we speak of political Islam or, as a political ideology, Islamism. In all the three faiths the new ideologists represent only a small minority.

¿  +-(0920)  

    On this subject it is vital to avoid what the American philosopher William Connolly calls the category mistake, by which we name something and make our understanding conform to the category, rather than to the reality, which is always a great deal more complex than the names employed. Our shorthand category names, Islam, Christianity, the West, can be used in a dehumanized way when they cover up the enormous diversity of time and place of the people allegedly described by these names. Indeed, if I have one message to emphasize, it is the idea of relatedness, of how the self and the other are only names, that no self exists without significant others, that all of our identities are multiple, and that we need to see how we are connected to others far more than how we are different from them. The shorthand categories are perhaps inevitable, and certainly the media are filled with them, but they can promote fear, difference, and division, rather than shared understanding.

    The political inheritance of much of the modern Islamic world was one of political quietism. The great Muslim philosopher al-Ghazali argued that rebellion against the ruler is contrary to the will of God, even if the ruler is tyrannical and unjust. Authority, no matter how despotic, was held to be preferable to civil war and anarchy. Given the fear of anarchy, many Muslim scholars even justified colonial rule. The first political Islamist movement, the Muslim Brothers, which began in Egypt in 1928, argued on anti-colonial grounds that the king and the ulama, the religious scholars, were compromised by their acceptance of British colonial rule. Gradually, the argument grew that the political establishment was no longer Muslim, but had been infected by secularism imported from the West. For some political Islamists, but a decided minority, violence could then be justified against the rulers, who were seen as pagan and no longer Muslim.

    This division about the justification of violence is one of the deepest, not simply within mainstream Islam, but within the Islamists themselves. The large Muslim Brothers movement in Egypt differs on this question from its offshoot, the Islamic Jihad. The Islamic Salvation Group in Algeria differs on this question from the Armed Islamic Group. Hamas differs on this from Islamic Jihad in Palestine. Al-Qaeda has strongly emphasized this justification of violence and uses the polarized language of “us and them” and the sweeping categories of crusaders and Jews.

    Many analysts have interpreted the rise of political Islam as a response to the failure of leadership provided by the largely westernized secular elites after independence. In most Muslim countries decades of repression by nationalists, by liberals, by Marxists leaders have left a wide-open, depoliticized society, a political and intellectual vacuum that is being increasingly filled by Islamic militants, as we are watching today in Iraq. Whether it was economic or social development, political participation, or success in foreign policy, the secular elites who have led most Muslim countries since independence have failed dramatically.

    Much more could be said about a psychological and sociological analysis of the Muslim extremists, and it would probably show comparison with fanatics of the past who have been active in periods of deep social change in Europe. Princeton scholar Michael Walzer, in a book called The Revolution of the Saints, has shown the similarities among the puritans of 17th-century England, the Jacobins of 18th-century France, and the Bolsheviks of 20th-century Russia. Indeed, Chris Giannou, a Canadian doctor with the International Red Cross, who worked long and hard in Afghanistan, called the Taliban and al-Qaeda religious Leninists.

    So we need an analysis that gets beyond simple categories and to comparable experiences across cultures and time. The primary emphasis in the war on terror must be on enhanced police and intelligence professionalism, all of which must be held within the protection of basic human rights. Our own need for understanding what has happened and what needs to be done is to greatly expand our sense of history and the complexity of multiple layers of reality, and most of all, for dialogue and the building of bridges, not further barriers to shared identities and values in a complex globalized world.

    At a time when power has returned to dominate all our discussion about international relations, the Aga Khan, one of the most eminent leaders of the vast Muslim world, reminded Canadians about the values of inclusiveness and celebration of diversity, which he said is widely understood and welcomed. I've said this before this committee, but I think it is very much worth repeating at the time you're dealing with Islam. The Aga Khan said last year, “Canada is today the most successful pluralist society on the face of our globe.... That is something unique to Canada. It is an amazing global asset.” On international development, reconstruction, humanitarian assistance, tasks you must deal with in the coming weeks, one needs to be reminded that the high priorities for much of the Muslim world are reconstruction, assistance, and development in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and for the Palestinians. On that the Aga Khan said, “It is amazing what can be done if you go in with economic support, social services, dialogue, bringing the community together, focusing on hope in the future, rather than looking backwards in despair.”

    Thank you.

¿  +-(0925)  

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    The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Sigler.

    Now we're going to pass to Mrs. Wahida Valiante.

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    Ms. Aileen Carroll (Barrie—Simcoe—Bradford, Lib.): Mr. Chair, I don't have Professor Sigler's remarks. I assume that's because--

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    The Chair: It was not translated.

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    Ms. Aileen Carroll: Will it be?

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    The Chair: It will be.

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    Ms. Aileen Carroll: Last time I had to go beg Professor Sigler for his original copy, and I wonder if I have to do that again.

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    The Chair: It's going to be done.

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    Ms. Aileen Carroll: Make sure I'm on the mailing list.

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    The Chair: Oh, I will be sure.

    Mrs. Valiante.

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    Mrs. Wahida Valiante (National Vice-President and Vice-Chair for the Board, Canadian Islamic Congress): Thank you, Chair.

    I'm going to focus on the here and now, and thank you to Professor Sigler for giving such a wonderful opening. I'm going to follow the same format as was given in the questions raised, so I'll start out with a brief overview of Islam.

    There are four points that are integral to Islamic philosophy and practices. One is that Islam seeks peace and justice through active participation, alongside the rituals of its adherents, in all spheres of human existence, political, social, economic, educational, as well as in the pursuit of human rights, economic equity, and social justice.

    Islam is an inclusive religion that encompasses all humanity and celebrates human diversity and plurality. Instead of “us and them”, the Koran, which is the primary revealed source of Islam, emphasizes “all of us”:

O humankind, we have created you out of a single pair, male and female, and have made you into differing peoples and tribes that you may know one another. The noblest among you in the eye of Allah is the most righteous both in deeds and in action.

    Islam is a religion of balance that seeks the middle way in matters of religious practice and material life. Extremism, either in religious thinking and practice or in the physical realm of life, immoral pleasure-seeking etc., is believed to create chaos and imbalance within the individual and within society:

We sent our messengers with clear signs and sent down with them the book and the balance.

    The Koran explicitly advises human beings not to commit excesses, and also advises them to be moderate. Moderation itself implies the faithful avoidance of excesses in all things political, social, or religious.

    One wonders about the basis on which Islam is built, with some of the practices we see and the questions raised. However, this is really not only in the western hemisphere. I think throughout the Muslim world there are growing numbers of Muslims who are beginning to reflect seriously upon the teachings of the Koran as they become disenchanted with present conditions in Islamic societies. As this reflection deepens, it is likely to lead to the realization that the supreme task entrusted to human beings by God, that of being God's deputies on earth, can only be accomplished by establishing justice, which the Koran regards as a necessary prerequisite for authentic peace. Without eliminating the inequalities and injustices that pervade the personal and collective lives of human beings, it is not possible to talk about genuine peace in Koranic terms.

    The second question was, is there a single Muslim world? There are two parts to it, yes and no. I will start out by saying that from the viewpoint of cultural and linguistic differences, one can say the Muslim world is neither monolithic nor homogeneous, but after centuries of colonial rule the struggle to find its own authentic self-identity and common purpose in both the political and social realms is the common bond throughout the Muslim world. This struggle has met with many obstacles. Some are external and some are internal.

    Since the 19th century and earlier external western intrusions in the form of political, military, and economic interference have stifled the Muslim world's energy and continually diverted its focus away from much needed internal political, social, economic, and educational reforms. Such reforms are vital in order to build democratic institutions, maintain civil societies, create economic equity, ensure human rights for all, including women, and further the development of science and technology.

