This article has been updated since its original posting.
Canadians are on their guard against the growing Islamist threat. After all, the last month alone brought the Boston Marathon bombing, and arrests in Canada of suspected Iranian-linked al-Qaeda bomb-plotters targeting Canada-US passenger train routes. Add to that, repeated stories of Islamist radicalism in Canadian neighborhoods and young Canadian Muslim terrorists abroad.
Against this backdrop, the last thing to be expected at this fraught time would be a public event in Canada's capital showcasing a radical Islamist, boasting a master of ceremonies from the tax-funded Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, involving a respected mental health foundation, and including the wife of the highest office-holder in the land. Nonetheless, this is what is being planned for Ottawa, this weekend.
The Ottawa Muslim Women's Organization (OMWO) holds its 12th Annual Festival of Friendship Dinner Sunday evening. The master of ceremonies will be major local CBC personality Lucy van Oldenbarneveld, whose name – along with the official CBC logo – appears on event advertising. Proceeds are to benefit the Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health, an arms-length fundraiser for the public Royal Ottawa Hospital. In an email pitching the dinner and attributed to former Liberal Member of Parliament Marlene Catterall, the presence of Her Excellency Sharon Johnston, wife of the Governor General of Canada, is a selling point.
The keynote speaker will be Dr. Ingrid Mattson, Chair in Islamic Studies at Huron University College in London, Ontario, an institutional affiliate of the University of Western Ontario. Mattson, a convert from Christianity to Islam, was president of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). The United States government designated ISNA an unindicted co-conspirator in the successful Holy Land Foundation terror-funding prosecution. ISNA is included in a key Muslim Brotherhood document as one of the "organizations of our friends." Other evidence abounds of ISNA's Brotherhood inspiration and connections.
From the captured Muslim Brotherhood plan for Canada and the United States that was accepted as evidence in a US criminal court:
"The process of settlement is a 'Civilization-Jihadist Process,' with all the word means. The Ikhwan [Muslim Brotherhood] must understand that their work in American [sic] is kind of a grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and sabotaging its miserable house …"
The Brotherhood's motto is "Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. The Qur'an is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope."
A joint statement of representatives of the moderate American Muslim Congress, Center for Islamic Pluralism, American Islamic Forum for Democracy and the International Quranic Center condemned "groups like ISNA, in which radicals are camouflaged as moderates." The statement especially warned Jews against linking up with ISNA because of the risk of "legitimizing a radicalism that, regardless of ISNA's rhetorical claims, is fundamentally hostile to Jews and suppresses the intellectual and social development of Muslims."
Mattson has been criticized as an "apologist for Wahabbism," the Islamist strain that fuels the Islamic-supremacist theology of Saudi Arabia, the country that gave us Osama bin Laden and 15 of the 19 9/11 terrorists. Mattson once astonished scholars by telling CNN that Wahabbism was simply "analogous to the European protestant reformation."
According to the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C., Mattson responded to a question on behalf of "Muslim youth," with the assurance that "probably the best work of Tafseer [Quranic commentary] in English is by Maulana Abul A'la Maududi." The Center quotes Maududi's Jihad in Islam:
"Islam wishes to destroy all States and Governments anywhere on the face of the earth which are opposed to the ideology and programme of Islam regardless of the country or the Nation which rules it. The purpose of Islam is to set up a State on the basis of its own ideology and programme, regardless of which Nation assumes the role of the standard bearer of Islam or the rule of which nation is undermined in the process of the establishment of an ideological Islamic State. It must be evident to you from this discussion that the objective of Islamic 'Jihad' is to eliminate the rule of an un-Islamic system and establish in its stead an Islamic system of State rule. Islam does not intend to confine this revolution to a single State or a few countries; the aim of Islam is to bring about a universal revolution."
Mattson's chair endowment benefits from substantial contributions from two notable groups: the Muslim Association of Canada (MAC) and the Virginia-based International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT).
As I pointed out in Canadian Senate committee testimony in 2011, MAC has "boldly declare[d] on its website its allegiance to the tradition of Hassan al Banna and the Muslim Brotherhood – the organization causing dread in Egypt and beyond."
MAC runs a number of Canadian Muslim schools, including Ottawa's Abraar Islamic School. The school itself has had a mixed history: A good academic record, but in 2005, then-principal Aisha Sherazi was dragged before the media to explain why teaching staff supervised an Abraar student's producing of anti-Jewish hate material. Two teachers were suspended. In 2000, the Ottawa Muslim press reported that Imam Siraj Wahhaj "headline[d]" an Ottawa Muslim community fundraising event. Imam Wahhaj was an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombings.
Then there was the Huron University College Islamic Chair's second funding source: the International Institute of Islamic Thought. Word that this organization was helping to fund the Huron chair triggered a joint April 2011 letter from an associate professor of economics of the University of Western Ontario – with which, as mentioned earlier, HUC is formally affiliated – and about two dozen former faculty, alumni and others. They appealed to college Interim Principal Trish Fulton to reject the sponsored chair and keep clear of IIIT money.
"… Shaykh Taha Jabir al-Alwani, a co-founder and former president of the IIIT, was cited as an un-indicted co-conspirator in the trial of Sami al-Arian, an Islamist activist who served a 57-month prison sentence in the United States for conspiring to channel funds to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), a designated terrorist group in the United States and Canada," wrote Professor John Palmer.
"Jamal Barzinji, founding member and current vice-President of the IIIT, has likewise been implicated in funding for terrorists. In a sworn affidavit filed in 2003, a senior special agent with the United States Customs Service testified: 'I believe that Barzinji is not only closely associated with PIJ as evidenced by ties to Al-Arian..., but also with HAMAS.'"
