Heeding the Times from Harry Antonides' Desk

Chasing a Mirage:
The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State
By Tarek Fatah. Wiley, 2008, 410 pp
Reviewed by Harry Antonides

Islam came to free humanity from the clutches of the clergy. Instead, the religion of peace has become a prisoner of war, held captive by the very priesthood it came to eliminate. Muslims have been double-duped for centuries – lied to by their leaders and clerics who supposedly hold the keys to heaven. (p. 87)  

Muslims are often criticized for failing to speak up publicly against those Muslims who have turned Islam into an ideology of hatred and violence. Tarek Fatah does not belong to that silent majority. On the contrary, his new book chasing a Mirage is a courageous and eloquent testimony against those who have turned Islam into a ruthless, political program of conquest and stagnation.  

Tarek Fatah was born in Pakistan where he was active in the late 1960s as a left-wing student.  He worked in the print and broadcast media in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. He immigrated to Canada in 1987 where he has become well-known as an outspoken critic of Islamic extremism. He is host of the weekly TV show The Muslim Chronicle and has published in major Canadian newspapers.  

 After the attacks of 9/11 Fatah founded the secular Muslim Canadian Congress. He has received numerous death threats but fearlessly argues that Muslims should reject the Islamic state in favour of the state of Islam. Chasing a Mirage is a masterful exposition of what the author perceives to be the enduring clash between political Islam bent on domination and spiritual Islam that enables the free flow of ideas and beliefs. Or as he puts it: “For it is only here in Canada that I can speak out against the hijacking of my faith and the encroaching spectre of a new Islamo-fascism.”  

Chasing a Mirage is divided into three parts.

Part One, The Illusion, is an overview of political Islam as applied in Pakistan, “Failure of an Islamic State;” in Saudi Arabia,”Sponsor of Islamic States;” in Iran, ”The Islamic State;” and Palestine, “Future Islamic State?” 

Part Two, The Genesis, includes a chapter about the death of the Prophet and the succession contest; the development in Medina, “The Politics of the Rightly Guided Caliphs;” Damascus, ”Islam’s Arab Empire;” Cordoba (Spain), “Islam’s European Venture;” and Baghdad, “Islam Embraces the Persians.” 

Part Three, The Consequences, concentrates on the contemporary world scene, as follows: Chapter 11, ” Sharia – God’s Law or Man’s Flaw;” 12, “Jihad – Permanent War or Continuous Struggle?”; 13, “Hijab – Islamic Piety or Political Islam?;" 14, “The Islamist Agenda in the West.”  

Sharia Comes to Canada - Almost

The author begins the third part with recalling the heated debate in 2003 around the attempt to introduce sharia law in Ontario. The Liberal government of Dalton McGuinty, at the urgings of what Fatah calls the “entire mosque establishment,” had appointed   Marion Boyd, former NDP Ontario cabinet member, to study and make recommendation regarding the introduction of sharia. She recommended that “Muslim principles” be applied in family law arbitration cases, without once mentioning sharia. 

Fatah writes that the Islamists almost succeeded, but were thwarted mostly as a result of strong and vocal opposition by Muslim women groups and the Muslim Canadian Congress. The pro-sharia Muslims relied on some heavy hitters, such as the late Syed Wasi Mazhar Nadvi, the former religious affairs minister in Pakistan who had introduced sharia under dictator General Zia-ul-Haq, which according to Fatah had given rise to discrimination against religious minorities and women, “resulting in the deaths of many on charges of apostasy.”  

The objectives of the pro-sharia network were twofold. First, they wanted an Islamist toe-hold in North America, to expand their influence with the patronage and blessing of various levels of government. Canada, as a model of multiculturalism and pluralism would ideally serve as an example for others, notably Britain and the Scandinavian countries. Second, the goal was to keep an iron grip on the Muslim communities. 

The opponents could call on some Muslim leaders to bolster their position, such as professor Omid Safi, then head of the Progressive Muslim Union of North America, who found the prospect of sharia in Canada alarming. He wrote that “repressive Muslim governments” would then point to Canada “as a justification for their oppressive legal systems.” 

The fight between the two opposing factions was bitter and vitriolic. The Islamist supporters of sharia even enlisted the help of the notorious left-wing British politician George Galloway. Speaking at the University of Toronto, he said that Muslims were entitled to be governed by their own laws, and he challenged the NDP to defend the interests of Canadian Muslim by supporting sharia. 243.  

The proponents were able to enlist numerous Muslim organizations on their side, including the ubiquitous U.S.-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR - with a branch in Canada); the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA); the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA); the Muslim Association of Canada (MAC), which has ties with the radical Muslim Brotherhood organization. MAC states on its website that it “adopts and strives to implement Islam … as understood in its contemporary context by the late Imam, Hassan Albana, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood.”   

Despite these ties to this misnamed Brotherhood, even The Globe and Mail and a senior editor of The Toronto Star, Haroon Siddiqui supported the introduction of sharia in Ontario. In 2001 Siddiqui had trivialized the outcry against a Nigerian sharia court, which had sentenced a teenager to one hundred lashes.  He defended sharia as a popular and good law that has “restored order to a corrupt, lawless society.” 

Although most Canadians will be surprised to know that  Islamists have made inroads in the U.S. and in Canada with  sharia banking,  which is supposedly interest-free financing, an idea that has been aggressively promoted by  the Muslim Brotherhood. Serious discussions have been going on with top banking officials in both countries. 