    Key issues that have plagued the Muslim world since 1948 are the ongoing occupation and resulting sufferings of the Palestinian people and America's unwavering support, financially, militarily, and politically, of oppressive Israeli policies. This has created much of the unrest, anger, and frustration in the Muslim world. Even today nothing has changed for ordinary Palestinians, so it continues to fester in the hearts and minds of the Arab population and throughout the Islamic world. One of the most damaging negative outcomes for the entire world of this unresolved occupation is that Muslims everywhere, including Canadian Muslims, are being viewed through the prism of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and they are all considered to be potential terrorists.

¿  +-(0930)  

    Additionally, for the past decade the Islamic world has been experiencing the trauma of helpless men, women, and children suffering. They have been witness to rape, murder, genocide, death, destruction, ethnic cleansing, and other atrocities throughout Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Images of raped women, slaughter of our men, and children dying from targeted shootings have had a very negative impact on all caring people of the world, but particularly on the Muslim psyche. The recent death and destruction and occupation of Iraq have created further psychological distress and political unrest in the Muslim world. However, this time Muslims are not alone, for a great many non-Muslim people have already said a resounding “no” to this war.

    As to the internal struggle of the Muslim world, it has been directed toward cultural practices and tribal loyalties, the very things the teaching of the Koran sought to eliminate. These preoccupations have impeded reform and the growth of grassroots movements for establishing indigenous democratic institutions and human rights. Therefore, much needs to be done in the field of intellectual and critical analysis of the classical interpretations of the Koran and of its traditions in order to free Islam from the values raised by competing local cultural and tribal practices.

    As to Canada's relations, although Muslims make up a significant minority in Canada, numbering about 650,000, they have had very little impact on Canadian domestic or foreign policy. There are several reasons for this situation. One is the absence of any federal government initiative or commitment to promoting a better understanding of the Islamic world. This could likely be rectified through the establishment of a Muslim affairs portfolio or a ministerial department in Ottawa, providing a centralized venue for sharing information and ideas, and this is one of the recommendations.

    Second, Canadian Muslims are rarely invited to participate in policy discussions concerning issues of the Muslim world or to sit on committees that develop strategies and programs that affect Muslims in Canada and abroad.

    A third area of concern arises from the collective Muslim community itself. Even though Canadian Muslims are very diverse, they share common concerns with Canadians over individual rights and freedoms, as well as about war and the killing of Muslims throughout the world. What they lack here in Canada, however, is a unified understanding of the political system and the importance of engaging politicians in proactive discussions on issues of national and international importance. This is a vital component of being citizens of a democratic society.

    There is some perception in the Muslim community that socio-political theories, such as the clash of civilizations and the prevalent anti-Islam bias in the media, have in some measure influenced Canada's foreign policy and direct dealings with the Islamic world. Nationally, many Muslims feel they cannot make a noticeable difference in Canada's foreign or domestic policies, especially concerning Palestine.

    Recent events, for example, have had a prolonged negative impact on the lives of ordinary Muslims and Arabs in Canada, especially among the younger generation. Since 9/11 and the widespread investigations launched into numerous Arab-Islamic organizations, Canadian, and all North American, Muslims have been afraid to donate to legitimate charities, because they have no idea which charity will be targeted next.I have seen with my own eyes the work done by charities in the occupied territories, including schools for orphans, especially girls, child day care, the providing of school uniforms, establishing sewing classes and computer training for women, running co-ops to sell handicrafts, and providing hospital equipment. Some of these projects have also been funded by CIDA. I think this is a way to connect with the community and to develop understanding and skills.

    Historically, the consensus among Muslim countries regarding Canada's policies toward the Islamic world has been positive, because of two factors. One is the shared concept of mutual respect and negotiation through dialogue, rather than through the gun barrel, sanctions, or coercion. The second rests upon Canada's stated philosophy that true community means all of us, rather than “us versus them”. This resonates with the Muslim heart and mind, for the Koran emphasizes the equality of one soul in humanity, and this has generated very positive feelings across the Islamic world.

¿  +-(0935)  

    Many recent changes to our laws, especially those regarding charities that play a vital role in the lives of the poor, have exerted great pressure and caused anxiety in the lives of Muslims, both in Canada and overseas. Fortunately, this has not so far negated the long-standing positive feelings and perceptions about Canada held by Islamic countries, even more so in the light of America's illegal invasion and occupation of Muslim lands and resources. But even though there have been considerable differences between the moral and political methodology used in Ottawa and that used by Washington in resolving international conflicts, those differences are sadly diminishing.

    There's a perception here that Islam basically has had no experience through history of any democratic institutions or does not contain any element of that, and I would like to point out some issues related to that. Historically, including during our era, democracy and rule of law have thrived most successfully in the West, but hundreds of years before the signing of Britain's Magna Carta in 1215 and its Bill of Rights in 1689, or France's Declaration of Rights in 1789, or the American Declaration of Independence in 1776 human dignity and freedom were sanctified in Islamic political theory, which is rich with many principles and institutions of public law. Here are some examples.

    The concept of a written constitution was exemplified in the Medina Constitution by Prophet Mohammed in about 600 CE. Both state and the government are regarded as trustees of the people--this is in the Koran. A citizen's duty to obey any secular law and government is conditional upon rulers obeying the law of God and fulfilling the trust of the people. In this context were sown the seeds of later ideas such as legitimate civil disobedience and the right to disregard lawless laws. Government is necessary, but the state and the law are not ends in themselves.

    Political and civil rights, such as the right to equality and dignity, freedom of speech, the right to differ from one's rulers, claims to private property, presumption of innocence, the right of due process, freedom of religion, and the right to privacy must all be recognized. Political and civil rights, or negative liberties, must be backed by socio-economic entitlements, or positive, affirmative rights.

    The independence of the judiciary is a cardinal principle of Islam. Judges are required to do justice fearlessly and impartially, even if it must rendered against themselves, their parents, or their relatives, as the Koran states. The theory of ijtihad, or independent reasoning, allows judges to be wholly independent in exercising their reason.

    In Islamic history competitive politics are discouraged, and ideally, public office should not be sought, it should be accepted as a sacred trust, and only when offered. Thus hereditary succession is rejected. The process of bay'ah, or nomination and approval, is recognized as the legitimate means of electing a head of state. A ruler is duty-bound to conduct public affairs by mutual consultation. This paves the way for a whole range of consultative processes, including the right to free access to information, openness and transparency in government, and the right to differ with one's rulers on issues of law and policy.

    The common law principles of natural justice, the rule of a fair hearing and prevention of bias, have their equivalents and antecedents in Islamic jurisprudence. The principle of proportionality is also taught within the holy Koran. Judicial remedies are well known to Islamic public law. A qadi, or judge, who pronounces a judgment is allowed to reconsider it, either on application or on individual initiative. This is referred to as an i'adah al-nazar, or review. Other courts too may review a qadi's prior decision under the process of al-isti'naf, or higher review. Every citizen is enjoined to do what is right and to forbid or prevent what is wrong, and this paves the way for a liberal attitude towards the rule of locus standi.

    The system of ombudsman, attributed to the genius of the Scandinavians, may have originated during the Caliphate Imam Ali, 35 to 40 Hijrah, 656 to 661 CE, in the form of Diwan al-Mazalim, a powerful administrative court that bears some similarity to the French Conseil d'État. In an Islamic state neither the government nor its appointed rulers are entitled to any immunity from the due process of law and are susceptible to the jurisdiction of ordinary courts.