IIIT's troubling history extends beyond the FBI's raiding of the place in 2002. In a strange take on tolerance and social cohesion, the institution was said to have been the site of a meeting, years ago, to manufacture the neologism, "Islamophobia." According to various Muslim moderates, including one who said he attended the IIIT meeting, this terminology was developed by fundamentalists as a calculated means of smearing as bigots and silencing Muslims and non-Muslims who might dare discuss the building threat of radical Islam.
Referring to IIIT scholar Mahmoud Ayoub, a Mattson connection, Point de Bascule observes in terms that would arrest the attention of any self-respecting women's organization:
"The manual of sharia Umdat al-salik (Reliance of the traveller) is officially endorsed by Ayoub's IIIT. Section o1.1-2 of the manual specifies that certain types of honour killings must not be punished under Islamic law: "Not subject to retaliation (is) a father or mother (or their fathers or mothers) for killing their offspring, or offspring's offspring."
According to the 2011 Bascule analysis:
"Mahmoud Ayoub has been involved with the Libyan World Islamic Call Society (WICS) at least since 1983. WICS was set up by Muammar Gaddafi in 1972 to spread Islam in non-Muslim countries. WICS has also been known to hide its financing of terrorism behind charitable activities. In Canada, WICS is based in London, Ontario."
IIIT's record has disturbed even prospective beneficiaries of its largesse. In 2008, an outcry resulted when IIIT wanted to fund a chair at Philadelphia's Temple University to the tune of $1.5 million. The attempt foundered on Temple's concerns about possible IIIT extremist links and suspicions that such a gift could be part of a long-term Islamist influence operation.
Struck by the haste with which Huron University College, on the other hand, seemed to want to get the $2 million dollar MAC-IIIT Islamic chair endowment – a significant addition to HUC's $12 million budget – columnist Barbara Kay asked Huron's Fulton whether MAC and IIIT values were compatible with the college.
"We don't probe deeply into values held by donors," Fulton said.
Too true. HUC took the money and ran, establishing an academic chair with Islamist lucre and influence.
But few of even the most overwrought of Muslim and non-Muslim counter jihadists could have imagined that influencers would have been so brazen as to have compounded the sins of the HUC chair's founding by appointing Mattson to it.
For now, Canadians must live with an HUC Islamic chair that seems to have been maneuvered into existence with inappropriate funding sources and the aid of some senior – and troubling – London-area Muslims. These include lawyer Faisal Joseph, who is said to have played a part in HUC's surprisingly restrained "due diligence" assessment of IIIT. Joseph had previously attended – with Imam Munir El-Kassem and the IIIT's Ayoub – a 2008 conference in Libya of the extremist-flavored Gaddafi World Islamic Call Society.
Munir El-Kassem (a.k.a. Munir Al-Qasimi) has been a fixture in what the Canadian government describes as the Gaddafi-controlled and -funded Libyan WICS organization, the group that directs the Canadian WICS branch. The charitable status of this Canadian branch was revoked by the federal government, owing to what Postmedia News summarized as the branch's "transferring [of] money from Gadhafi's 'Jihad fund' to bank accounts of known terrorists." El-Kassem is imam of the Islamic Centre of Southwest Ontario (ICSWO), yet another group contributing to Mattson's Islamic chair. He has been quoted speaking glowingly about the "leadership" of Louis Farrakhan, the notoriously racist and anti-Semitic Nation of Islam leader. This, when the imam is not sniping in the media at genuine Muslim moderates like the University of Western Ontario's Professor Salim Mansur. Or, as some might think, playing apologist for the Taliban.
Despite all this, El-Kassem is making a name for himself in the more gullible reaches of some interfaith and outreach fringes, and even policing. The apparently uninformed London police chief, Bradley S. Duncan, rewarded the imam with – astonishingly – an appointment as police chaplain.
People will see different things in the Ottawa Muslim Women's Organization invitation to Dr. Mattson. Was this the result of inattention? An attempt to spin Mattson as a moderate and insinuate her into elite national-capital media, government and other circles?
Whatever the details, the participation of various interests in the OMWO exercise invites questions.
Will pertinent CBC personnel be disciplined for the failure of professional due diligence and associated misuse of corporate resources involved in the Corporation's role in this enterprise? Will the CBC ombudsman enter the fray? Will master of ceremonies van Oldenbarneveld and CBC apologize to Christians, Jews, moderate Muslims and others who have struggled against the tendencies represented by Mattson's record of activity, associations and sponsors – especially at a time of preoccupation with the dangers of Islamic radicalism? Will the Ottawa Muslim Women's Organization join in the apology?
Will similar apologies come from the Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health for managerial misjudgment involved in allowing the Foundation's good name to enhance the credibility of the ill-conceived OMWO event?
Will the Office of the Governor General explain itself, and how the Governor General's spouse could have been drawn into such a situation?
Will compromised institutions launch internal reviews to determine whether Islamist fellow-travelers within their organizations may have worked from inside to encourage involvement in this year's Mattson-tainted Festival of Friendship Dinner?
And there remains, of course, a question about double standards.
Would van Oldenbarneveld, the CBC, the Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health or the Office of the Governor General of Canada ever agree to become involved in a dinner sponsored by, say, an "Ottawa Christian Women's Organization," if the proposed keynote speaker had formerly headed a foreign unindicted co-conspirator radical Christian fundamentalist organization, been an apologist for Christian extremists, and been seated in a chair in Christianity funded by domestic and foreign Christian supremacist groups with connections to intolerant, divisive ideology – and far worse?
David B. Harris is a Canadian lawyer with three decades' experience in intelligence affairs, and serves as Director of the International Intelligence Program, INSIGNIS Strategic Research Inc. He is on the advisory board of the Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow (MFT), although opinions expressed here are his alone.