From PBS.ORG On April 9, 2004, Maha Elsamnah Khadr and her 14-year-old son Abdul Karim, returned to Canada to seek medical help for Karim, who was paralyzed in the battle with the Pakistani military that killed his father — who was holed up in a house with suspected Al Qaeda militants — last fall. The Khadrs’ return to Canada has stirred a fury of debate and anger among Canada’s politicians, the public and the press. Was the government right to allow the mother and son — who had admitted supporting Al Qaeda — back into Canada where they are eligible for health-care coverage and social assistance benefits? Here is a sampling of Canadian editorials and opinion pieces.
“Khadrs Wave Their Flag of Convenience”
Op-Ed — National Post
Byline: Don Martin
April 15, 2004
“… The Khadr family last week strolled into Toronto waving a Canadian flag of convenience in their search for a surgical suite.
Elsamnah Khadr should be about 20 years too late to claim medicare for her 14-year-old son Karim, crippled in the 12-hour gunfight that claimed the life of his father, a notorious terrorist fundraiser.
And there’s not much doubt she’d rather be elsewhere. Having deemed Canada unfit to raise her children lest they become drug addicts or, apparently worse, homosexuals, she left in the 1980s to expose her four sons to the joys of al-Qaeda training camps.
But her son’s injury and the lure of free health care have forced her to return to a country she considered unworthy to live in and enter an Americanized culture her husband was allegedly committed to destroy. And that has caused a fury in the land, mixed with taxpayers’ sense of helplessness as they watch Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty reluctantly cave to citizenship laws requiring him to extend the perks and privileges afforded any bonafide Canadian.
Clearly, the words of this matriarch and her outspoken daughter, the actions of her deceased husband and terrorist-suspect sons, and the notoriety of their infamous ringleader friends render the entire clan unworthy of citizenship or its benefits.
Sure, you feel for the son in a wheelchair. Even if he was actively engaged in the gunfight that caused his injury, this is a kid who was captive to an upbringing that undoubtedly forced him to graduate from toilet training directly to terrorist training. But the sins of his father are so many and this misuse of citizenship of such brazen self-interest, they lack any legitimate claim to Canadian compassion.
Various Khadr family members have worked as bin Laden confidants, injured Americans, raised funds for al-Qaeda, applauded the 9/11 tragedy and declared suicide bombing to be a public service. Elsamnah Khadr has been quoted as hoping her children die as martyrs to their extreme Islamic cause.
Nothing about this warped thinking fits with Canadian values. The only overlap is how Canadian tolerance and compassion allows this situation to develop and persist. If you visit the government Web site on citizenship, you will be told our core values are respect for cultural differences, freedom, peace, law and order and equality. In the Khadr world, a premium is placed on fighting and dying. They are not of our kind. …”
Editorial — Winnipeg Sun (Manitoba, Canada)
April 14, 2004
“… the family has effectively renounced everything this country stands for.
Except, of course, for our health-care system.
Karim needs medical treatment. So he and mom are back. It is hard to think of a more cynical abuse of the privileges of Canadian citizenship.
They will initially have to pay the teen’s medical bills, because of his long absence from Canada. But they will ultimately be eligible for medicare. Foreign Affairs went to extraordinary measures to help them obtain exit visas from Pakistan and emergency Canadian passports for the trip.
Other Canadians — say, Bill Sampson and Maher Arar, both of whom got no help from Ottawa while they were tortured abroad — can be forgiven for wondering why the Khadrs merit such help.
They deserve Ottawa’s attention all right, but for security reasons.
Even Abdulrahman [sic] has said his relatives could pose a threat to national security. But because this is Canada, an open, tolerant society, they will be able to resume their lives in safety — no matter how grossly they have offended those values.
Let them reflect on that. And then let them try doing the same in bin Laden’s hateful, evil, repressive, fundamentalist, terrorist world.
The sooner the better.”
“Can a Real Jihadi Be a Real Canadian?”