¿  +-(0940)  

    On current developments, America's response to the crisis of September 11 has substantially determined what Canada and the rest of the world should do. Canada, for example, like the rest of the western and Islamic world, supported the U.S. war on Afghanistan, although Afghani people where not even involved in terrorist attacks. For more than 12 years Canada has also supported American sanctions against Iraq and its people. These sanctions have caused tens of thousands of needless deaths and suffering among Iraqi children. Furthermore, Canada has supported the United Nations in its effort to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction. It obviously succeeded in doing so, as is attested by reports from the United Nations-endorsed weapons inspection teams. In this regard, it appears that perhaps the former Saddam Hussein government was telling the truth.

    Our government's decision to join a number of European countries in refusing to support America's illegal, immoral war against Iraq has to some extent restored Canada's sovereignty and enhanced its position in the Islamic world. Although this decision may have created some difficulties with the Bush administration, these are surmountable, because the two nations share numerous economic interests, and interests in other areas also.

    I would like to make some recommendations. Hopes for global peace are currently under attack, under a dark cloud of war and destruction. Canada has a very important and strategic role to play in bringing together the common interests and goals of the Islamic world. This can be achieved through comprehensive foreign policies designed to reflect the best of Canadian values and principles.

    Canada's foreign policy towards Muslim countries must reflect an understanding of the historic and religious sensibilities that are driving their internal struggles to solve ongoing social, political, and economic problems and to reclaim their authentic Islamic self-identity. This is a similar process to that experienced by Europe in its post-World War II search for its self-identity and social reform. There is, however, an essential difference between the Islamic and European process. At the time Europe was going through its mid-20th-century changes and reforms there were no longer foreign powers at its gate threatening to loot its land or natural resources or meddle in its internal affairs.

    Canada's foreign policy towards the Muslim world should include clear directives to engage in dialogue with Muslim intellectuals and scholars here at home, as well as in Islamic countries, in order to accelerate the exchange of ideas, skills, knowledge, and experience that would facilitate the constructing or rebuilding of civil societies and democracies that embrace diversity, morality, and general equality.

    There's much Canadians do not understand about Islam and Muslims, so public education is vital for promoting harmony, peace, and human rights. Through education, Canada's security concerns can be addressed by promoting social justice, both at home and abroad, and resolving conflicts using the principles and morals of natural justice, which are the best guarantees for achieving global security.

    Even though Europe has a long history with the Islamic world, it still carries the scars of colonization and exploitation, whereas Canada has no such history with the Islamic world. Canada can forge unique bonds with the Muslim countries by engaging them at three levels. One is trade, the second is education, the third is through promoting ideas and values that enhance human existence. I think a fourth is having some centralized place where Muslims and Canadians can have a dialogue. In our view, Canada's international status at this point in history would be very effective if our government were to take the initiative in launching an international diplomatic effort to bring about peace with justice in Palestine and Iraq and to help Muslim countries develop civil society, human rights, and grassroots efforts for bringing about genuine reform.

    May I add one personal recommendation? As you are embarking on this process of understanding, perhaps you should watch Islam: Empire of Faith, a PBS series. I think it will give you the history condensed in a couple of hours, which is very helpful.

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    In conclusion, I would like urge the committee to refer also to the CIC's related position paper, “A Dialogue on Foreign Policy”, recently presented by the Honourable Bill Graham, Minister of Foreign Affairs, of which the committee has a copy. Also, we would like to invite you to look us up on the web for up-to-date information and a number of research papers and articles pertaining to current issues in Islam.

    Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

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    The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Valiante.

    Now we'll pass to Professor Qureshi.

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    Professor Saleem Qureshi (Professor Emeritus of Political Science, University of Alberta): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    My presentation will deal with the current situation in Muslim countries, and it will be more or less a political analysis talking about the conflicts and the diversities that exist in those countries.

    The Muslim world exists both as a universal religious community and as the numerous politics units. Muslim volunteers to fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan and Chechnya went from several Muslim countries, and the purpose was support for their co-religionists. As recently as the current Iraq war, volunteers from Yemen, Jordan, and Egypt were reported to have gone to Iraq to fight the Americans. In the Kashmir dispute India has consistently accused Pakistan of not only facilitating freedom fighters, but also crossing over Afghans and Arabs to commit acts of violence in Indian Kashmir. However, the Muslim world does not really exist as a block, in spite of the existence of groupings like the Arab League, with 22 members, or the Conference of Islamic Countries, with 58 members. Neither of these usually shows unity in action.

    Up to the middle of the 20th century most of the Muslim world was under European imperial domination. By the last half of the 19th century European ideas of liberalism, secularism, and democracy had seeped into the upper echelons and the westernized elites. The end of imperialism in the middle of the 20th century has highlighted two legacies. Both of them did much to damage Muslim attitudes towards things western.

    One of them was mentioned by Professor Sigler, and I also mention that the departing imperialists transferred power to westernized elites and institutions that copied the ones in the imperialist countries. The failure of the elites to deliver on promises and to improve the living conditions of the people discredited both the westernized elites and their institutions. Few countries escaped this failure, among them India and Malaysia.

    The other legacy was the territorial divisions. British India was divided into India and Pakistan, and there has been a persistence of antagonisms and wars. Palestine was divided into Palestine and Israel, and that remains the most sensitive issue and has to a very great extent determined global Muslim attitudes towards the West, especially Britain and America. The more sophisticated Arab minds know the divisions Britain and France created in the Middle East have made the Arab world fundamentally fractious and weak, easily subject to exploitation by outsiders. At the cost of repetition, let me emphasize that Palestine remains the most sensitive issue, and public opinion, not only in the Arab world, but far beyond in the Muslim world, generally remains highly hostile to the U.S. because of its total support for Israel. It will perhaps not be an exaggeration to say that so long as the Palestine-Israel conflict festers, America will not have friendly public opinion anywhere in the Muslim world.

    I mentioned the Kashmir conflict between India and Pakistan. Let me emphasize that this is a conflict with very ominous potential. India and Pakistan have fought three wars. India helped in the secession of East Pakistan, and now both of the combatants have become nuclear powers. Among Muslim countries, perhaps other than Turkey, Pakistan is the one with a real battlefield army, and that fact needs to be taken into consideration. The Pakistan-India conflict can be seen in historical perspective also. One could say that in spite of partition, what was happening prior to that, a sort of Hindu-Muslim war or a communal civil war, has persisted in the form of the skirmishes between India and Pakistan.

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    When it comes to internal diversity, countries of the Muslim world present a mosaic, a patchwork of ethnicities, sects, and communities. Perhaps India, though in majority Hindu, also the third largest Muslim country in the world, and Pakistan represent the world in microcosm. Their internal diversity, great as it is, is matched by Afghanistan, which has ethnic and tribal minorities from practically every country around it. Because of this diversity and the tribal organization of the society, Afghanistan has always been difficult to rule, even for the kings in Kabul, to say nothing of the foreigners. The British learned from their misadventures, but the Soviets failed to read the history of Afghanistan when they decided to remake that underdeveloped country into a Marxist utopia. Now the Americans have undertaken to transform this impoverished and virtually destroyed country into a capitalist democracy. Good luck to them.

    Canada is about to open an embassy in Afghanistan. I would suggest that some lessons from history and some observations about the Afghan society will be useful. Afghans have never accepted rule by foreigners. They are not willing puppets of anybody. As the Afghan saying goes, “you can coax an Afghan into hell, you can't push him into heaven”. The largest tribe in Afghanistan is Pushtun. For the last two and a half centuries Afghan kings have come from the two clans of this tribe, Mohammmadzai and Saddozai. Hamid Karzai, though a Pushtun, is no more than mayor of Kabul, guarded by American soldiers and provided with legitimacy by the Tajik alliance--not a good environment for the long-term survival of the Karzai government.

