Toronto’s newest speaking star: a would-be suicide bomber
Terry Glavin, Special to the National Post Published: Tuesday, July 21, 2009
Long live the Taliban” might seem an unlikely thing for a prominent anti-war figure to declare, but that’s to-day’s peace movement for you. Stranger still, the man who recently uttered those words, Azzam Tamimi, is being promoted by a new Toronto-based institute that says it is embarking upon a national campaign to cultivate wholesome, faith-based civic virtues among Canada’s young Muslims.
The Mississauga, Ont.-based Al-Fauz Institute for Islamic Thought claims its purpose is to teach young Muslims how to apply Islamic ideas to Canada’s pluralistic society and “prepare young minds that will take up the mantle of the Muslim community.” But Tamimi — who currently has top billing on the Al-Fauz website, and is listed as a member of the institute’s “faculty” — has loudly renounced democracy. Indeed, he recently proclaimed: “I don’t believe in democracy anymore,” explicitly praises suicide bombers, and says he is willing to blow himself up in Israel: “It’s the straight way to pleasing my God and I would do it if I had the opportunity.” He distinguishes good Muslims from their adversaries this way: “We love death. They love life.”
You’d never know any of this from the billing the Al-Fauz Institute gives Tamimi. He’s presented as a Palestinian-born British academic and a “political activist.” His leading role with Britain’s Stop The War Coalition is noted. But nowhere does the institute mention that Tamimi is also a high-ranking advisor to Hamas, an organization considered by Canada to be a terrorist group. His best-known book is titled Hamas: A History From Within. Nor is this fact mentioned by Toronto’s Ryerson University, which is permitting Tamimi to deliver a four-day “intensive course on Islamic history” from July 24 to July 27.
Aside from Tamimi, five well-known Canadian imams are listed by the Al-Fauz Institute as “faculty” members. But the best known among them — Hamid Slimi, chairman of the Canadian Council of Imams — told me he’d never even heard of the institute. “I don’t know anything about this,” Slimi said. “I must be completely out of the loop.”
Iqbal Masood Nadvi, the institute’s “senior patron,” denied any knowledge of Tamimi’s dodgy associations or his various bloodcurdling pronouncements. “I am hearing this from you for the first time,” he said. “I don’t believe in the Taliban. What I know about Tamimi is he is an academic person.”
Nadvi referred further questions to the Al-Fauz Institute’s co-ordinator, Junaid Mirza, who had taken the lead in bringing Tamimi onboard. While Mirza was quite familiar with Tamimi’s political background, he said it was Tamimi’s academic expertise in the history of Islamic reform movements that landed him the institute faculty post and the Ryerson gig. But if the point is to present Canadians with “a balanced and comprehensive vision of Islam,” isn’t a character like Azzam Tamimi pretty well the worst choice the Al-Fauz Institute could have made?
“We’ll have other points of view down the road, too,” Mirza said.
As for Tamimi’s support for the Taliban, Mirza claims that’s not so clear. “It’s not a blanket defence,” Mirza said. And what about Tamimi’s grisly advocacy of suicide bombing? Mirza says the subject isn’t expected to come up during Tamimi’s lectures, which will look back on 1,400 years of Islamic history.
“This is an academic discussion,” says Mirza. “We’re not trying to get people motivated and inspired like you would at a political rally.”
Is the Al-Fauz Institute really interested in helping young Muslim Canadians make healthy contributions to this country’s mosaic? Azzam Tamimi preaches a toxic, anti-democratic Islamism and espouses a decidedly oppressive way of life. The Al-Fauz Institute must be called to account — Canadians deserve to know just what this group has planned. – Terry Glavin is an author, journalist and adjunct professor at the University of BritishColumbia.