How Syed Soharwardy fights

I’ve personally experienced three styles of Syed Soharwardy’s aggression since I published the Danish cartoons two years ago. First, Soharwardy tried to have the Calgary Police Service arrest me; when that didn’t work, he took me to the Alberta Human Rights Commission; when that didn’t get me to submit — in fact, when I fought back, and it backfired on him — Soharwardy went into P.R. mode. That hasn’t gone too well, either. Here’s Licia Corbella’s report on Soharwardy’s “make love not jihad” visit to the Calgary Herald:

The founder of the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada (ISCC) asked for a meeting with the Herald’s editorial board via an e-mail, arguing that Levant was “attempting to paint me as a hate-mongering, anti-Semitic, Wahabi radical who wants to see Canada governed under sharia law. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

While preparing for the meeting, a quick search on Canwest’s library system showed a Jan. 17, 2004, column written by the cleric.

In it, he wrote: “Sharia cannot be customized for specific countries. These universal, divine laws are for all people of all countries for all times.”

In the same column he also boasts: “I am one of the founding members of the Islamic Institute of Civil Justice. The mandate of the institute is to resolve disputes within existing Canadian laws by using the principles of conflict resolution from Islamic Law, or sharia.”

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But in our meeting, Soharwardy denied his own column. “I never asked to bring sharia in Canada,” he now insists.

As for the allegation he’s anti-Semitic, in 2000 he wrote in his newsletter: “Presently, what Israeli forces are doing to Palestinians is worse than the Holocaust of World War II.” Comparing Israel’s attempts to defend itself to the carting of millions of Jews in cattle cars to gas chambers is obscene.

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Some of Soharwardy’s most vile words came after the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami that killed more than 280,000 people.

While Christians from around the world were emptying their wallets to help the victims of this natural disaster, Muslim leaders were blaming the disaster on immoral Christian tourists in their countries.

Soharwardy seemingly got swept up in the wave of anti-Christian rhetoric and sent out a news release accusing Christians of kidnapping Muslim orphans in Indonesia. Again, he denied his own written words.

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But here’s what his Jan. 23, 2005, news release actually said: “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.”

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To us, he said he lodged his complaint with the AHRC because he felt Muslim “youth were getting alienated” not because the cartoons subjected him to hatred.

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To the CBC’s The National on Wednesday, however, Soharwardy gave a different reason for dropping his complaint against Levant, who has spent two years and $100,000 in legal fees fighting this Orwellian battle: “People were looking at Ezra Levant as a martyr of freedom of his speech . . . taking this into a different direction that I did not want.”

That’s a pretty blistering column. But the Calgary Herald should be careful. Soharwardy doesn’t take kindly to criticism.

I think I’ve parried his thrusts pretty well — including laughing off this threat from Soharwardy’s lawyer. But other critics of Soharwardy haven’t fared so well.

When members of Soharwardy’s own mosque started asking legitimate questions about his management of their mosque and its funds (see here, here and here), his response was to slap them with a $5-million lawsuit. Here’s his Statement of Claim, and their Statement of Defence. It’s a fascinating exchange, and it’s being going on under the radar, so far. I don’t have a strong opinion about things, other than an acquired skepticism for anything Soharwardy utters. I do know that Soharwardy’s grandly-named Islamic Supreme Council hasn’t filed its corporate returns, and is at risk of being struck from the corporate registry. And I also know that he hasn’t filed his mosque’s charitable filings in Ottawa, either.

Both of these could simply be the result of Soharwardy’s absent-mindedness. Or it could be, as his critics claim, because he has taken a decidedly third-world approach to financial accountability — pocketing the money, or using it, as alleged, for inappropriate real estate adventures. I wonder if the matter will get to trial — something tells me that Soharwardy will fold in examinations for discovery when he has to cough up his documents. That will be fascinating.

But all of this is the Western way of looking at things; and we are dealing with a decidedly Eastern man in Soharwardy, a man who believes the Koran ought to be our constitution, like it is in Saudi Arabia, his source of rich speaking gigs, a country that is about to execute a woman accused of being a witch.

I’ve got a video of a recent meeting at Soharwardy’s mosque where the dissidents confronted him about the finances; that gathering devolved into a light scuffle, and the few women who dared to challenge Soharwardy — from where they were placed at the back of the room, of course — were shouted down. I’ll try to marshall my video editing skills, and upload some of the more telling clips.

Late last year, these same dissident women accused Soharwardy of threatening them with physical violence, and contacted the police. Well, their fears have come true: according to the Calgary Herald, one of the women was attacked in her home: 

Const. Paban Dhaliwal said a man and a woman knocked on the door of Butt’s home, and when questioned, identified themselves as members of the press.

When Butt opened the door, the couple forced their way into the home, pushing Butt against the wall a number of times and producing a weapon…

He said the woman was fully covered in a dark burka and was wearing black gloves. The male suspect is described as of East Indian descent, about 45 years old with a short moustache, five feet nine with a slim build and wearing blue jeans, a light shirt and black jacket.

Butt’s husband, Najeeb, said his wife was badly shaken by the attack, suffering a number of cuts to her hand as well as bumps and bruises…

Robina Butt and two other Calgary women filed a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission in late December against Syed Soharwardy, president of the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada.

The complaint alleges they were subjected to abusive language and threats during a Nov. 11 meeting at the Al-Madinah Calgary Islamic Centre, where Soharwardy also serves as imam.

Soharwardy has denied all allegations in the human rights complaint.

Butt said he’s convinced Wednesday’s attack was not random.

Butt said the male attacker told his wife, “We come from Al-Madinah; if you ever talk anything about Al-Madinah . . . this is the first instalment.”

When contacted by the Herald on Thursday evening, Soharwardy said no one from the Al-Madinah Centre would be involved in such a violent incident.

“We are law-abiding people. We had nothing to do with this. I condemn this attack absolutely, and I urge the police to do everything to find the people who were involved in this and bring them to justice.”

Soharwardy “condemns this attack”. He condemns a lot of attacks, when asked by the mainstream press — here’s his “condemnation” of 9/11. And when Soharwardy says he wants to “bring them to justice”, you’ve got to wonder if he’s talking about Canadian justice or that famous Saudi justice, where victims of crime receive punishments.

I don’t know what happened to the money at Soharwardy’s mosque. And I don’t know who it was who attacked Soharwardy’s critics. What I do know is that people who criticize Syed Soharwardy have bad things happen to them. This story isn’t done yet, though Soharwardy would love it to be so.

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