    Internal diversity and current political developments have put Iraq on the spot. Canada has expressed willingness to participate in the rebuilding of Iraq. Iraq has two major fault lines, and they're ethnic and linguistic. There are Arabs in the south and the middle and Kurds in the north. However, the Kurds in the north are kin to Kurds in Turkey.

    Kurds have aspired to a state of their own, and the European allies promised one in the Treaty of Sèvres in 1919, but reneged. In 1971 Saddam was negotiating autonomy with the Kurds when the Shah of Iran asked for American help in starting a Kurdish insurgency to weaken Saddam. Kurds aligned themselves with the Americans and even accepted Mossad operatives to train their guerrilas. When the Shah had obtained his objective, the Kurds were abandoned. The Kurds again responded to American encouragement to rebel in 1991, and they were again abandoned. They're again playing the American game. Will anything come of it? I think not. Turkey will never countenance any Kurdish power in this area. Turkey is far more important to American interests than the Kurds. Canada should be aware of this history before going into Iraq for purposes of rebuilding.

    The Shah of Iran was very close to America and was determined to modernize his country. Ayatollah Khomeini presented the Shah's reforms as if they were intended to please America and subjugate Iranian honour to the visions of the Americans. The use of deft symbolism by Khomeini eroded the legitimacy of the Shah and discredited the Americans, to the extent that Iranian liberals from Prime Minister Bazargan, who was Khomeini's first prime minister, to President Khatari have not succeeded in putting Iranian-American relations on a normal diplomatic footing.

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    Saudi Arabia is special for Muslims because of the location of Mecca and Medina. Saudi Arabia has had a longstanding relationship with America ever since President Roosevelt stopped off in Saudi Arabia on his way back from Teheran during World War II and received King Abdul Aziz on board his ship. However, in this Iraq war the Saudis denied use of their airspace and their bases to the Americans, apparently in response to hostile public opinion, even though there is no parliament in Saudi Arabia and we don't have a figure to indicate the level of public feelings. We can see, then, that Islam, in the form of a public opinion formulator, does play a role in the foreign policy of Muslim countries. It is not a formal role, and its effectiveness depends upon the emotional intensity with which the public identifies the issue.

    All these examples have related to Muslim countries vis-à-vis the United States. Where does Canada come in? Canada has not pursued an aggressive foreign policy and has not tried to impose its will on other countries, and therefore has not aroused the same kind of antagonism as the United States. In the Middle East, especially in the Arab-Israeli wars and the Palestinian-Israeli conflicts, Canada has played a peacekeeping role, also providing assistance to Palestinian refugees. Consequently, Canada's image in the Muslim Middle East can be described as positive and friendly. In the India-Pakistan conflict too Canada was seen as adopting a balanced posture, and therefore Canada's standing in the countries of south Asia has also been a positive one.

    Canada certainly has an image in the Muslim world, and that image has been a friendly and helpful one. The case of Hezbollah and the Canadian government's declaration that it was a terrorist organization was seen as a concession to Israel and the U.S., so while the Lebanese ambassador to Canada expressed an observation that contained a kernel of truth, the statement, in the form in which it was issued, should be seen as giving more force than perhaps was the reality.

    Canada will be better served in foreign relations if it keeps in touch with public opinion in the Muslim countries, not only with the official version, but also with the public version. For this to happen, Canadian missions need personnel who speak the language and can read the vernacular newspapers and other publications. Where possible, Canada should be in contact with the opposition or non-governmental parties and their opinions. To illustrate the point, let me refer to Iran and the U.S. prior to the Islamic revolution. It seems there was a blank in American understanding of who Khomeini was, what his opinions were, who the people were who could interpret him, etc. In short, among 80 persons in the American Embassy in Teheran in the late 1970s there was practically no one with a knowledge of Farsi. Canada should not allow itself to be placed in a similar position.

    Canada perhaps is most favourably placed to improve the international political dialogue between western and Muslim countries, as Professor Sigler said, citing the Aga Khan. Canada is one of the most diverse and one of the most accommodating countries. Canada has not been an imperial power and does not have the stigma of exploitation and domination. Canada, in this respect, has no past, and therefore, no negative past either. Canada has not been a military power and has not sought to dominate countries, so it is seen more as a country that poses no threat. Canada has been active in peacekeeping and humanitarian activities and has earned a reputation for kindness and generosity. Canada has been active in the UN and other multilateral organizations and activities, earning the reputation of being a decent member of the international community.

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    Canada thus has a standing, an image, and a reputation that I think are unparalleled, and it can use all these assets to demonstrate that an advanced, rich western country could also be a partner for development and improvement of the lot of others not so fortunate.

    Thank you, Mr. Chair.

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    The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Qureshi.

    We're going now to Professor Hassan-Yari.

[Translation]

    Mr. Houchang Hassan-Yari is a professor and Head of the Department of Political Science and Economics at the Royal Military College of Canada.

    Mr. Hassan-Yari, please go ahead.

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    Professor Houchang Hassan-Yari (Professor of Political Science, Royal Military College of Canada): Good morning, Mr. Chairman and ladies and gentlemen. I apologize for being late, but I was stuck in traffic on Highway 401.

    In the two and a half pages I prepared for the committee, there are a certain number of ideas, and I will elaborate on the concepts which, to my view, are most important. I will also speak a bit about the current situation and Canada's relationship with Muslim countries in general and those of the Middle East in particular.

    When you look at Muslim countries, you have to be careful, and you have to distinguish between two extremely important things: on the one hand, doctrine and theology, and on the other, reality and practice. In other words, Muslim countries and Islam are not the same thing. It is extremely important to make this distinction and that is why I often repeat in my courses on the Middle East that if the prophet of Islam, Mohammed, were to show up in Muslim countries today, he would be executed by anyone of the Muslim regimes, which illustrates just how wide the gap is between the original doctrine of Islam and today's reality.

    Sheer numbers make Islam one of our most important religions today. The figures contained in the document which the committee clerk distributed tell the story. There are between 1.4 and 1.5 billion Muslims in the world today, which means about one fifth, or perhaps a little over one fifth, of the world's population.

    As for the political importance of these countries, again the figures show that there are 57 or 58 Muslim countries out of a total of 200. This represents a lot of countries, not only at the UN, but also within the international community.

    As you know, the religion in these countries is Islam. Islam has more in common with other monotheistic religions, such as Judaism and Christianity, than you might think, and there are fewer things which separate these religions than you might believe. In political literature, some authors try to pit the Judeo-Christian world against the Muslim world, but that is an unfounded approach.

    Islam also represents a lifestyle which affects an individual in every aspect of his or her life. The doctrine of Islam defines the relationships between individuals, between parents and their children, between neighbours, and also addresses issues such as war and peace.

    If you read the Holy Book of Islam, otherwise known as the Koran, you will realize that Moses and Jesus are very important figures, and that Mary is an especially important figure. In other words, Islam sees itself as being the successor, if you will, of monotheistic religions, and not as a belief system which seeks to replace them.

    You also have to watch what you say about Muslims, especially in moments of crisis like the one we are experiencing now, in particular since September 11, 2001, because Muslims, Islam and Islamic countries are not the same thing. Some people think that Muslims are all the same and that Islam is the same everywhere. But there are distinctions.