 Fatah reports that dozens of Islamic scholars now serve on sharia boards of the banking industry. Nonetheless, Muhammad Saleem, a former U.S banking official, in his book, Islamic Banking: A $300 Billion Deception, wrote that Islamic banks do not practise what they preach by disguising interest in Islamic garb, while engaging in “deceptive and dishonest banking practices.”  

Jihad is War

In the chapter on jihad, Fatah traces American contact with jihadism right back to the beginnings of the American republic. Islamists want to assure us that jihad is really the personal struggle against evil, but the author insists that jihad historically and currently stands for holy warfare against the infidels. He singles out the three major 20th century Muslim scholars who are the intellectual gurus of radical Islam:  Hassan Al-bana (1906-1949), Syed Qutb (1906-1966) and Abul Ala Maudoodi (1903-1979). Fatah summarizes: 

These men have laid the foundation of a new form of jihad, patterned on the tradition of the underground communist parties of Europe and at times resembling the anarchists of the 19th century. Today, it has evolved into a form of a death cult, where the highest level of Islamic worship is to die and leave this world to its “satanic existence.”  This blending of the death cult and jihad has translated into the martyrdom sought by so many brainwashed young Muslim men and women. 

In a chapter about the hijab, the head covering for Muslim women, Fatah points out that nowhere in the Muslim scriptures is that prescribed as a religious requirement, but in many Islamic countries this has become a sign of  piety and submission. Refusing to wear the hijab has often led to severe punishment.

Before Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007, the radical Islamist Swords of Islamic Righteousness sent a letter to the female newscasters working for Palestinian Television in Gaza, warning that if the women would not begin to wear the hijab the SIR would “cut throats from vein to vein, if needed to protect the spirit and morals of this nation.”  

Islamist Infiltration

The last chapter describing the Islamist agenda in the West begins with a meeting of some 2000 young Muslims at the Toronto Convention Centre in January 2003.  Fatah was unprepared for a lecture by a Kuwaiti politician and member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Tareq Al Suwaidan, who told the audience: “Western civilization is rotten from within and nearing collapse…it [the West] will continue to grow until an outside force hits it and you will be surprised at how quickly it falls.”  

Fatah found Al Suwaidan’s words worrisome, but he was even more troubled by the response of the young Muslim Canadians who “lustily cheered” this Islamist demagogue who predicted the doom of the civilization that they were living in. Fatah asks the questions that should haunt everyone concerned about the future of this country, especially our political leadership: “Why were these Muslim youth, born and educated in Canada, cheering the fall of the West?  Did they not consider themselves to be part of the West? 

The author provides a raft of other similar cases where Islamist despisers of the West freely preach their hateful message, often even in venues provided for them.  Richard Gwyn of The Toronto Star wrote on October 21, 2001 that a young acting imam preached a sermon in the York University mosque where he told his listeners: “We Muslims should not be friends with Jews and Christians …they’ll never accept us…only Muslims will go to heaven and Jews and Christian to hell.” 

Chasing a Mirage is a mother lode of information about numerous Islamist-promoting organizations active in the West and generously funded by Saudi Arabia. They include university programs and other educational purposes. Hard numbers and information are hard to obtain. But The Ottawa Citizen in July 2004, and The Globe and Mail in November 2005, reported that the Islamic Centre in Toronto had received $6.5 million in grants. Mosques in Quebec, Calgary, Ottawa, Scarborough and Toronto were also recipients of Saudi Arabia’s generosity.  The Islamic Development Bank, based in Saudi Arabia, is known to have given $275, 000 to a high school in Toronto run by the Islamic Society of North America.  

The Council on American-Islamic Relations is very active in promoting the Islamist message.  The Muslim Student Association is active on more than two hundred college and university campuses in Canada and the U.S. Fatah writes that these and other Islamic organizations are far more sophisticated than naïve Westerners recognize. Since the 1960s MSA chapters have been closely associated with Saudi Arabia and have consistently advocated the Wahhabist ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood and Jamaati Islam. Fatah explains: 

These are well-oiled, foreign inspired, politically driven machines that have their hooks in every corner of Western society. It is not a coincidence that so many Muslims who were just average American teenagers in high school get recruited by radicals  and end up emerging from  universities  with a deep-rooted  hatred for the country that has been their home  all their lives. 313 

A Curtain of Fear

As this book makes very clear, moderate Muslims have to battle not only their radical fellow Muslims.  But they are also up against the gullibility and naiveté of the Western mainstream, which often responds submissively to the aggressive Islamist agenda. This servile attitude – which could also be called voluntary dhimmitude -- motivated eleven Canadian academics with roots in Iran, Palestine, Pakistan, and Bangladesh to issue a joint statement in The Toronto Star. 

They wrote that a curtain of fear has descended on the intelligentsia of the West, including Canada. Their fear to be misunderstood as Islamophobic has silenced them. “Canada’s writers, politicians and media have imposed a frightening censorship on themselves, refusing to speak their minds, thus ensuring that the only voices being heard are that of the Muslim extremists and the racist right.”  

This book is a powerful testimony to the bitter truth about radical Islam and the blindness of the West. It also testifies to the courage and determination of the author, who has experienced first hand the hatred and vilification of the enemies of freedom and civility. He has been threatened with death but refuses to be silenced.  

As a Christian I do not share Tarek Fatah’s faith, but I deeply appreciate his decision to publish this timely wake-up call. He deserves the profound gratitude of every freedom-loving Canadian for writing a book that cuts through the platitudes and double-talk that now poison the public discourse about Islam.