Imam's Holocaust comments denounced

Syed Soharwardy, president of the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada, speaks at the South Fletcher's Sportsplex in Brampton, Ontario, April 4, 2006.



CALGARY -- Local Muslim leaders have denounced another imam's insistence intolerance facing their Canadian community is similar to that felt by Jews in 1930s Nazi Germany.

Earlier this week, imam Syed Soharwardy said anti-Islam sentiment in Canada, bolstered by a new federal policy banning niqabs or burkas at citizeship ceremonies, smacked of the Jewish experience in pre-Second World War Germany.

But senior imam Jamal Hammoud said while he disagrees with Ottawa's new policy, he doesn't share Soharwardy's historical comparison.
"I don't see the similarities, I don't look at it this way," Hammoud said.

"The veil issue is a big concern to the Muslim community but we shouldn't compare it to other issues ... to the Holocaust."

He said Soharwardy, president of the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada, speaks for few of Calgary's 100,000 Muslims and doubts his comments will reflect badly on them.

"This guy doesn't represent the community at large, people should understand this point," said Hammoud of the Muslim Council of Calgary.
But his fellow imam, Fayez Tilly, said Soharwardy's words have unwittingly caused a backlash against other Muslims.

"Obviously it has ... the reaction of most people whether Muslim or of other faiths is that his comments aren't warranted," Tilly said.
"We have to be very careful when we draw analogies, especially when it's a sensitive issue."

Soharwardy said his comments went well beyond the citizenship ceremony debate and into what he calls a rising tide of intolerance towards Muslims.

Hammoud said he hasn't seen that phenomenon recently.

And another Muslim, Rehan Farooq who's resided in Calgary since August, sent an e-mail to Soharwardy's organization expressing disgust with comments.

"Millions of Canadians are turned off to Islam because of people like him, who are showing no political tact and just speak whatever they want," wrote Farooq, 33.

"Does he realize what his stupid actions are doing to our community?"

Soharwardy is the founder of the group Muslims Against Terrorism and has, in the past, reached out to other religious communities, including local Jewish leaders.

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