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    One of the words that is now part of the political jargon everywhere in the world is the word djihad[jihad] which is often improperly used and improperly interpreted and this has created all kinds of confusion. People think that djihad is the equivalent of a holly war and that is not the case. I wold just like to remind you that before this same committee, a few months ago, I mentioned that there are two kinds of djihad. There's the major djihad, which is an ongoing attempt at personal purification, in other words you try to get rid of everything that is impure; thus it is an internal struggle within each individual. And there's the little djihad which is a defensive war. In other words, you should not initiate conflict, but when you are attacked, you must defend yourself. So we have to be careful in order to avoid that kind of confusion.

    Since the plungering of the Baghdad museum, we've been hearing more and more about what Islamic civilization has contributed to the creation of other civilizations. I gave a certain number of examples in the document to illustrate this service rendered by the Islamic civilization to the world civilization in the areas of medicine, mathematics, literature and many others.

    Another particularity of Islam that you don't find in a religion like Christianity is this mix between politics and religion. Islam makes no distinction between politics and religion. For example, the Prophet Mohammed was both messenger of God and founder of the first Muslim state. That does not mean, however, that this political/religious mix still exists as a model to be followed everywhere in all Muslim countries.

    There is an incredible variety of countries: all the way from totally democratic to totally dictatorial. There is an extremely broad range of Muslim states. Many have simply abandoned this idea of mixing politics and religion and in some states, those who try to encourage this mix very often wind up in prison. So that distinction must be made.

    We have to be careful when we talk about Muslim countries. We shouldn't think that yesterday's reality still exists. In the past, when we spoke of Oumma, the community of believers, it meant all Muslims no matter which geographic area they might be in. Today, particularly since the advent of colonialism and modern times, we've been witnessing a sort of territorial divvying up in Muslim countries where the nation-state has predominance over any other consideration, and, as far as I'm concerned, it means there is an incipient struggle which is implicit and sometimes even explicit between the community of the Oumma and the nation itself. We witness this especially in some Middle Eastern countries but elsewhere also, as in Indonesia, for example, as Prof. Qureshi has just mentioned. In the case of Iran, it is quite clear and very astonishing. That state proclaims itself as being an Islamic state. So there is a very serious attempt to review the reality that has been there since the 1979 revolution.

À  +-(1015)  

    With respect to democracy, there is a fundamental issue that comes up again and again: people equate Islamic countries with autocracy and dictatorship. But if you trace things back to their origins, you find that there are actually some interesting things about the concept of democracy that existed in the early practices, particularly in the Koran.

    For example, there is a very important item that subsequently became the very foundation of western democracy: councils, which the Koran talked about over 14 centuries ago. Also, the religious leaders, who were the political leaders as well, would go before the community to debate issues, and any member of the community was entitled to speak directly to the political and religious leader of the Islamic empire, an empire of enormous geographic breadth. The sultan, the leader, listened to them carefully and with interest.

    A number of features are common to different civilizations and different times. Take, for example, tolerance, a sense of justice, freedom, equality, etc. These concepts exist in Islam, but it is imperative to update them, and this is something that the Islamic countries have stopped doing. In other words, according to Islam itself, religion has to adapt to reality, and not the other way around. In other words, it is not current reality that is supposed to adapt to religion, but that is what we see increasingly in Islamic countries.

    In connection with the issues of democracy and human rights, according to Islam, God created human beings in his image, which implies equality and respect for the person, but unfortunately, that is not what we see in Islamic countries.

    According to Islam, when you kill a human being, you kill humanity, hence the importance of respecting individual life. That is not the practice being witnessed in Islamic countries. Also tied to the issue of democracy and human rights is the issue of extremism and violence. The violence committed by Islamic countries is primarily directed at the local population, not at other civilizations. Here I am alluding to what I would call the clash of civilizations, which has become something of an ideology.

    So we can see that the actions of the governments of Islamic countries cause more problems for their own people than for the rest of the world. On the other hand, extremist groups commit violence with a view to gaining power and implementing their religious interpretation. In other words, in Islamic countries, there is a constant battle between different groups' religious interpretations. That is why I would encourage you to be careful in analyzing the situation in Islamic countries.

À  +-(1020)  

    According to these extremist groups, the violence they commit is legitimate because they are striking at the henchmen of western countries. To them, it is a reaction to the illegitimate support of repressive regimes by western countries. That is how fundamentalist Islamic groups justify their action.

    With respect to an extremely widely held view, which in my view bears no resemblance to the reality of the Muslim world, there is no such thing as a monolithic or homogeneous Muslim world from Indonesia to Morocco or Bosnia, for example, or in the African countries. There is simply no uniform and consistent system. What we call the Muslim world is in fact a very diverse collection of countries, with extremely deep internal divisions, which my colleagues alluded to earlier. There is infighting among Arab countries. The Iran-Iraq war lasted eight years; Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, and more recent examples, show that there is no cohesion, there is no Muslim world as a recognizable unit. There are very significant differences and divisions.

    That said, one must not think that there are no common features among these countries. As was said earlier, the Arab-Israeli question is one of them. It is both an emotional issue and an issue based on religious reality, hence the existence of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, which was created to protect Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem.

    So there are common features that can be identified, but by no means does that mean that these features are enough to create unanimous and unwavering support for war against Israel, for example. In all of these countries, such a thing is inconceivable, because as I said, there are internal divisions, internal characteristics, distinctive historic and cultural features. There are other things that people are more concerned about. In other words, this attachment to the Palestinian question is a reflection not only of a certain nostalgia, and also of a genuine feeling of belonging, but that is not going to lead to conflict between these countries and Israel or countries that support Israel.

[English]

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    The Chair: Professor, I must interrupt you. There is a vote in the House of Commons 11 minutes from now. To members of the opposition, if you want to stay, it's up to you, the members on the other side also. If you're all leaving, we're all going to leave. Are you going to stay, Mr. Day?

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[Translation]

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    Mr. Stockwell Day (Okanagan—Coquihalla, Canadian Alliance): It is very important that we be there; we have to vote.

[English]

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    The Chair: Mr. Obhrai will go also. Are you going to stay here or go to vote?

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    Mr. Stockwell Day: It's time allocation.

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    The Chair: Okay, we're going to suspend until the vote is over. I'm sorry. We're going to be back in about 20 minutes.

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Á  +-(1103)  

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    The Vice-Chair (Hon. Diane Marleau (Sudbury, Lib.)): I'll call the meeting back to order, so that we can start as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, there will be another vote in approximately 50 minutes, I'd say. At that time we'll end the committee, because I'm sure we'll lose everyone at that point anyway.

    The first question goes to Mr. Obhrai.

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    Mr. Deepak Obhrai (Calgary East, Canadian Alliance): Thank you.

    I want to thank all who have come and presented their papers.

    I would like to ask my question to Wahida of the Islamic Congress. She has given us two papers on the position of the Islamic Congress in reference to the study we are doing. In general terms, you have painted a picture of Islam, but you seem to have neglected--and it creates a question for us and a problem, which is one of the reasons we are doing this study--those who are hijacking the Islam religion for their own political purposes in many other situations. You do not at all, even remotely, say anything about that. A month or two ago a senior Saudi cleric called for the killing of Jews and Hindus in Saudi Arabia. A cleric in Britain is passing on the literature of hate. You have not at all mentioned the atrocities of Saddam against the Shiite minorities. You talk about minority rights that must be respected in such countries as China, Russia, India, Burma, and the Philippines. You seem extremely reluctant even to mention Pakistan or Indonesia. I'm not picking on these countries, but in Pakistan the Ahmadiyyas and the Christians have been persecuted. So also in Indonesia.

    We are looking for a balanced approach. I see nothing in here where you have stated the position of your council condemning these things, saying this does not form part of the mainstream Muslim community, which I'm very much familiar with and know. If you don't do that, you're leaving a big void in our study, we do not see the other picture. I feel you need to take back your religion from these people who preach hate, which you so very eloquently said is not the teaching of Islam. I'm a little puzzled as to why the Canadian Islamic Congress refuses to recognize these points as well. Perhaps you would like to answer that.