Editorial — National Post
April 13, 2004
“… Naturally, many Canadians are outraged that the Khadrs were permitted entry visas. Conservative Party foreign affairs critic Stockwell Day spoke for millions when he blasted the government for welcoming a family ‘involved in the training fields and the killing fields of al-Qaeda,’ and which has ‘never renounced their vile beliefs in the extermination of Jews and peace-loving democracies around the world.’
On the other hand, what were Ottawa’s options? Responding to complaints, Dan McTeague, the Liberals’ point man on the file, challenged critics to ‘show me where [Maha Elsamnah and Karim] have committed a crime in Canada.’ He has a point. Under Canadian law, joining or funding al-Qaeda has been illegal since December, 2001. But expressing solidarity with its aims while overseas is murkier territory.
Indeed the Khadr case shows how outdated our laws remain. Al-Qaeda’s goal, lest we forget, is to destroy Western societies — including this one — and build on their ashes a global theocratic dictatorship. Its method for accomplishing this objective is random slaughter. Citizen or not, why should we be forced to accept any woman who embraces this creed, and, indeed, is willing to serve up her own flesh and blood in its furtherance? Has the Canadian concept of citizenship been so diluted by multiculturalism that no creed, no matter how radical or nihilistic, is out of bounds?
The vast majority of Canadian Muslims are peaceable and tolerant. It would be no insult to their religion to exclude from our shores that small minority who warp Islam’s teachings to justify mass murder. … And there is no more reason to admit into this country al-Qaeda supporters than it would have been, 65 years ago, to admit unrepentant Nazis.
Our laws must be overhauled. In the future, Canadians operating abroad should be stripped of their citizenship once they publicly pledge their fealty to jihad. Likewise, non-citizen jihadis residing in Canada — radical mullahs sponsored by foreign governments most notably — should be expelled if they are caught preaching holy war in Canadian mosques. As for those jihadis who are both resident and citizen, there are a variety of laws prosecutors can use to discourage them — including not only those against terrorism, but also hate speech, treason and violent incitement.
Maybe the Khadrs no longer espouse al-Qaeda’s militant creed. Certainly, we hope that is the case. But regardless, their example shows that Canada’s Islamists must be given a choice: Renounce this country or renounce jihad. This is a famously diverse nation. But even in Canada, diversity has its limits.”
» “Intolerance at Centre of Khadr Controversy is Ugly”
Op-Ed — The Record (Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario)
Byline: James Travers
April 15, 2004
“… Predictably, the return to Canada of partially paralysed 14-year-old Karim Khadr and his mother is generating howls from those who stir raw emotions with simplistic solutions to complex problems.
First Stockwell Day, the Conservative foreign affairs critic and lightweight cross that bears so heavily on Stephen Harper, seized the spotlight to demand the stripping of Canadian citizenship. Then Ontario Tory MPP Bob Runciman, who tilts as precariously right as the former Alliance leader, whipped froth into the growing hysteria by saying that along with losing their passports, the Khadrs should be denied social and medical benefits.
Stripped bare, both arguments irresponsibly appeal to the base instincts of the mob. They are also wrong.
In this diverse country, citizenship must be blind to political, religious and philosophical differences. Once legitimately taken, it cannot be legally withdrawn even from those who insult collective sensibilities or fall from favour with the state.
As for services, despite Runciman’s histrionic posturing, the Khadrs will not be eligible for health and welfare benefits until they meet residency requirements.
Like Canadians of every creed and colour, the Khadr’s have rights tempered by responsibilities.
No matter how abhorrent to others, strongly held views are just that until they cross the line that separates opinion from hate and, of course, talk from criminal action. Each of us is equally subject to those laws and regulations that in a complex society allow individual freedoms to cohabitate with collective interests. …
What’s far more worrying is the intolerance that is at the ugly centre of this controversy.
It is there in the matriarch’s extreme words and the sad absence of empathy for the innocent victims of terror. And it’s there in the knee-jerk response of politicians who would rather play to a narrow audience than accept a more constructive role in a darker drama.
