Zafar Bangash (h.a.) is a stalwart of the Islamic movement and a big proponent of Muslim unity. He is the former editor of the world famous Crescent International Magazine, and a trustee and formerly assistant director of the Muslim Institute, London. He worked with the late Dr. Kalim Siddiqui, the founder of the Muslim Institute and Leader of the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain. Dr. Siddiqui is widely regarded one of the most prominent Muslim activists of the last century.
Zafar Bangash (h.a.) is also co-founder of the Muslim Unity Group. Mr. Bangash has bravely stood his ground in opposition to Zionism and the pro-Zionist agenda of the current Canadian government. He has never shied away from controversy, and has always remained a leader of principle. Canada needs more like him. Islam Times had the privilege and honor of interviewing this prolific Muslim leader. He is currently the Imam of the York Region’s Mosque in Richmond, Ontario.
ISLAM TIMES: Where do you think Muslims living in Canada are in terms of being in sync with this incredible global Islamic awakening that is unfolding before our eyes?
ZAFAR BANGASH (H.A.): Unfortunately, Muslims in Canada are not on the radar screen in this great global awakening. There are several reasons for this. First, Canada itself is not a major player on the world scene so Muslims do not see themselves as belonging to a country that registers much on the global scale. The other perhaps more important factor is the composition of Muslims residing in Canada. Most are immigrants and professionals, such as doctors, engineers, accountants, teachers etc. They are eager to move ahead in the material world. In their eagerness to fit in, they see Islamic activism as an impediment to their ambitions. Further, Islam for many is largely a personal matter that must remain confined to the mosque. Having said that, it does not mean there are no Muslims that are not concerned about the well being of the Ummah. They gamely try to raise awareness among Muslims as well as non-Muslims about what is happening to the people of Palestine under Zionist occupation, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as the now-spreading war into Pakistan. But it must be admitted that the overwhelming majority of Muslims remain largely aloof from such issues, hence from the great Islamic awakening being experienced in the Ummah.
ISLAM TIMES: Canada was recently humiliated when its bid to seek a rotating seat on the U.N. Security Council was rejected. Many people saw this as push back for its pro-Israeli stance. In fact, many people now say that Canada is the second most pro-Israeli country after Israel. What are Muslims in Canada doing (if anything) to counter this?
ZAFAR BANGASH (H.A.): You have correctly identified Canada’s humiliation in not getting the UN Security Council seat. The current minority Conservative government has advanced various excuses for its first-ever diplomatic rebuff but as you mention in your question, the main reason for Canada’s failure was its staunchly pro-Israeli stand. While the rest of the world is becoming increasingly irritated by Zionist crimes, the Conservative government in Canada continues to stubbornly justify every Israeli aggression. This has both internal and external reasons. Internally, the Conservatives are cut from the same cloth as American Christian fundamentalists. Thus, support of Israel comes naturally to them because it emanates from their peculiar understanding of the bible.
At the international level, Canada tries to tailor its policies to line up with those of the US. The reason is simple: America is the largest trading partner of the US; Canada cannot afford to upset the elephant to the south. The present Canadian government was much closer to the Bush regime. While it has failed to make appropriate adjustments since Barack Obama became president of the US, it must be added quickly that Obama too is little different from Bush. Only his rhetoric is more refined. There has been incredible rightwing resurgence in the US in the form of the Tea Party movement lately and the expected gains the Republicans are likely to make in the coming Congressional elections. So, ideologically, the Canadian government is more aligned with the right-wingers in the US than the much more liberal sentiment that prevails in Canada.
As far as Muslims are concerned, they have played little or no role in this affair. The few voices raised against Canadian attempts to gain a seat at the UN Security Council were drowned out in the jingoist din about Canada’s importance. Opposition parties in Canada were more vocal saying Canada had not shown the kind of leadership that would qualify it for the Security Council seat. This was augmented by the brutal assault on peaceful protesters during the G8 and G20 summits last June. The Canadian government’s reaction and the vast powers granted to the police aroused much anger among most Canadians. Muslims, too, joined the protests although their presence was small compared to other groups.
