Reyhana Patel: Don’t believe the smears. Here’s what Islamic Relief Canada is really all about

Patel on the work her organization does and the Middle East Forum attacks (see Sam Westrop : A call for Trevor Noah to support tolerance and withdraw from Toronto event):

We’ve done some incredible work in the last ten years helping millions of individuals around the world — including in Canada — regardless of their religion, race, gender or sexuality. We’ve been amazed at the generosity of Canadians — those who are Muslim and those of different faith backgrounds who support our work and are strong advocates for the efforts we undertake. For instance, we raised over $100,000 for the victims of the Fort McMurray wildfire, supported Syrian refugee resettlement programs, worked at empowering disadvantaged youth in the Greater Toronto Area, and launched an appeal for the Quebec mosque attack victims that raised thousands of dollars for the families left without their fathers.

This track record stands in stark contrast to the false image painted of Islamic Relief Canada in a one-sided and unsubstantiated article that was published recently in the National Post.

Sam Westrop, writing on behalf of the Middle East Forum (MEF), labelled Islamic Relief Canada a “terrorist organization which regularly gives platforms to preachers who incite hatred against women, Jews, homosexuals and Muslim minorities.” This defamatory statement was removed after our organization contacted the newspaper, along with community members who were justifiably angered by this casual smear of a reputable and valuable charity. The revised article is now online, but for me, it still represents the dictionary definition of fake news: “false, often sensational, information disseminated under the guise of news reporting.”

In my view, Westrop’s article represents the dictionary definition of fake news: ‘false, often sensational, information disseminated under the guise of news reporting.’

Let’s step back for a moment to understand where this is all coming from. The MEF has been named in a well-researched report called Fear Inc. as one of America’s most notorious anti-Muslim think tanks. This is an organization with US$4.6 million in annual revenue that uses some of its resources to paint a negative picture of Islam and Muslims.

The MEF’s piece further reflects the National Post’s unfortunate pattern of allowing Canadian Muslims and their institutions to be unfairly represented as threats to society, rather than highlighting what the vast majority of them truly are: a credit to the community and a positive force for good, working tirelessly to provide a good life not only for their families, but also for many others.

Mr. Westrop is known for inciting fear by using false information. In 2017, he was ordered to pay more than $174,000 in damages to Mohamed Ali Harrath, the CEO of a British Muslim TV Channel, after Westrop wrongfully labelled Harrath a “convicted terrorist.” Westrop also has connections to senior people in the right-wing UK Independence Party. UKIP’s political opponents have condemned some of the party’s policies as “full-throttled Islamophobia.”

The MEF’s president, Daniel Pipes, has publicly supported the internment of the Japanese-American community during the Second World War, an abhorrent act for which the U.S. government under President Ronald Reagan apologized.

It has become the norm for anti-Muslim groups to find any excuse possible to target Muslim institutions.

It is ironic that those who falsely claim that Muslims are all about shutting down freedom of expression do not recognize their hypocrisy of trying to suppress the voices of those who wish to freely discuss religious dogmas. One of the many reasons I love this country is that, at its best, it is a beacon of free speech and diversity, whose people will not tolerate oppression of minorities or attempts to demonize others. Our core common values are of tolerance and inclusion — as long as violence is rejected unequivocally and no one is advocating harm against anyone else.

It has become the norm for anti-Muslim groups to find any excuse possible to target Muslim institutions. Not only do these tactics lead to distrust and alienation but they also undermine valuable work for the most vulnerable communities of this world. Sadly, the National Post still gives the fear-mongers a platform.

Our organization is focused on bringing communities and faith groups together to encourage generous support for the poor and disadvantaged and to promote a message of acceptance and diversity. The publication of harmful innuendo that seeks to undermine this work only proves why events like the one we’re holding with Trevor Noah are so necessary.

Source: Reyhana Patel: Don’t believe the smears. Here’s what Islamic Relief Canada is really all about | National Post

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About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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