An Open Memo on Interfaith Dialogue

Recently, Imam Syed Soharwardy and the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada announced the launch of an interfaith dialogue initiative across the country. I have included with this memo a relevant article from this Saturday’s Calgary Herald, for your information.

In response to a note sent to the Centre inviting our participation, I wrote to the Islamic Supreme Council rejecting in absolute terms any involvement in this program. While this is a serious course of action to take, a series of deeply troubling concerns regarding the record of Imam Soharwardy and the Islamic Supreme Council leave us with no other option.

Among various alarming statements, I want to flag for your consideration three particularly disturbing themes articulated by Imam Soharwardy – all of which can be found in the public domain.

· In a 2000 newsletter, he wrote: “Presently, what Israeli forces are doing to Palestinians is worse than the Holocaust of World War II.” (Calgary Herald, February 16, 2008) He further accused Israel of mass murder and building concentration camps: “So far, more than over a million Palestinians have been killed, millions of them have made refugees, and millions of them are in the concentration camps. The Israeli forces have converted Palestinian homes and areas into concentration camps.” (Full original text here)

· On September 24, 2001, he invoked a conspiracy surrounding the 9-11 attacks: “Majority of the Muslims believes that Muslims could not commit these heinous crimes because of the sophistication and precision in the planning and execution of these terrorist attacks. In the midst of the attacks on WTC and Pentagon, people are being led to believe that this kind of operation has been launched by someone from the dark corners of the world putting the whole American intelligence apparatus at bay. Don’t the world understand as to who exactly are the real beneficiaries of this episode.” He then went on to state in the same article that Israel directly benefited from 9-11: “The world focus on the new Palestinian Intifadha has vanished. Now whatever Israel does in the occupied Palestine is no more important for the western world.”(Full original text here)

· On January 23, 2005, a news release from the Council made grotesque allegations about the humanitarian work of Christian organizations responding to the Boxing Day Tsunami:”ISCC . . . strongly condemns the exploitation of tsunami victims by the Christian missionaries. There have been several reports that the Christian missionaries are kidnapping Muslim children in Indonesia. . . . It is now proven that the Christian missionaries do not help people on humanitarian grounds. They help people in order to exploit their needs and convert them to Christianity.” (Calgary Herald, February 16, 2008)

· On December 12, 2011, he directly compared Nazi Germany to a federal government decision to require the temporary removal of face-covering veils during citizenship oaths: “Muslims are going through that situation right now that the Jews faced before the holocaust. Because intimidation of their faith, bad mouthing of their faith, bad mouthing about their book, bad mouthing about their beliefs. That was going on in Germany before the holocaust, same thing is happening now about Muslims.” (CTV Calgary, December 12, 2011)

Needless to say, these statements are deeply offensive to Jews, Christians, and people of conscience from all backgrounds. These positions signify a worldview that is utterly irreconcilable with goodwill and the genuine advancement of positive interfaith relations. This is sadly only confirmed by Imam Soharwardy’s record of equivocating – even misleading – when confronted on these outrageous points.

I am therefore advising – in the strongest possible terms – that Jewish institutions across the country refuse to participate in any dialogue or programming sessions with Imam Soharwardy and the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada. I am also extending this advisory to our non-Jewish friends across the country, in particular to Christian organizations that have been approached for this initiative.

There is a very real need for greater interfaith understanding, dialogue, and joint projects that will strengthen and edify all faith communities – including our Muslim friends – for the benefit of Canada as a whole. This vital work should never be compromised by those who seemingly use interfaith dialogue simply to gain public credibility, while at the same time spreading toxic conspiracy theories and inciting hatred between faiths.

Should you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to be in touch with us.

Regards,
Shimon