ISLAM TIMES: follow upon the previous question. What do you think accounts for the lethargy of Canadian Muslims?
ZAFAR BANGASH (H.A.): This question has already been answered partially but some more details are required. In the wake of the 911 attacks, there has been intense anti-Muslim propaganda in the West including Canada. Being Muslim itself is considered a crime now. Canada was among the countries that passed oppressive laws soon after 911 giving police and other security agencies vast powers. There was intense anti-Muslim propaganda in the media as well. All this was meant to show to the US that Canada was not soft on terrorism. Mosques and Muslim activists are under constant surveillance although the level of harassment is not as severe as it is in the US or Britain.
Thus, if we combine the Muslims’ desire to fit into the Canadian society with the anti-Muslim campaign raging in the media and in government circles, it is clear that most Muslims would opt for keeping their heads low. This is not a wise policy but it explains their behavior.
ISLAM TIMES: Imam Musa in a recent interview said something rather interesting. He said that there are two groups of Muslims: immigrant and indigenous, and that immigrant Muslims practice an Islam that helps them assimilate as opposed to a transformative Islam. Given that there are no indigenous Muslims in Canada, and given the abject state of Muslims in Canada, is there any hope?
ZAFAR BANGASH (H.A.): As Muslims we must never lose hope. This is repeatedly emphasized in the Qur’an as well as shown by the Sirah of the noble messenger of Allah (saws). Regardless of how bleak the situation may appear, Muslims must never lose hope.
If we look at what Muslims have achieved and what potential they have, this should give them hope. In the 40 or so years that Muslims have been in Canada in any significant numbers, they have contributed to building hundreds of mosques all over Canada. In the Toronto area alone, there are at least 100 mosques. Even if we put the value of each mosque at $1 million (this is a very conservative figure), it is an investment of $100 million. Second, there are approximately one million Muslims in Canada. Let us assume each family consists of five members; this translates into 200,000 families. Let us further assume that each family earns on average only $50,000 a year (again, this is a very conservative figure). The total income of the 200,000 Muslim families is a massive $10 billion annually. This gives Muslims great financial clout. If it were utilized properly, Muslims could become a very powerful bloc. Already they are three times more numerous than the Jews in Canada.
So what would it require to make Muslims more effective? The first requirement is the emergence of charismatic and muttaqi leadership. This leadership must offer a program of action to unite and mobilize Muslims so that they gain self-confidence. Leadership is key to this mobilization. While there is no leadership on the overall Canadian scene, some Muslims are beginning to realize the leadership and power vacuum.
In Toronto and other cities in eastern Canada – Montreal, Ottawa, London, etc – there is growing awareness that this kind of drift is not good for Muslims. Unless they get together and unite to defend their rights, they would either be forced to assimilate completely or crushed. Fortunately, there is considerable sympathy among many non-Muslim Canadians as well. It is my understanding that despite hateful propaganda projected in some media outlets, most Canadians are not hostile to Islam or Muslims. These can serve as important allies in the Muslims’ quest for justice and fairness.
ISLAM TIMES: The Leader of the Islamic Revolution Syed Ali Khamenei (h.a.) recently issued a fatwa forbidding the insulting of the symbols of Sunni brothers. He explicitly forbade insulting the wives of the Prophets (p), especially the wives of the Seal of Prophets (p) and Ummul Momeneen Hadrat Aisha. As a Sunni Imam, what are your views on this?
ZAFAR BANGASH (H.A.): The fatwa issued by the Rahbar, Imam Syed Ali Khamenei is not only great news but it will have far-reaching implications for the unity of the Ummah. It has already been applauded and welcomed by many Sunni scholars worldwide including the Rector of Al-Azhar University and many others.
By issuing this fatwa, the Rahbar has removed a major source of irritant among Muslims. Regrettably, there are extremists on both sides—Sunnis and Shias—who insist on talking up the differences rather than seeking common ground. The Rahbar’s fatwa has taken one major irritant out of the arena. This would help the Sunnis to understand that the Shias are not their enemies but brothers/sisters in faith and that as Muslims we have no choice but to work together. The Rahbar’s fatwa also establishes his position as leader of the entire Muslim Ummah, not merely of the people of Iran or even the Shias of the world.