Featured all too frequently in news headlines, that street theatre is seen in desecrated synagogues and cemeteries, in the burned-out library of a Montreal Jewish school firebombed to protest the treatment of Palestinians, and in the response of those who rushed there to wave Israeli flags.
From the Far and Middle East to the former Yugoslavia, Canada is soaking up the conflicts, tension and violence that were to be left behind by hyphenated citizens taking part in what remains a bold and courageous multicultural experiment. …
That confronts this country with challenges that cannot be met by stripping the citizenship of those who hold radically different views. …
Rather than joining the fool’s errand of trying to strip from the Khadrs what is legally theirs, understandably upset Canadians and their political leaders could better spend their time reconsidering just what is required of citizens of a free, open and, yes, tolerant country. …”
» “McGuinty Suggests Khadr’s Wife Apologize”
News — National Post
Byline: Lee Greenberg
April 15, 2004
[Ontario’s Premier] Dalton McGuinty said he would tell Maha Elsamnah, wife of alleged al-Qaeda senior advisor Ahmed Khadr, that ‘with the rights of Canadian citizenship come some fundamental obligations and I would argue that one of those is to reject and denounce terrorism and suicide bombing, for example.’
… Mr. McGuinty said he would expect that as a Canadian citizen, Ms. Elsamnah ‘would want to repudiate earlier statements that would not be in keeping with our responsibility as Canadian citizens.’
Ms. Elsamnah praised al-Qaeda and suicide bombers in a recent CBC documentary, but has since denied her family’s involvement with the terrorist group.
Her husband, an alleged al-Qaeda financier and confidant of bin Laden, died in the gun battle with Pakistani security officers that injured her son.
Bob Runciman, a Conservative member of Ontario’s legislature, has called the Khadrs ‘Canada’s first family of terrorism’ as well as ‘Canadians of convenience.’
Mr. Runciman wants the federal government to amend the law to allow the citizenship of proven terrorists to be revoked.
On Tuesday, Mr. McGuinty said the Khadrs’ citizenship was a federal issue and the family would continue to be eligible for medical benefits and welfare in Ontario.
‘I think it’s important that we respect the rights of any citizens who find themselves in Ontario, especially when it comes to providing health care services,’ he added yesterday.
On the CBC program, Ms. Elsamnah said she thought ‘let them have it,’ as planes crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, killing nearly 3,000 people.”
» “The Liberal Government is Wrong to Let the Khadr Family, Which Has Strong Al-Qa’ida links, Back into Canada”
Op-Ed — Edmonton Journal
Byline: Lorene Gunter
April 15, 2004
“It is absolutely appalling that members of the Khadr family have been rushed into Canada with the assistance of the Liberal government. The Khadrs have spent nearly two decades funding and waging terrorist war against the West from Pakistan. That they are still citizens and free to enter this country at will is a sign of how casually the feds treat terrorism, still. …
… Elsamnah – Mrs. Khadr – has recently changed her tune. In the same CBC story as her son confessed the Khadrs were Al-Qa’ida through and through, Elsamnah told reporters the Americans got what ‘they deserved’ on 9/11 and that she preferred Afghan and Pakistani terrorism camps for her boys to Canadian schools where they would be corrupted by Western materialism and sexuality. But last Friday, on her return to Canada to seek medical treatment for crippled Karim, Elsamnah insisted her family has ‘no connection to Al-Qa’ida.’
That’s simply too convenient. Now that her son needs better medical care than he can get amid the jihadi battlefields, Elsamnah becomes a proud and innocent Canadian, when mere weeks ago she was bad-mouthing the Western way of life to both Bell and the CBC.
The government’s excuse that they were powerless to keep the Khadrs from returning because they are citizens is feeble and insulting. Under Canada’s new anti-terrorism laws, the suspicion that someone might pose a security threat is enough to keep them outside the country, or at least detain them at the border until their case is resolved.”
The Khadr family
CBC News Online | October 30, 2006
Canadian courts continued looking at the future of Abdullah Khadr on Oct. 30, 2006. The court must determine whether Khadr, whose younger brother remains in custody in Guantanamo Bay, can be deported to the United States to also face charges.Khadr’s lawyer, Dennis Edney, sought more information about witnesses and testimony that will be used to decide whether Khadr can be extradited.
