Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Omar Alghabra's candidacy

(photo of Omar Alghabra)

It seems (hat tip to Lost Budgie and Arabian Dissent ) that the Liberals have certainly selected an enthusiastic candidate to represent them in Mississauga-Erindale (just west of Toronto) two weeks ago. This riding is the one that gifted Canada with Caroline Parish, the George Bush doll stomping member of parliament and erstwhile Liberal.

I know that it is not uncommon for the victors in such internal party selections to wax philosophic about how they will work hard to achieve success in the greater cause. The Liberal candidate for Mississauga-Erindale appears to be no exception. According to the News release below he made it clear he stands shoulder-to-shoulder with his comrades, ready to further their every interest and aspiration. For the rest of us it only remains to clarify what comrades and what aspirations.

From the website of the Canadian Coalition we see this press release. (Note: For the record, Mr. Alghabra vehemently denies making the remarks attributed to him by the Canadian Coalition. The accusation is not corroborated. )

For Immediate Release

Toronto, Canada Monday, December 19, 2005 - On December 2, the Liberal candidate for Mississauga-Erindale, Omar Alghabra, made his victory speech after winning the nomination. In that speech, he reportedly exhorted his audience, "This is a victory for Islam! Islam won! Islam Won! ... Islamic power is extending into Canadian politics".

Alghabra's victory speech was delivered to an audience of several hundred in the Coptic Christian Centre of the Church of the Virgin Mary and St. Athanasius in Mississauga. David Ragheb, a member of the congregation, reported that following Alghabra's victory speech, Markham Councillor Khalid Osman took to the stage and declared, "We have the east, we have the west, and now we have Mississauga!" to cheers and applause from the audience.

Ragheb also reported that Rogers Cable was present throughout and may have filmed the event. "A member of parliament is supposed to represent my concerns about taxes and roads in Mississauga, not promote an Islamic agenda," said Ragheb. Victor Fouad, a Coptic Christian, was disturbed to hear of such Islamist rhetoric from a Liberal who could easily become a Canadian parliamentarian.

Mr. Fouad assumed that Paul Martin would likewise disapprove of such incitement by a Liberal candidate, and so wrote to the Prime Minister detailing what had happened. That message was ignored. The event took place over 2 weeks ago, and Paul Martin's silence since that time can only be interpreted as approval of Mr. Alghabra's rhetoric. "I was surprised that Prime Minister Martin showed no interest in such a dangerous mixing of religion and politics," said Mr. Fouad. "Since he has said nothing about it and this candidate is still representing the Liberal Party of Canada, I have to assume that Alghabra has the endorsement of the Prime Minister."

He may well assume that. I don't. Paul Martin strikes me as the sort of person who would sell his soul in order to retain political office. Come to think of it, he has. But let us return to the main point.

If the allegations are true, it is a remarkable story. It takes a certain sensibility for a Muslim to shout such an incendiary claim in a political meeting, but particularly in a Coptic church hall. The Copts (the ancient Christian church in Egypt) have suffered a great deal of oppression at the hands of Muslims over the centuries.

Mr. Alghabra is no stranger to controversy. For instance, in September 2004, as the President of the Canadian Arab Federation he complained to CanWest Global about the media outlet changing a Reuters story to reflect the fact that the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade is, in fact, a terrorist organization - a fact left out of the original story. Mr. Alghabra had this to say.
CanWest, one of the largest media conglomerates in Canada, is failing its responsibilities towards all Canadians, not just Arabs and Muslims. The media has moral and ethical obligations to report the facts when it comes to news reporting, not the opinion of their editors.
Well, what are the facts? According to a U.S. State Department profile on the brigade:

al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade
The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade consists of an unknown number of small cells of terrorists associated with the Palestinian Fatah organization. Al-Aqsa emerged at the outset of the 2000 Palestinian intifadah to attack Israeli targets with the aim of driving the Israeli military and settlers from the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Jerusalem, and to establish a Palestinian state.
Al-Aqsa has carried out shootings and suicide operations against Israeli civilians and military personnel in Israel and the Palestinian territories, rocket and mortar attacks against Israel and Israeli settlements from the Gaza Strip, and the killing of Palestinians suspected of collaborating with Israel. Al-Aqsa has killed a number of US citizens, the majority of them dual US-Israeli citizens, in its attacks. In January 2002, al-Aqsa was the first Palestinian terrorist group to use a female suicide bomber.
Location/Area of Operation
Al-Aqsa operates in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza Strip, and has only claimed attacks inside these three areas. It may have followers in Palestinian refugee camps in southern Lebanon.
External Aid
In the last year, numerous public accusations suggest Iran and Hizballah are providing support to al-Aqsa elements, but the extent of external influence on al-Aqsa as a whole is not clear.

[Note to editors of the Toronto Star. Clearly, Mr. Alghabra was not thinking of himself as a future Liberal candidate when he uttered those hasty words about the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. Now that he is a Liberal candidate those words are inoperable. You may proceed with the usual Grit bias on all matters respecting his candidacy. I understand he was a member of your community editorial board until he was nominated.]

UPDATE: December 21st A.M.

The Toronto Sun has published a denial by Omar Alghabra today.
The federal Liberal candidate for Mississauga-Erindale vehemently denies allegations he promised supporters to bring the "voice of Islam" to Parliament Hill.
Omar Alghabra, 36, who's running for the Liberals in Carolyn Parrish's riding, said he's the victim of a smear campaign and insists he never uttered pro-Islamic remarks on the night he won the party's nomination Dec. 2.

"It's absolutely false, it's outrageous, libelous and offensive," said an angry Alghabra, who has contacted a lawyer and is considering legal action against his accusers.

"This is contradictory to all of my beliefs and I would never say such a thing ... If people are trying to smear my reputation, they will be proven wrong."
Frankly, I hope he's correct. I'd like nothing better than for this to be a dirty trick. The alternative is appalling

The Canadian Coalition that broke the story (see above) says it has six witnessess, including a Mr. Sheref who claims he voted for Mr. Alghabra but was shocked to hear his comments after the victory was announced.

I'll continue to follow this story. We must be careful to be fair to the candidate,while pursuing the truth of the matter. What about that Rogers videotape? Can it help us settle this controversy?


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home