ISLAM TIMES: Zionism is the single biggest threat facing Islam due to its commitment to the destruction of the ideological purity of Islam that has been a thorn in its side. What are your views on Zionism and how big a threat do you think it is to not only to Muslims but traditionally peace loving countries such as Canada that have now fallen under Zionist influence?
ZAFAR BANGASH (H.A.): Indeed. Zionism is a racist ideology that has no place in the twenty-first century. We must understand that Zionism has nothing to do with Judaism. True, Zionists try to use the label of Judaism to hide their true nature but a majority of Jews worldwide do not subscribe to this racist ideology. Before being a threat to anyone else, Zionism is a threat to Judaism itself. Many fair-minded Jews have realized this, hence their strong opposition to it.
How to confront this racist cancer in our midst? It must be exposed for what it is, just like apartheid was exposed and isolated. The Zionist state of Israel must be isolated and shown for what it is: a pariah state. There is a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign that is gaining momentum worldwide. There are trade unions, students and professors becoming involved in this campaign. There are also many Church groups involved. We can thus see that Zionism and Israel are facing a global campaign and challenge.
Under such circumstances, it will become even more aggressive as we witnessed in the Zionist attack on the Mavi Marmara peace flotilla on May 31 that was taking food and medicines to the besieged people of Gaza. But its aggressiveness is a sign of despair. This is similar to the reaction of the racist apartheid regime in South Africa during its dying days.
There is evidence that important elements within the US establishment are beginning to see Israel as a strategic liability rather than an asset. This was stated by no less a figure than General David Petraeus during Senate hearing in June. Former US President Jimmy Carter has similarly criticized Israeli behavior branding Israel an apartheid state.
The Zionist state is running out of friends. Canada may be among the last countries to severe ties with this racist entity but the tide is definitely turning against Israel. It is facing serious internal as well as external problems. The defeat Israel suffered in the summer of 2006 at the hands of Hizbullah has dealt a huge psychological blow to it. The assault on Gaza in December 2008-January 2009 was meant to erase this shame; instead, it ended up in a strategic defeat of Israel because the Islamic movement Hamas was not wiped out and the people of Gaza refused to surrender despite suffering so much.
What Muslims must do is to keep up the pressure on the Zionist entity. Muslims in the forefront in Palestine and Lebanon will have to carry the greater burden but the rest of us can help by promoting a total boycott of Israel. There is no greater blow to one’s moral than to be shunned worldwide. Israel is a moral and political leper. It deserves no better.
ISLAM TIMES: Will US decline help Muslims assert themselves in global affairs?
ZAFAR BANGASH (H.A.): There is little doubt that the US is in terminal decline. Financially it is bankrupt and living on borrowed money. Its military has been defeated in Iraq and Afghanistan and stretched to the limit. It is looking for a face-saving way out of Afghanistan. Internally, there are deep divisions in the US. Unemployment rate is very high; the number of poor people has climbed from 38 million two years ago to 44 million today. There is no money to build its infrastructure. Politically, the US is virtually in a state of civil war.
This offers a great opportunity for Muslims to reclaim the high moral ground in global politics and lead errant humanity to its salvation. It will require intelligent and sagacious leadership. Alhamdulillah, such leadership is available in the Muslim world. Islamic Iran is the leading edge but countries like Turkey are also emerging on the global scene. These are hopeful signs. America’s Muslim allies, the dictatorships in the Middle East, are living on borrowed time and will be consigned to the dustbin of history as US influence takes further knocks.
These are exciting times for Muslims everywhere but a word of caution is appropriate. As the US and the West suffer defeat at the hands of Muslims in such places as Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and elsewhere, they will become more oppressive toward Muslims living in their midst. Muslims in North America and Europe had better prepare for this by putting their heads together not to apologize for being Muslims but asserting their rights as law-abiding citizens of these countries. Keeping our heads low is not a luxury we can afford at this time.