Á  +-(1105)  

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    Mrs. Wahida Valiante: You have asked why we have not apologized or condemned. What has been asked of us is to reflect on a topic that is not discussed often enough. All the others you have mentioned, with a minority of people committing some acts of terror, have been under the microscope, and the whole of Islam has been viewed from that one little perspective. Our task here is to enlighten generally in areas where nothing much has been said, discussed, or recorded. I believe this is the purpose of this exercise, to promote and share knowledge that exists. Whatever CIC has included in here by way of quotations or examples can be substantiated through historical documents.

    For example, we have never talked about the 800 years through which Islam ruled in Spain. We have not one holocaust, one genocide we can record to say it was Islam that committed it. So I think we need to look at the broader perspective. Part of my heritage is from India. Can we now only talk of India because Christians or minorities are being killed? The Canadian Islamic Congress has focused on the knowledge that exists--historically, it can be substantiated, as I said--and this is what we are really sharing.

    When acts of terror happened, did we condemn them? Yes, we did. We have published pieces in the newspapers, and you can also see that. I didn't really ignore that. I said here that throughout the Muslim world there are a growing number of Muslims who are beginning to reflect seriously upon the teachings of the Koran as they become disenchanted with present conditions in Islamic societies. I think it answers all you have been asking. I think that explanation should suffice.

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    The Vice-Chair (Hon. Diane Marleau (Sudbury, Lib.)): Thank you very much.

    Madame Lalonde.

[Translation]

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    Ms. Francine Lalonde (Mercier, BQ): Thank you to all four of you for your presentations; I look forward to reading them. It would certainly be interesting to meet with you again after our trip, now that we know you and can ask you questions.

    I would like to mention that I went to southern Spain in January to learn Spanish, in an area that was dominated by an Arab regime for 800 years. I saw the Alhambra there. If you haven't seen the Alhambra, you should. It gives a good idea of the level of refinement of that culture.

    I would like to ask Mr. Hassan-Yari a question. I will begin with an assumption. It seems to me that Islamic fundamentalism is currently on the rise. The word "fundamentalism" was not coined at the outset to describe a brand of Islam, it was coined to describe a brand of Catholicism. So I feel free to use it.

    I have the impression that fundamentalism is on the rise in a number of countries. I wonder if there is a connection between that and fanaticism. You have sufficient knowledge and have done enough analysis to be able to answer that kind of question, but we don't.

    I also have a related question for you. I read that Bin Laden's plan had a universal dimension, like Catholicism, but also a political dimension, and that you could not separate the two. Does that not come into conflict with the nation-states you referred to? For that reason, is it destined to be further weakened?

Á  +-(1110)  

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    Mr. Houchang Hassan-Yari: Allow me to answer your second question first. Bin Laden's plan is similar in nature to any other plan coming from an extremist movement, regardless of its religious affiliation. It could have national ambitions, for example. In my view, Bin Laden is trying to reinterpret Islam, in a way that questions the history of Islamic countries in the 20th century, in a very general way, from Morocco to Indonesia. During this time, there was a rupture within the Muslim world, particularly in the Middle East, with the end of the Ottoman Empire and the advent of nation-states.

    In my opinion, Bin Laden wants to put things back the way they were before, even if that wasn't such a great success. In fact the Ottoman Empire, particularly beginning in the 18th century, was not a technical, economic or scientific success. That was clearly the start of its decline. As you probably know, there was a "grace period" before the end. So that period was the decline of the Ottoman Empire. Once the empire was gone, there was a decentralization of power within what is called the Muslim world, in other words major rifts along fault lines that were already there, but not so substantial. The very heart of the Muslim world was thus torn apart. Before, it had been affected around the edges in a way, but this time it went right to the core.

    The plan of people like Bin Laden is to glue the pieces back together, but that is impossible and inconceivable, in my opinion, for very practical reasons. There is no Islamic state today that would be willing to let down its national borders in order to create religious ones, Islamic ones, in other words to remake the world as it was centuries ago.

    There is no doubt in my mind that this plan is bound to fail, and it does contradict the existence of nation-states. I would like to point out that in my opinion, the most important target for Bin Laden and his friends is not the United States and "western" civilization, but Muslim countries, especially Saudi Arabia. People very often think that their plan is simply to destroy western civilization to make way for a global Islamic civilization. That is not true.

    By the way, the Americans are accomplishing things that Bin Laden didn't manage to do himself, that is, toppling regimes that were opposed to him. Don't forget that relations between Saddam Hussein's regime and Bin Laden were extremely strained. Saudi Arabia is currently under enormous pressure. Their goals are very, very different.

Á  +-(1115)  

    With respect to your main question on the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, you have to understand what has led to this rise, without in any way condoning it. It is a reaction to a number of things. It is a reaction to the inability of this system of nation-states to create a democratic system. It is a reaction to these dictatorial regimes, to this colonial system, to this imperial system we have today. Basically, it is a reaction to the endless failures of Islamic countries. And finally, I would say that the people trying to capitalize on these failures are frauds. If you want to get rid of the fanatics, the extremists and the fundamentalists, you just have to put an end to the external meddling in the domestic affairs of these countries. Paternalistic behaviour has to be abandoned. The humiliation of these people has to be stopped. The Arab-Israeli conflict needs to be halted. And finally, the ties between dictatorial regimes and western interests, in general, and American interests, in particular, must be cut.

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    The Vice-Chair (Hon. Diane Marleau (Sudbury, Lib.)): Thank you, Mr. Hassan-Yari.

[English]

    We will now move on to Mr. Calder.

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    Mr. Murray Calder (Dufferin—Peel—Wellington—Grey, Lib.): Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

    I'm going to make my preamble really quick, and I want to focus in on one thing, because I have four questions here, and I'd like our panel to be able to answer them.

    On September 11 most of the hijackers came out of Saudi Arabia, and apparently there's a radical branch of Islam in that country called the Wahabi. How influential is the Wahabi branch of Islam in the Middle East? To what extent does it exist in mosques here in Canada? Which of its characteristics should we be most concerned about? And finally, what other branches of Islam are influential among Islamic extremists?

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    The Vice-Chair (Hon. Diane Marleau (Sudbury, Lib.)): Mr. Qureshi.

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    Prof. Saleem Qureshi: I will try to provide a basic answer. Wahabism is after Muhammad bin Abd al-Wahab, who lived from 1703 to 1792 in what is now Saudi Arabia. The branch of jurisprudence he actually preached is the Hanbali one, one of the five Professor Sigler mentioned, and that is the one that can be called most austere, most restrictive, and harshest. This particular branch seems to be popular among a certain kind of people because its austereness seems to be as close to the Islam of Mohammed's time as is possible, and it appeals to those people who have not been able to integrate themselves into the modern world. Osama bin Laden obviously undertook a project he thought would somehow bring that out of the United States and the Muslim world and would arouse a wave of unity in the Muslim world, whereas what it actually accomplished was the opposite of that. It may be uncharitable to say it, but people who are convinced of this particular approach are so totally convinced inside themselves that they're not able to relate their activities to the outside world, including the overwhelming majority of the Muslim world.

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    Mrs. Wahida Valiante: Wahabism also came into being at a time when there was a lot a decay in the Islamic world. So it appealed as a solution.

