Imam Said Rageah delivered a sermon in Toronto recently and stirred a hornet's nest when it was analysed in The National Post. He was a addressing an inititative of the
Muslim Canadian Congress, an Islamic reform group, headquartered in Toronto, which has petitioned the federal government to outlaw the burka and the niqab.
Here is a passage from that sermon:
"We have to establish Islam [in Canada]. I wanna see Islam in every single corner of the city; I would like to see niqabis, and hijabis [women wearing face masks and head covering] everywhere in the city. I want to see ‘brothers' [Muslim men] in beards everywhere in the city. Because when they see more of us, they will have more respect for us. They will say, ‘look they are everywhere...we cannot go against them'."
During his sermon he referred to non-Muslims as "kuffars" and advised his congregants not to make common cause with them on the MCC's proposal, because allying themselves with non-Muslims violates Islamic principles or laws. As a result of the reaction he received, he posted this reply in the same newspaper. My comments follow the letter.
Imam Said Rageah responds
Posted: October 23, 2009, 11:30 PM by Ron Nurwisah
Oct 23rd, 2009 --5 Dhul Qa’dah, 1430
Dear Congregants and Visitors of Other Faiths,
Recently, there was a news article describing my sermon and my practice of Islam as one that seeks to incite hatred. Usually, seeking to answer agenda-driven critics would only serve to distract me from my work of proclaiming the Shahadah, applying what it means in my personal life and also attempting to teach others in a practical and appropriate manner in an environment where practicing Islam can sometimes be portrayed unfairly as a threat.
In my little corner of our beautiful city of Toronto, I sometimes sit back and contemplate the course of my life. I live in a multicultural melting pot with a personal reality that is unique and diverse in many ways. For example, my father-in-law and mother-in-law are Christians, with whom I have a very respectful and loving relationship. When I talk with them, I reflect and ponder on the nature of the lives of my children and their development. Our unique Canadian montage will allow them to live in a society, where in spite of the circumstances of their birth or their heritage, they will find their own footing in the Canadian mosaic. They will carve out their own Islamic identity, an identity that will be free from persecution and enslavement of thought.
As stated in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law. And among the fundamental principles which are the cornerstones of this society are the right to free speech, free thought, free expression and the ability to practice one’s own religious beliefs, all within reasonable, justifiable limits. I share and promote these values as they are also Islamic values.
I will be delivering a sermon today that will touch upon these issues and the recent controversies. What can be explored in 30 minutes cannot be easily compressed into a one-page statement, but let me try:
1. The expression “kuffar” is based on an operational definition, of what people do to hide something, like the truth about God (“Allah” in Arabic). In Arabic/Islamic terminology, it does not categorically refer to Christians and Jews, nor does it exclude Muslims.
2. Muslims are closer in belief and practice to observant Christians and Jews than they are to each other and Muslims respect each people as having received Revelation from the same God, and are correctly referred to as “People of the Book”.
3. Men and women in Islam are required to act and dress modestly. There are a range of interpretations, including hijab and niqab for women. The choice whether to veil, and the type of veil, should be entirely for each individual Muslim woman to make of her own free will.
4. Politics are shaped by public opinion and public opinion is shaped by the media. Rather than leaving ignorance to fill the vacuum, Muslims must fully engage in Canadian society with wisdom and the best of speech, to foster mutual respect and understanding and shape an even better country.
I invite you all to learn and share more about your faith and yourselves.
May God’s Peace and Blessings Be Upon Us All
On the one hand he wants to portray himself as being a cosmopolitan citizen of Canada's leading cosmopolitan city. On the other, he professes ignorance that the word "Kuffar" would be considered derogatory by many in this community of which he claims to be a member. Well which is it?
If Muslims are closer to Christians and Jews than to each other, how does he explain the fact that there are virtually no Jews living in Middle Eastern countries where Islam prevails and the Christians that are there are migrating because of local hostility and lack of security and support from Muslim authorities. This alleged common God worship does not seem translate into peace and harmony amongst the religions of Abraham in the cradle of Islam.
Nobody in Canada who is not a Muslim would disagree that the manner of dress of an individual Muslim woman should be her choice. But there are Muslims who do not believe it is a free choice (the MCC) and there are suspicions that honour killings in the name of the religion have occurred here where Muslim women have chosen not to wear reliously-inspired culture-specific garments; e.g., Aqsa Parvez.
Why is this aspect of Islam never addressed by these religious guys? Instead, they spout back at us the principles by which we, not they, live, as if there is nothing more to be said on that subject.
Muslims must fully engage in Canadian society with wisdom and the best of speech, to foster mutual respect and understanding and shape an even better country.
Now that is a mouthful coming from a man who refers to other Canadians as Kuffars and avises his congregants to avoid making friends, allies or common cause with them because they are Kuffars.
He says he shares the Canadian principle of freedom of expression because this is an Islamic value. Since the bedrock of Islam is blind obedience to the word of God, how did freedom of expression get embedded in Islam?
Just this week we learned that U.S. authorities arrested two Muslim men who were plotting to kill the publisher of and one of the artists of the famous Danish cartoons. One of the men is a Canadian citizen from Toronto.
Perhaps the good Imam would spend some of his time in his 30 minute sermons explaining why Islam would frown on such people who believe killing to crush freedom of expression is an Islamic value.
In searching for information on this Imam, I turned up this website that identifies an Imam Said Regeah as a fundraiser for a charity that was later designated as terrorist support agency.
Tarek Fatah, Canada's leading reformist Muslim, also has some interesting things to say about this fellow's preachings.