CBC - Riyadhul Haq
Alhamdulillah, I’m back in London after the conference in Istanbul.
I understand Br Mohammad and Br Naveed posted the e-mails they sent to me while I was away. I’m sorry I was not able to allay your concerns earlier.
I want to thank you for your concern. I also received 4-5 e-mails from a few other brothers. They were all polite and reasonable, Alhamdulillah.
I think you’re right. As a Muslim, I could have handled the situation much better. This is the nature of live interviews and at the end of the day, I am a journalist who presented and analysed information that was already in the public domain.
In this situation, I was the only person interviewed by the Canadian media who gave a two-prong message: Firstly that I disagree with some of what Riyadhul Haq has said in the past but more importantly, I think the media campaign to ban him is shameful and a result of very shoddy journalism.
Everyone else was in one or the other camp.
One could rightly contend, who am I to have reservations about someone of his calibre and I accept that. However, his condemnation of Sh Hamza (whether by name or not) after 9/11 and other incidents where he has been publicly judgemental about the intentions of fellow Muslims, make me wary of him.
Regardless, there is only one reason why I decided to do this CBC interview. I strongly believe that the whole Canadian media circus around Riyadh ul Haq was absolutely shameless. Regardless of how much I disagree with him, I believe he should be defended in this situation because he has been made into a scapegoat for people’s frustrations.
I went on the radio to condemn what Tarek Fatah was doing. Fatah has abused his connections with the media to perform character assassination in a climate of fear and uncertainty. Fatah would disagree and that’s fine. He is doing what he feels is right.
The interview I gave to the CBC was almost 11 minutes long. After me, Syed Zain Khan (who invited Sh Riyadh to Canada) was interviewed. Zain said on air that my portrayal of the Shaykh was 'overwhelmingly positive'.
These are some of the things I said during my interview:
1. We cannot decide to ban a man from Canada just because some Tom, **** or Harry calling himself a Muslim leader decides he is a hate-monger.
2. I disagree with some of the messages that Riyadh ul Haq gives to our young people because I believe it feeds the anger and frustration that continues to paralyse us BUT I insisted that he has never incited to violence. I believe this is a battle for hearts and minds and to ban him is to admit people like Tarek Fatah have lost the battle of ideas. In the UK, Riyadhul Haq has joined an ‘alternative roadshow’ to oppose the Radical Middle Way. We can discuss the lack of adab in the way this alternative roadshow was set up on another occasion BUT we did not attack his or Ismail Patel’s effort. We actually said to ourselves, as the RMW team, that BRING IT ON. The best intentions and the best ideas will succeed, Inshallah.
3. I said on air that we live in an age of terror, a climate of fear created by the authorities, where an upright Muslim leader in Dewsbury had his house raided a few weeks ago because someone tipped off the police against him. It turned out the tip off was false… the same situation with the Forest Gate brothers. That is the environment in which Riyadhul Haq is being attacked and this is wrong.
4. They played a clip of Riyadhul Haq's speech: "The Taliban are saying there have been many casualties while Donald Rumsfeld is saying, "no, they are lying. There hasn't been a large number of casualties. They are lying." This man, calling the servants of Allah liars?" Something to that effect.
I said on air that it was the most pathetic clip I have heard. I said, every Muslim, nay everyone who knows what a lie the Iraq war is, is going to AGREE with what Riyadhul Haq has said. The quote merely implicates him for saying the truth that Rumsfeld does not want to hear.
5. In terms of raising the issue of the murder investigation – let’s be clear: that information had been in all the major Canadian media for weeks and had been mentioned before. I was incorrect in my wording of the incident, which I acknowledge and to be fair the host of the show clarified this and was clear that he (and others who were questioned) was not charged, let alone convicted.
6. In reference to our concerns about Shaykh Riyadh coming to speak at McMaster University. My husband is a Canadian – an activist, a journalist and teacher – who knows the local scene extremely well and has been a leading voice in the re-emergence of classical Islam in Toronto. We were concerned because we knew the media circus that would follow. We knew that people were preparing to go on the attack and we were incredulous why the students there would invite that kind of criticism at this time. At the end of the day, the MSA could invite anyone they wanted - our advice was to be cautious, especially if they were not ready for the fall out. Our fears were more than justified, especially with the arrests that followed.
7. The host then mentioned the quote about “Jews and Hindus” and I said, I don't even know if that quote can be traced back to Riyadhul Haq because it's all he-says-she-says which the media is printing and re-printing like puppets. In fact, many Muslims have been going round in circles saying, yes he said it but it was out of context. I insisted I was not going to believe this quote should be attributed to him until I actually see the evidence.
As a result of this, I got angry e-mails from several directions:
1. Tarek Fatah who condemned me for defending Riyadhul Haq.
2. Those who have been previously attacked by Riyadhul Haq
To conclude, I agree the situation has become very nasty. While I do not regret giving the interview, I think several points could have been better phrased and clarified.
I think all of us, including our scholars, need to be careful about the language that they use (including myself). If statements can be taken out of context, as you claim Shaykh Riyadh’s statements have been, then they can also be taken out of context by the listeners of those statements. In the atmosphere we live in, clarity is critical. This is an advice first to myself before others.
In the spirit of openness and clarity and correcting ourselves when a mistake is done, we would like to - in fairness – clarify this matter directly with Shaykh Riyadh and have an opportunity to have him put his position on the record within a respected forum that is read widely. Two brothers who e-mailed me suggested that Q-News do an interview with Sh Riyadh so that we may openly discuss the concerns we have. I think this is a fantastic idea and we would offer to print such an interview in the forthcoming edition as well as online. Fellow editors and I would be happy to interview Shaykh Riyadh if he is amenable.
If you have any further suggestions, please e-mail me fareena@q-ne...s.com
and I will be happy to hear from you.