Ihsaan Gardee, The Calgary Herald
December 14, 2008
Reproduced with the permission
While Canadians hunker down for the festive season, bombarded by incessant shopping jingles and reruns of A Christmas Carol, many are also simply trying to weather the economic storm which is now battering the world and has finally reached our shores.
It was with this in mind that the initiative to launch a food drive in conjunction with the CBC and the cast and crew of one of Canada’s newest and most talked-about sitcoms, Little Mosque on the Prairie, embarked.
No holiday season would be complete, however, without the naysayers and those who would seek to divide Canadians instead of uniting to help them in their time of need. In this case, the role of Ebenezer Scrooge is played with aplomb by Tarek Fatah [who writes for and is frequently interviewed by Maclean’s magazine], who has taken it upon himself to bah, humbug this project.
In the rush to pen his Dec. 11 column, “CBC and jihad,” attacking the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. for teaming up with the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIRCAN) on an anti-hunger initiative, Fatah omitted more than just facts. Accuracy and truth went out the window too.
Apart from a passing mention of CAIR-CAN’s involvement in what he terms “an admirable deed,” Fatah’s diatribe seems to focus more on his own fears and insecurities–seeing Islamists lurking around every corner and hiding in every shadow–while mudslinging at highly respected grassroots organizations. Perhaps using the logic that a lie repeated a thousand times becomes the truth, Fatah seems content to spew the same unsubstantiated allegations time and time again.
To paraphrase from the movie The American President, many of us operated under the assumption that the reason that Fatah (and those like him) devotes so much time and energy shouting at the rain is that he simply doesn’t get it. Well, we were wrong. Fatah’s problem isn’t that he doesn’t get it. Fatah’s problem is that he just can’t sell it.
For the record, CAIR-CAN is an organization whose vision is to be a leading voice that enriches Canadian society through Muslim civic engagement (such as this project) and the promotion of human rights. Formed as a sister organization of the U. S.-based CAIR, the two remain completely distinct and autonomous operationally while co-operating on issues of mutual concern and sharing best practices.
Furthermore, CAIR-CAN has acted as an intervener on several high-profile human rights cases, including that of Maher Arar’s rendition to torture in Syria, and continues its work on day-to-day issues of discrimination and civil liberties violations. Recognized for its professionalism and commitment to the universal principles enshrined in our Constitution by organizations and individuals such as Amnesty International and author/ activist Naomi Klein, CAIR-CAN has worked and will continue to work on behalf of all Canadians.
Finally, CAIR-CAN does not now nor will it ever receive or accept funding from foreign governments. Period.
Having said this, even in the story, there is hope at the end for Ebenezer Scrooge.
We welcome Tarek Fatah to come out and help distribute the food collected by this initiative to feed the hungry this holiday season. Then, just maybe, he’ll see for himself that when, as Canadians, we are united, we can accomplish miracles.
Ihsaan Gardee is the executive director of the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CAN).