    Should we worry about Wahabism in Canada? No, because here you have a large number of Sunnis who do not belong to the Wahabi, who do not belong to the Salafi, who not belong to any of the schools. We are just mainstream Sunni Muslims, and to us, this or that school served a purpose only when there was jurisprudence being developed in the olden times, basically. That's when those schools flourished. Now there's really no purpose for Muslims overall. This is the reality of it. What you have in Canada is the mainstream Sunni majority, then the Shia, which is also part of Islam, and they don't believe in Wahabism either, I think that's quite well known. So we, and even the United States, should not concern ourselves with Wahabism.

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    Mr. Murray Calder: Thank you.

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    The Vice-Chair (Hon. Diane Marleau (Sudbury, Lib.)): Thank you very much.

    Mr. Day.

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    Mr. Stockwell Day: Thank you, Madam Chair.

    Thank you to each of you. It's so helpful for us as we try to gain insights into these questions.

    I appreciated Mr. Hassan-Yari's comment that doctrine and philosophy are often different from reality. That doesn't just go for Islam, of course, but applies to every religion. It's helpful for us to remember that no religion can claim a perfect application of its principles by its practitioners. And we can't say Islam is not an “us and them”. Because it's human beings practising it, of course it is, as much as any other religion. When the followers of Mohammed conquered Persia, that was very much “us and them”, and they absorbed a civilization within their own. When Shia Imam Ali was murdered at Karbala, that was “us and them”.

    One thing I'd like you to comment on is a Canadian website for children called “Play and Learn”, under the section “Islamic Scholars”. For instance, Ayatollah Hussein Fadlallah makes comments about Israel's obliteration from existence. He goes on to say, “All those who seek peace with Israel are traitors to our cause”. And he doesn't just single out Israelis. He says, “We stood up for our people then, as we do now, while traitors like the Syrians strive for accords with the Zionists and Imperialists.”

    So “us and them” is captured in every religion, unfortunately. How do we look to advancing the most basic human rights, natural rights, for instance, freedom of religion? Freedom of religion is so crucial to freedom of speech, of course. When I was in Israel a couple of months ago, some Jewish orthodox practitioners took me to a Christian church so that I could worship there. That's not just allowing freedom of religion, that's really practising it. How does a notion like that become established in certain Muslim countries, not all, in which death for practising another religion is a reality today? What are the steps we need to take to pierce that kind of veil?

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    The Vice-Chair (Hon. Diane Marleau (Sudbury, Lib.)): Professor Hassan-Yari.

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    Mr. Houchang Hassan-Yari: That question goes back to that of your colleague, killing Jews and so on. The Koran speaks clearly about the people of the Book, meaning Jews, Christians, and so on. So what I do as a Muslim is my problem, it's not doctrine. We should also not forget that there are Jews who want to kill Muslims, there are Christians who want to kill Muslims and Jews, and so on. The practice is very different from one country to another. If you go, for example, to Iran, you see Jews and Christians have their representatives in parliament. If you go to Saudi Arabia, you cannot go to church, there is no church. So we have to take those countries case by case and not generalize and say this is Islam, this is Judaism, this is Christianity, and so on.

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    Mr. Stockwell Day: I was careful to do that.

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    Mr. Houchang Hassan-Yari: Certainly.

    I should say also that before the Arab-Israeli conflict started, you could find that the Jews were much better treated in countries in the east than in western Christian countries.

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    Mr. Stockwell Day: Yes, but help us with the question. With the countries where it is illegal to practise, or even to have, another religion, how do we broach that topic with the representatives of the countries?

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    The Vice-Chair (Hon. Diane Marleau (Sudbury, Lib.)): I will go to Madam Valiante. I think you wanted to add something to this.

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    Mrs. Wahida Valiante: When we give a reference to one thing on the Internet or the like, this is a reductionist ideology that doesn't serve our purpose.

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    Mr. Stockwell Day: Understand, I'm not applying it to all.

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    Mrs. Wahida Valiante: No, but this is why we keep saying Canada has gone through stages to where it shows most plurality and tolerance and all that. This is why we are here today saying how important a role Canada can play in a dialogue with those countries, and that's the only way we can go. There are Muslim countries where Christians and Jews and Hindus and so on have been for centuries, and there are some that are basically saying, no, we can't have even one church here. I think Canada can play a very important role in opening dialogue and exchanging information as to how we go about that. That would be the best way to go.

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    The Vice-Chair (Hon. Diane Marleau (Sudbury, Lib.)): Thank you very much.

    Mr. Eggleton.

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    Mr. Art Eggleton: First, let me express to the four of you my appreciation for your being here today. This is the first day of our going into issues involving the Muslim world, or worlds. We have a trip coming up, and we have many other people who'll be coming in. It may seem a little overwhelming to us today, because we're getting information for the first time, but I really would appreciate having all of the presentations in writing, so I can study them a bit more; some very profound and some very important things have been said.

    Wahida Valiante's presentation is the one I do have in writing, but my questions can be answered by anybody who wishes to. In your presentation you talk about the roots of democracy and the rule of law and where they find a place in the development of the Muslim world down through the ages. Today there's a different impression. I remember reading Bernard Lewis's book What Went Wrong? He says 1,000 years ago Islamic societies were the most advanced in the world in many different respects, and yet today we don't see so much about democracy, we hear more about poverty, about terrorism, about extreme Islamic law that involves a woman who is alleged to have committed adultery being sentenced to be stoned to death. These kinds of things may not represent how most of the Muslim world would operate or how most Muslims think, but they are certainly dominating the western media at this time.

    You do offer one suggestion in here as to why this might be the case when you say, “Western intrusions in the form of political, military, and economic interference have stifled the Muslim world's energy and continually diverted its focus away from much needed internal political, social, economic, and educational reforms.” Surely, it's not all the West's fault. The Muslim societies must take some responsibility for going from what was one of the most advanced societies to what we see today. I'd like some comment on that.

    Second, I think you place--and I've heard this before--a lot of importance on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I think we all want to see that resolved, and I, like most people, feel a two-state solution is where the reality is. You talked about the ongoing occupation and the resulting suffering of the Palestine people. So why do the Palestinian people follow a leader whose background is in terrorism, who embraces terrorism, who started a second intifada not too long ago, who is corrupt? I'm talking about Yasser Arafat, obviously. I see in some of the opinion polls coming out of the Palestinian area that they seem to support him. We not too long ago said the Taliban should be rooted out of Afghanistan because it was harbouring terrorists, and yet Yasser Arafat and some of his followers harbour terrorists. We've seen many suicide attacks, and for what? As you point out, it still hasn't resolved anything. So why do these people follow that kind of corrupt terrorist leadership?

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    The Vice-Chair (Hon. Diane Marleau (Sudbury, Lib.)): Mr. Sigler.

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    Prof. John Sigler: It's the latter part, of course, that has the more political dimension, and then you're into an extraordinary change that's now taking place inside the Palestinian leadership, as you're well aware. Abu Mazen is very much out of the same party as Arafat, but has had long differences, first on the Oslo agreement, of which he was the architect. So there was already a sense of reaching out to Israel, which was fully shared by Arafat, however. For most of us who have worked for this for a long time the portrait of Mr. Arafat as a leading terrorist undermines the sense we have of his tremendous inefficiency, that he can't run anything, which is his major problem. The whole business of how much terror Arafat himself, as opposed to some people in his entourage, was involved in is an open question. Labelling him the leading terrorist is something most experts on this question, including Israeli ones, have got over. They want an alternative leadership very much, but the reason they don't want him is that he's incompetent, as much as anything else, and has presided over tremendous corruption, even though he himself is not a corrupt person, which is one of the reasons he still has legitimacy. That's another problem with the whole question.

