As the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) searched homes and seized equipment from three terrorism suspects last August, the Mounties were apologizing to Ottawa Muslims for the timing of the arrests, the Toronto Sun reported Wednesday. The apologies drew criticism from non-Islamist Muslims and Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who said the law should be enforced equally for all religious groups.
Authorities arrested three men on Aug. 25 - two of them residents of Ottawa - and charged them with plotting a terror attack in Canada and supporting terror abroad. The RCMP's community outreach office in Ottawa sprung into action, convening an emergency meeting of a "cultural diversity consultative committee" with local Muslims.
"To show support to our Muslim brothers and sisters during RAMADAN, there will be no food or drink during this most important meeting. This meeting is for one hour only, in order to observe prayer time and the breaking of the fast during RAMADAN," wrote RCMP Cpl. Wayne Russett.
At an August 26 meeting with Ottawa Muslim leaders, according to the Sun, RCMP and Ottawa police officials apologized for making the arrests during Ramadan, which ran between August 12 and September 9, 2010.
In the days following the terrorism arrests, Cpl. Russell held more than a dozen meetings with Muslim groups in Ottawa, including several meals to break the Ramadan fast.
"We have been actively engaging the local Muslim Communities and will continue to do so in an attempt to neutralize and elevate any issues of concern," Russett wrote in an email to Francois Bidal, commander of the RCMP division covering the National Capital Region.
Asked Thursday about the apology, Prime Minister Harper said that while he didn't know all the details, "the general approach that this government would expect to see [from law enforcement officials] is that the law, our important laws, are enforced every day of the year."
Prominent members of the Muslim Canadian Congress (MCC) denounced the premise that arrests should not occur during Ramadan. Harper "is right," said Salma Siddiqui, vice president of the MCC. "We have one law in Canada and it applies to everybody. We need to stop all this political correctness."
"Why are they ghettoizing us? Siddiqui asked. "We should be treated like ordinary Canadians."
MCC founder Tarek Fatah called Russett's actions "an indication of how within the RCMP, there are officers in authority who do not see the threat Islamism poses to our nation, but unwittingly perform the role of useful idiot."