- Justin Trudeau, Canadian prime minister and leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, has become an icon of the West’s rapprochement with Islam and its openness to Islamic values.
- Trudeau is perceived as a reformer of Islam, who, in the guise of displaying a clear affection for Islam, is attempting to inculcate the younger generation with liberalism. He seeks to create over the years a Muslim community that will adopt liberal values and distance itself from the religious leadership in a process similar to that experienced by other immigrant communities.
- The foundations of the liberal policy executed by Trudeau, who enjoys the support of the Canadian Islamic establishment, are in contradiction to the principles of Islam.
Justin Trudeau, Canadian prime minister and leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, has become an icon of the West’s rapprochement with Islam and its openness to Islamic values.
Trudeau has unapologetically defended the right of Muslim women to wear a niqab, a traditional garment that covers the entire body and head with a slit for the eyes. He often visits mosques and Islamic centers, including those identifying with the Salafist movement and the Muslim Brotherhood, and he has praised the values of Islam, presenting them as compatible with Canadian values.
In recent years, Trudeau has consistently refused to attribute terrorist acts carried out by Muslims to Islam. According to him, Islam is free from extremism and violence. In an interview in 2014 with the publication Alameen Post in British Columbia, Trudeau advocated differentiating between terror and Islam: “He [Trudeau] feels that in light of the 9/11 incidents [al-Qaeda’s terror attacks on the United States in 2001, including the World Trade Center] and the lessons learned from it, that any time such an incident does occur there has to be a strong message needed to be sent to separate the Muslims from the terrorist.”1
The Federal Parliament, with a Liberal majority, approved Bill C-6, which repealed a provision that stripped dual citizens of their Canadian status if convicted of terrorism, treason, or espionage.2 At a Winnipeg town hall during his election campaign, Trudeau stated that in this regard, “The Liberal Party believes that terrorists should get to keep their Canadian citizenship.” Trudeau added, “As soon as you make citizenship for some Canadians [holders of dual nationality] conditional on good behaviour, you devalue citizenship for everyone.”3
Tolerance for Radicals
Trudeau ended Canada’s air combat role against Islamic State (ISIS or Daesh) in 2016 and instructed the government only to use the term “Daesh” instead of “Islamic State” to avoid the association of the atrocities committed by the Daesh with Islam. His administration renewed and even increased its aid contribution to UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinians in the Near East) in spite of the involvement of Hamas in UNWRA schools, colleges, and facilities in the Gaza Strip.4
Trudeau’s administration also initiated Motion 103, also known as the Anti-Islamophobia motion. This motion passed by Parliament led to the composition of a document of recommendations to combat “systemic racism and religious discrimination including Islamophobia.”5
Canadian nationals who joined the ranks of the Islamic State were allowed to return to Canada without being prosecuted for violating the Criminal Code.6 Section 83.18 says, “Everyone who knowingly participates in or contributes to, directly or indirectly, any activity of a terrorist group for the purpose of enhancing the ability of any terrorist group to facilitate or carry out a terrorist activity is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years.”7
In an interview with CTV, Trudeau argued that some former ISIS fighters could help with de-radicalizing Muslim youths in Canada. “There’s a range of experiences when people come home. We know that actually someone who has engaged and turned away from that hateful ideology can be an extraordinarily powerful voice for preventing radicalization in future generations and younger people within the community,” he said.8
Trudeau defended9 his decision to issue an official apology to Omar Khadr, a Canadian al-Qaeda activist and former Guantanamo Bay inmate and grant him a compensation payment of $10.5 million in accordance with Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.10 Khadr allegedly threw a grenade that killed a U.S. soldier and injured another in Afghanistan. During his detention at the Guantanamo Bay camp in Cuba, Khadr was interrogated by both Canadian and U.S. intelligence officers. In 2010, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the Canadian government’s interrogation of Khadr at Guantanamo Bay “offend[ed] the most basic Canadian standards [of] the treatment of detained youth suspects.”11
Trudeau’s critics accuse him of siding with Islamists in a way that endangers Canada and the West. Tom Quiggin, a former intelligence contractor for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and a court-appointed expert on jihadist terrorism in both the federal and criminal courts of Canada, said that Trudeau “has a nine-year-long record of supporting the Islamist cause while refusing to engage with reformist Muslims.” He added, “Trudeau’s position on Islamists should be of concern to both Canadians and Americans… The price of Canada’s submission to the Islamists may indeed be high.”12
The Salafist-Liberal Incompatibility
On the other side of the Canadian political spectrum, within Salafist Muslim circles, there are critical voices of Trudeau’s liberalism. Mazin Abdul Adhim, an important Muslim thinker in Canada, who identifies with the internationalist, pan-Islamic organization Hizb ut-Tahrir, wrote the following on Facebook on March 14, 2017:13
The Jews and Christians are united with the atheists upon the liberal secular way of life today, and they demand that everyone join them in this way of life of theirs. Islam cannot and will not ever become a part of liberal secularism, no matter what ups and downs Muslims go through, and this has caused the Jews and Christians and atheists to take extreme manipulative measures to force Muslims to comply with their demands.
This media pressure is simply a tool being used to force all Muslims to condemn the political and military laws of Islam in general by associating any crimes committed by Muslims with Islam itself (regardless of whether Islam obviously forbids it [committing these crimes]), to pressure them to submit to the liberal secular system that dominates the globe today and abandon the call for political Islam.
