From The Ottawa Citizen
Police criticized for apologizing to Ottawa Muslims for Ramadan arrests
By Robert Sibley, The Ottawa Citizen January 6, 2011 10:05 PM
OTTAWA — There is one law for all Canadians, and no religious group should expect special treatment when it comes to enforcement of the law, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Thursday.
The remarks were made in response to reports that RCMP officers had apologized for arresting Muslims on terrorism-related charges during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. On Aug. 25, the RCMP and Ottawa Police arrested two Ottawa men – Hiva Muhammad Alizadeh, Misbahuddin Ahmed – on terrorism-related charges. A third man, Khurram Syed Sher, was arrested in London, Ont.
The next day, Aug. 26, the RCMP and city police staged a special, hour-long meeting with members of Ottawa’s Muslim community with the ostensible purpose of ensuring them that their community was not regarded with undue suspicion despite the arrests. However, at least one officer was heard apologizing during the meeting for the timing of the arrests during Ramadan, which last year ran from Aug. 12 to Sept. 9.
Asked Thursday about the apology, Harper said: “In fairness, this is an operational matter for the RCMP and I wouldn’t pretend to know all the details and aspects of the story. But the general approach that this government would expect to see (from law enforcement agencies) is that the law, our important laws, are enforced every day of the year.”
Prominent members of the Muslim Canadian Congress applauded the prime minister’s remarks, saying it is about time that senior government officials emphasized the unitary nature of Canadian law, and that religious sentiment cannot be allowed to interfere with the law.
“He (Harper) is right,” said Salma Siddiqui, vice-president of the Congress. “We have one law in Canada and it applies to everybody. We need to stop all this political correctness.”
“The notion that in Ramadan you can’t arrest people is so foolish,” Tarek Fatah, a founding member of the Congress, told a Calgary radio station.
There is no reason for police to explain or apologize to the Muslim community when they arrest a Muslim, Siddiqui said. The notion that Muslims need special treatment or that their religious sensibilities need to be catered to is both patronizing and condescending, and effectively sets Muslims apart from other Canadians. As she put it: “Why are they ghettoizing us? We should be treated like ordinary Canadians.”
Siddiqui attended the Aug. 25 meeting, and while she could not remember which RCMP officer issued the apology, she recalled an apology being made. “There was an apology because of the month of Ramadan. He said the RCMP were sorry the arrest was made during Ramadan. He also said they would keep the meeting short because it was breaking the fast of Ramadan.”
Siddiqui found the whole outreach exercise irritating. “At the meeting I commented, ‘Would you apologize to other Canadians if you arrested someone on Christmas?’?”
Siddiqui said existing police diversity committees should be dismantled because they have been taken over by what she referred to as “Islamists.”
Fatah echoed that view, saying too many Canadian institutions, including the RCMP, are crumbling beneath the pressures of political correctness and, thereby, making themselves susceptible to infiltration by extremists.
According to the RCMP, the three alleged Islamist extremists arrested during Ramadan are part of a domestic terrorist group with links to international terrorism. They posed “a real and serious threat” to Ottawa and national security, investigators said at the time.
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service was the first to begin investigating the individuals, though no details have been released. The arrests followed a year-long, RCMP-led national security investigation employing about 100 joint-forces officers. The team was forced to move on the suspects when it did – and regardless of Ramadan – to prevent “financial support” going to international terrorists for weapons to attack western coalition forces.
In this case, police say the arrests thwarted possible bombings in Ottawa and against Canadians in Afghanistan. Raids on two west Ottawa addresses Wednesday uncovered more than 50 circuit boards police believe were intended to remotely trigger detonators for improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Also seized were what was described as a “vast quantity” of schematics, videos, drawings, instructions and electronic components for the bombs. At the time of the August meeting – sponsored by the RCMP A Division’s diversity consultation committee and the Ottawa Police Service’s community and police action committee – RCMP spokesman Cpl. Wayne Russett said it was intended “to open the lines of communications, to dispel any rumours and alleviate any fears” following the arrests.
However, prior to the meeting, Russett reportedly wrote to would-be participants in an e-mail, saying: “To show support to our Muslim brothers and sisters during Ramadan, there will be not food or drink during this most important meeting. This meeting is for one hour only, in order to observe prayer time and the breaking of the fast during Ramadan.” Russett could not be reached Thursday evening.
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