    On your latter question to where we go now, the road map has just been presented, it's going to be on your trip. There are many critics of the road map on both sides. As we've seen, a major effort is being mounted right now in Washington by elements within the Sharon government, not by Sharon himself, who has taken the high road on this one, not appearing to be the obstacle and thinking it's not in Israel's interest to have such clear opposition, which is part of his coalition government. But it is out on the table, and you'll find deep differences in Washington as well over the question. It's supported by the State Department, but not by the White House, the Pentagon, or the Vice-President. So we have, as we had over Iraq, these continuing differences on how to proceed.

    I think the efforts right now are about getting over the violence, which is the emphasis on both sides. You're right, on the Arab side they emphasize the violence of the Israeli intrusions, and on the pro-Israel side they emphasize the suicide bombers. The trouble is, as Secretary of State Powell has now made clear, both of these have to be ended, because there is an element of conscious provocation by the targeted assassinations, as well as tby the suicide bombing. We have an extraordinarily difficult question to deal with.

    My own reading of the suicide bombers is that an extraordinary number of them volunteer after an immediate member of their family is killed in a confrontation with Palestinian forces, and that's quite unique to the whole business. That's not the al-Qaeda phenomenon, which is very different in not having a direct involvement. One of the things to worry about right now--I just read the Israeli press this morning--is the fact that the latest terrorist incident at Tel Aviv in the café, which seems to be causing disruption of the road map, was carried out not by a Palestinian organization at all, but by two British citizens of Pakistani origin. There is a militancy in other parts of the Arab world that we've all emphasized in the matter of solving this deep grievance over the Israeli-Palestinian question.

    We're back into the game again, and despite all the weaknesses, my own position is to pick out whatever is positive that can be done, with a heavy emphasis on the fact that what is needed is an international monitoring force. I read in the Israeli press that there's quite an effort to have Canada involved in that. We have the most experience with UNDOF, as well as UNEF and the other, in working effectively between Palestinians and Israelis, between Syrians and Israelis. I hope this will be high on our agenda, even though our forces are so poorly constituted now and so committed elsewhere. If I were doing it, I'd give a much higher priority to being involved in the Palestinian-Israel peace process now than I would to Afghanistan.

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    The Vice-Chair (Hon. Diane Marleau (Sudbury, Lib.)): Ms. Carroll.

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    Ms. Aileen Carroll: Thank you.

    Professor, I read in the document you gave us about the relationship between religion and politics. Nowhere, either in the Christian world or in the Muslim world, is there a separation of religion from the process, but there's rather an institutional separation. I've read a thesis on a number of occasions with regard to the Muslim world and politics per se. It's not mine, but it's one I find interesting and would like both you and Professor Sigler to comment on. It is that the political process is frequently employed in an Islamic country as the only available vehicle for an expression of demands, of interests, of hopes, of aspirations, because in a large number of those countries there is repression of the people on the part of the government. So people have turned to religion and the mullahs and so on to get some way of putting out how they feel.

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    Prof. Saleem Qureshi: I think it's a very relevant point. I mentioned briefly that there is certainly, as Mr. Eggleton said, poverty, there is disease, there is deprivation. Muslim masses do suffer, and they're looking for hope. So an appeal to the ideal of Islam, which may or may not have existed, but they believe it existed at one time, by implication, offers the re-creation of a society that would replicate that of the past, a society based on justice. That is the appeal. The unfortunate problem is that the overwhelming majority of Muslims is not even aware of their own history, and that ideal exists more in imagination than in reality. Further, it's not so much an appeal to the doctrine as religion being used as a mobilization factor. So it's not theological, essentially, it's political.

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    Ms. Aileen Carroll: Thank you.

    Professor Sigler.

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    Prof. John Sigler: I agree very much with that analysis.

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    The Vice-Chair (Hon. Diane Marleau (Sudbury, Lib.)): Karen Kraft Sloan.

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    Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan (York North, Lib.): This is something witnesses may want to respond to in writing. I'm very interested in understanding the Islamic world view with regard to the natural environment. In the West, particularly in North America, nature is seen as something to be tamed and conquered. I listened with interest to what particularly the last witness said about the jihad. The big jihad deals with personal challenge, the smaller one is a defensive conflict situation you feel you must be engaged in. Also, with the early flowering of sciences and mathematics and philosophy, which we in the West have drawn upon and used as a basis for our western science etc., and this notion of unity and inclusion, I wonder if non-human nature is included with some of those thoughts.

    The second question has to do with the voice of children and youth within the Muslim world, both in and outside Canada, how children and youth are regarded in matters of consultation, if there are organizations you can identify.

    Third, I'm sure there are many negative images of those of us in North America. I'm thinking of people wearing white-hooded outfits with burning crosses--the cross has been a symbol of and a catalyst for violence in many respects. In fact, there's some discussion as to whether the crucifixion actually occurred the way it was outlined in the Bible--I'm not going to go into that, it's too long. It would be interesting to have the Muslim point of view, particularly from Muslims who are outside Canada, on some of these images of western civilization in North America.

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    The Vice-Chair (Hon. Diane Marleau (Sudbury, Lib.)): I'd like to do have Mr. Cotler ask his question, so that they can address both, and then we can be on our way.

    Mr. Cotler.

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    Mr. Irwin Cotler (Mount Royal, Lib.): My question would be best posed to Wahida Valiante, because it addresses something she may be best able to respond to, but anyone else can. My own study of Islamic law and Jewish law has demonstrated certain commonalities between the two, particularly, for example, in the area of international humanitarian law, as one of my students pointed out, the common principles being both in Judaism and in Islam. I'm wondering whether you have engaged in dialogue with your counterpart the Canadian Jewish Congress to explore these commonalities between Jewish law and Islamic law, so as to have shared principles to organize around, rather than having conflictual dimensions that end up with division.

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    Mrs. Wahida Valiante: We haven't discussed the politics, but I'm a family therapist and involved in divorce and mediation, so I do work with Jewish lawyers. We've been looking at the difficulty of getting divorce in Judaism and the Islamic law pertaining to divorce and settlement. So there has been a lot of dialogue, a lot of similarity, a lot of difficulty in that area. I think there are certainly similarities and parallels in international law also, and I think that's something one can look into and would be very helpful. We should draw upon all that is good, and then try to develop something concrete.

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    The Vice-Chair (Hon. Diane Marleau (Sudbury, Lib.)): Can we also talk about Ms. Kraft Sloan's question very quickly?

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    Mrs. Wahida Valiante: I take the suggestion that we should write up an answer and submit it. The questions you have raised are very important and need to be answered in such a way that they will give you enough information. I think that's what we will do.

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    The Vice-Chair (Hon. Diane Marleau (Sudbury, Lib.)): Mr. Qureshi.

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    Prof. Saleem Qureshi: Regarding the Islamic view of nature, it came to mind that 10 years ago I presented a paper in Buenos Aires on this subject. I'll dig it up, and when I find it, I'll send it to you. I've done quite a bit of work on Islamic law also. The commonalities between Judaism and Islam and the references to Jews and Christians in the Koran are enormous, and it depends whether the reader wants to take an accommodating approach or a controversial approach. Unfortunately, the Islamists, in order to emphasize the purity of Islam, have tried to play down the conciliatory approaches.

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    The Vice-Chair (Hon. Diane Marleau (Sudbury, Lib.)): Mr. Hassan-Yari.

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    Mr. Houchang Hassan-Yari: The question of the environment is extremely important, I believe. If you look at the practice of law, for example, during Mohammed's time it seems he prohibited the destruction of wheat fields: those are the source of nutrition, and they should be protected.

    I could expand on the question of youth. This is really the engine of change in all Islamic countries.

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    The Vice-Chair (Hon. Diane Marleau (Sudbury, Lib.)): Thank you very much, and this will end the session.

    The meeting is adjourned.

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