April 8, 2003


Imam apologizes for call to holy (Kate Jaimet, April 08, 2003, The Ottawa Citizen)
Ottawa's leading Muslim cleric issued a public apology late Monday for saying he supports a holy war in the Middle East, remarks that caused a storm on Parliament Hill and threatened a review of his citizenship status.

Imam Gamal Solaiman, leader of the Ottawa Mosque, said he deeply regrets remarks he made on Global television on Sunday.

"I do not support or promote violence in any form against any country or any group of people," the imam said in a written statement sent to the Citizen shortly before 11 p.m.

"I deeply regret and sincerely apologize for my misunderstood comments and the hurt which they may have caused. I hope and pray that peace will prevail in all regions of the world."

It was hasty about-face for the cleric, who had repeated the thrust of his remarks yesterday, just as they were being soundly condemned by federal politicians.

Here's what he had to say initially:
Muslims across the Middle East should take up arms to expel American troops from Iraq, the imam of the Ottawa Mosque said yesterday.

"If I were there, I would fight with them," said Imam Gamal Solaiman, who endorsed the call for a jihad against the United States.

"I would fight the Americans with my nails and teeth."

But he said terrorist attacks should not be conducted against Americans on U.S. soil.

"Not every American is against Arabs. So it is not open to go and kill Americans. No. The Americans who are coming to kill you, yes, you can face them to defend your country," Mr. Solaiman said. "When any Arab goes to America and makes mischief, that is totally objectionable."

Mr. Solaiman made the comments in an interview after his appearance on the Global television current affairs show Ottawa Inside Out yesterday morning. [...]

On the air, Mr. Solaiman said he supports the call for a jihad issued by besieged Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and many Middle Eastern religious leaders.

"I do [support the jihad]," Mr. Solaiman told the television panel. "Because to my mind it, [the American-led military action] is not a war for justice. It is not a war for principle."

Some of his fellow Canadian Islamicists appear to agree:
Last week, Mohamed Elmasry, the president of the Canadian Islamic Congress, said the heroic resistance of the Iraqi people against the coalition forces is extraordinary.

''It's a fact, they're heroic. The invading power is the most powerful military machine in human history. With no air power and modern technologies, they've stood against the invading forces for two weeks,'' Mr. Elmasry said.

Yesterday, Mr. Solaiman said he believes the U.S. government's motive is not merely to overthrow Saddam but to gain power in the Middle East. He said he believes that after occupying Iraq, the U.S. armed forces will try to overthrow governments in neighbouring Arab countries. For that reason, he said, Muslims from neighbouring countries should join the fight in Iraq.

"The Muslims there, in that area, they will be fighting for survival. They will be fighting to defend their lifestyle, to defend their resources, to defend their land," he said.

Mr. Elmasry is, of course, right; other Arab dictators are in danger from the U.S.. So the question for Muslims is: which are you first, democrats or Arabs? If you are defined by your blood, by all means join the tyrants. But if you believe in Western ideals--liberty, democracy, etc.--then your place is at our side, fighting to liberate your benighted brothers and sisters in the Middle East, just as German-Americans and Japanese Americans fought in WWII to defeat fascism in their former homelands. Posted by Orrin Judd at April 8, 2003 10:08 AM

This is off-topic, but relevant. The President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints made a statement about the war during the world general conference held this past weekend.

He used language and logic that I found much clearer than what we have heard from other Christian leaders. (Of course I am a Mormon, so I have some bias here)

The church website, www.lds.org has transcripts as well as audio and video, and I believe there is a press release as well.

Thought that you might find this interesting.

Posted by: jason at April 8, 2003 10:40 AM

Can you find a link? Thanks

Posted by: oj at April 8, 2003 12:40 PM


Sorry, I'm not sure how to link this.

Posted by: jason at April 8, 2003 1:02 PM

I doubt Messers Solaiman and Elmasry view the conflict as Democracy vs. Tyranny. They view it as Homegrown Dictators vs. Foreign Puppet Regimes. For it's tough to convince an Arab that we're interested in establishing true democratic self-rule when (as Arabs see it) our client Israel denies self-rule to Palestinians.

Posted by: Peter Caress at April 8, 2003 1:23 PM

David Berkowitz thought a neighbor's dog talked to him. That didn't obligate us to listen to the dog.

Posted by: oj at April 8, 2003 1:41 PM

I'm not suggesting their view is correct; I am explaining what I believe their view to be.

I think it's sad that Arabs (in Canada and elsewhere) view America through the distorted lens with which they view the Israeli-Arab conflict, but my personal feelings won't their opinions. If we want Arabs to accept our bona fides regarding Iraq, we're going to have to show some more bona fides regarding Palestine. Compelling Sharon to clear out the settlements would be a good start.

Posted by: Peter Caress at April 8, 2003 3:15 PM


The Palestinian issue should be dealt with, but has noithing to do with whether Iraq should be oppressed or free. Or are you proposing that the Arab world be run by dictators until the PLO decides to accept a state?

Posted by: oj at April 8, 2003 4:05 PM

Won't the "road map" begin a resolution of this issue? Isn't this what Iraq2 is really about? All in good time.

Posted by: Genecis at April 8, 2003 5:07 PM

No, in fact I'm pro-war. I'm noting that our alliance with Israel poisons the well of American-Arab relations. Arabs (wrongly) believe that we are not seeking a just solution to the Palestinian situation, so they do not see how we can be truthfully seeking a just solution to the Iraqi situation. They think we're slapping down Israel's enemy to show Arabs who's boss.

And this does have something to do with Iraq, because I don't want to see Arab terrorists murdering American soldiers during the forthcoming occupation. Improving the Palestinian situation decrases the odds of a Lebanon-style attack.

Posted by: Peter Caress at April 8, 2003 5:37 PM


One could argue that as talks between Arafat and Barak broke down in late 2000-early 2001, there was a deal on the table for Palestinians statehood, but it was rejected by Arafat. This is recorded in (certain) newspapers and magazines.

Doubtless one can disparage and deligitimize the Israeli/American proposal all one wants do, saying that no self-respecting country would accept these terms for statehood (and this of course has been done).

But the claim, in the light of this rejected offer, that Israel has been denying self-rule to Palestinians is, it seems to me, a curious but very useful one; and its usefulness leads me to believe that no offer for Palestinian statehood will be accepted by the Palestinian leadership.

Posted by: Barry Meislin at April 8, 2003 5:47 PM


I don't sdisagree that the Arab delusion is a problem, but I question whethjer we need to changhe our behavior or they need to be shaken awake.

Posted by: oj at April 8, 2003 6:37 PM

It's always something, ain't it? If we aren't oppressing

the Palestinians, we're supporting Arab dictators in

grinding the faces of Arab democrats in the sand., And

if not that, we haven't cured enough diseases, although

smallpox, polio, guinea worm, typhus and typhoid fever

ought to count as a downpayment, anyhow.

What evidence is there that Arabs will like us once the

Palestinians gain self-misrule?

Posted by: Harry Eagar at April 8, 2003 11:57 PM

I'm with Barry, oj, and Harry. We have to hold Arabs to these standards: everyone has a right to life; everyone has a right to sit under his or her own fig tree, undisturbed; everyone who violates this rights can and should be punished. If Arabs get mad over our supporting these principles in Israel, then let them learn from our steadfast loyalty to these principles.

Posted by: pj at April 9, 2003 7:02 AM