WHEN JEWS TARGET A CANADIAN MUSLIM
"Dr. Elmasry, we received intelligence reports that the Jewish Defence
League is having two bus loads coming to town this Sunday. We will give you
police protection," the senior local police officer informed me in person.
"You are a man of honour. You have our support." It was not clear if the
JDL was coming from the U.S. or from Canada, or from both countries, he
WHEN JEWS TARGET A CANADIAN MUSLIM
[By Dr. Mohamed Elmasry, From The Canadian Islamic Congress's Friday
Bulletin, March 4, 2005]
I had no idea that I had been targeted by the JDL, so I thanked the
officer, took his cell phone number, and prayed for the protection of
myself, my family and the police officers who would be assigned to protect
This police warning was given to me three days before the date when the JDL
was supposed to come to town (Sunday, October 31, 2004). Apparently, they
read media reports on an editorial published by the National Post, one of
CanWest's newspapers, on Friday, October 22, 2004.
On Tuesday October 19, 2004 I was invited to be one of four guests on a
regional TV talk show whose modest viewing audience totalled less than
25,000. The show was about defining terrorism.
After that show, the Canadian Jewish Congress and B'nai Brith Canada
circulated a truncated version of the interview transcript, in which one
unqualified answer of mine to one question was taken totally out of
context; it also ignored comments by a Jewish guest on the same show who
happened to be an official of B'nai Brith Canada.
It was a gross injustice.
My unqualified answer to one question on the show was then blatantly
misquoted by the National Post -- mis-represented to the public exactly as
the CJC wished. Moreover, the National Post editorial was published on the
same date (Friday, October 22, 2004) as the CJC's own media communiqué
about the incident.
It is uncommon that an editorial reflecting the viewpoint of a newspaper's
own editorial board would be that quick to respond to an issue. In this
case, it was on the same day.
The CJC must have been delighted that the National Post gave that type of
coverage -- free, and with such speed. The National Post editorial ended by
reminding the readers of its "strong support for Israel."
CanWest media outlets in all of Canada's main cities followed the National
Post's lead on that story. Israel's Jerusalem Post, also mirrored without
question what the CanWest Canadian papers published.
Then other Canadian media followed the National Post lead, and just as
blindly. None tried to view the full interview tape of October 19, 2004 or
assigned reporters to read the full transcript of the show.
News media carelessly reported that while on the show, "Elmasry said
Israelis over 18 were legitimate targets for suicide bombers." When I
pointed out to one reporter -- using the actual transcript as proof -- that
I never, ever said those words, he wrote back, "My apologies. It was a
mistake." His apology never got into print -- never.
Another gross injustice was committed.
Immediately after the show, I realized that it had been a mistake to
discuss the issue of terrorism with that particular host. In fact, a well
known Canadian military analyst wrote to me soon afterwards, saying that my
case confirmed his decision never to appear on that show again after having
his own negative experience with the host.
But for me it was too late. The media campaign of disinformation was
already in full swing.
I have been writing and speaking on Canadian public issues for some 30
years. So I did not make any excuses for failing to articulate my views
more clearly on the TV show.
I promptly issued a detailed public apology saying, "It has always been a
core belief of mine that killing civilians -- any civilians, for any cause
-- is an immoral act of the worst kind and I will never change in this
conviction. Failing to articulate my beliefs clearly, completely, and
forcefully on that occasion, was the biggest mistake in my 30 years of
But the two Jewish groups were not satisfied. They began putting pressure
on my university to fire me.
It was yet another gross injustice, directed this time against both me and
my family. Yet I was not on the TV show in my capacity as a university
Although I have made my living for the past 30 years as a professor,
teaching and doing research; and although my peers and students all over
the world think highly of my record, I was on that TV show solely as
national president of the Canadian Islamic Congress.
To ramp up the pressure on my university to fire me, a Toronto Jewish
businessman had threatened to withdraw his financial support for a chair of
Jewish studies. Again, the National Post was quick to publicize his threat.
And one of their columnists interviewed the offended businessman, which
further increased the negative pressure on my university.
In fact, one UW university official told me that during his many years in
office, he had not experienced anything like this pressure levelled against
When the university turned the Jewish groups' demand for firing me over to
an independent judge, however, the case was dismissed and my public apology
But pressure from the Jewish groups continued and another gross injustice
was committed. A former vice-president of B'nai Brith Canada, also a
professor at another university, produced a letter I had sent him back in
January 2000, a full five years ago. The letter had nothing to do with his
organization, or mine.
I was a founding member of my university's Middle East Studies and I had
written to ask him, in his capacity as a political science professor,
whether he could substantiate claims he'd made on a national TV show, that
the Iraqi government during the 1990s was using the UN oil for food program
to buy WMDs.
I asked if he had done original research on the subject and gave him the
benefit of the doubt, noting that TV shows usually do not give academics a
chance to provide references. He never replied to my letter and I did not
pursue the issue.
But the professor used this irrelevant letter to exert more pressure on my
university to fire me. He also faxed the letter to the National Post and
the same columnist who had written so eagerly about Jewish donors
withdrawing their financial support now gave free publicity to the case of
the former B'nai Brith official against me.
The university again turned this case over to an independent judge, and it
was dismissed, but not without personal and professional cost.
The individuals and organizations who targeted me and my family in their
efforts to influence the university to dismiss me from my job were unjust
to the worst degree.
The Canadian media in general are not supportive of Canadian Muslims. But
the industry does have a brave few professionals who dare to speak the
truth. It was uplifting when one of them wrote to me: "Hang in there
brother. You are too valuable to lose in this country. Let the ignorant
howl for your blood. The silence over the Occupation remains deafening." He
was the editor of Catholic New Times.
My family and I have been grateful for the countless messages of support we
received from Canadians and from people of all faiths around the world.
Some were academics, some students; many were activists, politicians, faith
or ethnic community leaders; and some were ordinary citizens of this
beautiful world of ours.
I will never forget one message from a well-known Jewish Canadian professor
who is active in the peace movement. "I'm sorry to hear they're after you,"
he wrote. "I am more and more aware how repressive the atmosphere has
become, here, as in the United States. I have a background in the history
of ideas and keep thinking of how the old Enlightenment thinkers had to use
all sorts of tricks to frustrate the censors. We too find ways to get the
message across and this will become more effective, not less so. It is sad
that things have come to this, but I'm also convinced that the repression
is a hysterical reaction to Israel's failures in the court of world
opinion. Nothing you said can do you any lasting damage. This will blow
over. With my very best wishes..."
(Dr. Mohamed Elmasry is a professor of computer engineering at the
University of Waterloo and national president of the Canadian Islamic
Congress. He can be reached at email@example.com)
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