In August 2006, Edney filed an application to stay the extradition proceedings, arguing that the American evidence against Khadr is inadmissible because it relies on information gathered under torture in Pakistan.
Khadr’s return to Toronto in early December 2005 put the spotlight back on a family that has been linked to senior levels of Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network.
Several members of the family have lived in southern Ontario since emigrating from Egypt in 1977. But the movements of some family members in the 1990s – and after the attacks on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001 – have attracted the attention of intelligence officials.
After Abdullah Khadr – the family’s eldest son – appeared in a Toronto court on December 19, 2005, younger brother Abdurahman accused authorities of targeting his family only because they had been in Afghanistan.
“We’ve been in a war zone, what do you expect?” Abdurahman Khadr told reporters outside a Toronto court.
“And we’re back now but it seems as though we’re still in a war zone because we’re not being able to live peacefully – someone is always in, out, jailed, this, that.”
On Dec. 23, 2005, a Superior Court judge ordered Abdullah held without bail pending an extradition hearing, saying the al-Qaeda network “could well assist him in escaping this jurisdiction.”
Abdullah Khadr was put on a plane to Toronto after he had been released from more than a year behind bars in Pakistan. It’s unclear who had held him and why he was released. Just over a week after his return, the RCMP arrested him at the request of American authorities.
Abdullah’s younger brother – Omar – is the only Canadian to be held at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He’s accused of killing an American soldier. The FBI says his father – Ahmed Said Khadr – was an al-Qaeda financier before he was killed in a gun battle in Pakistan in 2003.
In April 2006, Omar Khadr’s U.S. military attorney tried to have two Canadian lawyers officially added to the legal team defending Omar against murder charges. Lt.-Col. Colby Vokey said his client needs extra lawyers on his side, given what he calls the arbitrary nature of the military proceedings at Guantanamo. US officials refused to confirm whether Omar’s case will be conducted using legal guidelines laid out in U.S. federal statutes, military law or international law.
- Born in Egypt, moved to Canada in 1977.
- Accused of being a “founding member” of al-Qaeda and financier for the organization.
- Put on a list of suspected terrorists after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
- Killed in a shootout with Pakistani forces near the Afghanistan border.
- Ahmed Said Khadr’s wife
- Born in Palestine, moved to Canada
- Married Ahmed Said Khadr in Canada
- Moved with husband six children to Afghanistan in the 1980s.
- Daughter in Pakistan.
- Allegations that she was involved with her her brother, Abdullah, in running an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan in the 1990s.
- Eldest son.
- Information from the Taliban released on Feb. 4, 2004, suggested he may have been the suicide bomber who killed a Canadian soldier in Kabul in January 2004.
- In an interview with CBC News on Feb. 25, 2004, Abdullah Khadr said, “If I was the suicide bomber, I wouldn’t be doing this interview with you right now.”
- Had been accused of running an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan in the 1990s. He denied it.
- Returned to Canada on Dec. 7, 2005 after he was released from custody in Pakistan. He had been held there for a year. It was unclear who held him and why he was released.
- Arrested in Toronto on Dec. 17, 2005 at the request of U.S. authorities. Bail is denied.
- Indicted in Massachusetts on Feb. 8, 2006 on four charges, including conspiring to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan, conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction, and conspiracy to possess a destructive device to commit violent crimes. The charges carry a maximum sentence of life in prison and a million dollar fine.
- Calls himself the “black sheep” of the Khadr family.
- Arrested as a suspected member of al-Qaeda in November 2001.
- Transferred to Guantanamo Bay in early 2003
- Released and sent to Afghanistan in July 2003.
- Returned to Canada in October 2003.
- Detained in July 2002 near Khost, Afghanistan at age 15 accused of killing a U.S. serviceman
- Being held in Guantanamo Bay.
- Paralysed from the waist down in the same shootout that killed his father.
- Abdul Karim and mother return to Canada in April 2004 and are living in Toronto.