Anyone demanding the implementation of the political and military laws of Islam will then be associated with those Muslims who committed those violent crimes, and will be treated as criminals by association….
No matter what the manipulative secular elite do, they will fail at this manipulative scheme, and Islam will rise once again in the Muslim lands, and the Ummah [Islamic nation] will unite under a single sincere Islamic leadership; and the Muslim lands – including Africa, the Middle East, the subcontinent, parts of Europe, Central Asia, and parts of Eastern Asia – will be fully restored under complete Muslim control, and there is nothing the lying, fear-mongering scum of the Capitalist elite can do about it.
On March 17, 2017, Mazin Abdul Adhim added:14
It is important to understand that the West is undoubtedly heading towards banning [the activities of] political Islam. …
We need to understand that this is a struggle between two ideologies, not between countries or leaders or religions. It is a (mostly) silent war between secularism and Islam. Muslims win the moment they establish a true Khalifah [leader of the Caliphate] … And as Muslims inch closer to breaking free from the political control of the colonial West, we should expect to see them become more vicious against political Islam, and more friendly towards Muslims who accept secularism and defend it (called “moderates”).
Similar statements have also been heard from other figures within the Salafist camp in Canada. They slam Trudeau for the “hostile” treatment of Muslims by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) that try to promote reforms among the Muslim community in Canada. Trudeau is also criticized for supporting tyrannical regimes in Muslim countries, sending forces to areas of conflict in the Middle East, and promoting a secular-liberal platform that destroys Muslim families.
Salafist activists also expressed their disappointment with a senior Canadian imam who equated Trudeau with al-Najashi, a Christian king of Abyssinia who gave refuge to the companions of Mohammed and converted to Islam at the end of his life. According to the Salafists, Trudeau is not the savior of the Muslims, but rather embodies a dangerous threat to the Islamic values of the Canadian Muslim community.15
As another sign of discontent, Muslim religious leaders called on their congregations to vote for the candidates of the Conservative Party in the 2018 Ontario provisional elections in order to oust the Liberal government and repeal its sex education curriculum.
In an interview with Al-Jazeera, Toronto Imam from Dar Foundation, Feras Marish, said that from a security point of view, the Liberal Party is the most appropriate [for Muslims], but religiously – and this is an issue relevant to Ontario – the liberals are not the right choice [for Muslims] because they are “leading a campaign to strike the right of parents to supervise education and teaching, whether sex education or otherwise.”16
Trudeau, Muslims and Canadian Politics
So, is Trudeau a friend or foe of the Canadian Muslim community, which is believed to number some one million citizens or 3.2 percent of Canada’s population?17
In the 2015 federal elections, Trudeau and his Liberal Party won the Muslim vote. According to an opinion poll conducted by the Environics Institute, 65 percent of those who reported voting cast their ballot for the Liberal Party, 10 percent for the New Democrats (NDP), and just 2 percent for the Conservative Party. Another 19 per cent of Muslim respondents refused to say how they had voted.18
Mohammed Iqbal Masood al-Nadvi, president of the Canadian Council of Imams (Canada’s top imam), admitted that the Muslim community succeeded in bringing about change in the 2015 federal elections by tipping the balance in favor of Trudeau.19
In a sermon at the Masjid Toronto mosque a few days after the elections, al-Nadvi stated,20
This election proved that the Muslims, when they were targeted, they are not supposed to be targeted because they are contributing, and Praise be to Allah, they are back with the number of 10 members in Parliament and also, for example, Praise be to Allah, a lot of groups, especially the youths. They, Praise be to Allah, they mobilized the [Muslim] community to vote and to participate, right? And to bring, what is important? The important, how we aid our Islamic values to make it the best of human values? How people realized it? I was suggesting to someone that the previous prime minister, the father [Pierre] Trudeau, he had a legacy, right? This son [Justin Trudeau] has an opportunity to make a new legacy. How he can do it? If he just promoted in Western mind that Islam is not a threat. Islam is a nation, an ally. Islam is a very peaceful religion, and we Muslims, we want to live as a part of this country. So, the fear factor supposed to be removed… If he brings where the Western system supposed to be, for example accommodating Islamic values, I can saw [sic] he will leave with a legacy even after he is not to be a prime minister. So, this is a really great change and Muslims can help it and contribute to it, and we need, for example, to do this thing by making our efforts in Islamic terms good and also in the country level also good together. If he do [sic] this thing Allah will really use us here as a carrier of Islam, as a messenger of Islam.
Trudeau does not consider Islam a threat. On the contrary: In an interview on CBC on November 24, 2015, Trudeau said, “Canadians are quick to point out that ISIS is wrong, that Islam is not incompatible with western secular democracy, a free place like Canada.”21
“Islam is not incompatible with open Western societies”
In another interview on CBC on January 31, 2016, Trudeau stated, “But on the other hand, we need to make sure that we are working with communities, like the Muslim community, for example, to demonstrate that Islam is not incompatible with free and open western societies.”22
Trudeau’s words indicate that he perceives Islam as a religion with values that are compatible with secular and democratic western culture or as a religion that can be reformed by political means so it can gradually espouse the liberal platform.
The Liberal Muslim members of Parliament agree with Trudeau’s liberalism. Moreover, Hassan Guillet, a prominent Muslim scholar and imam and the spokesman for the Quebec Council of Imams, said he is considering seeking the federal Liberal nomination in Saint-Léonard–Saint-Michel.23 By being a member of the Liberal Party and running for office on its behalf, Guillet implicitly accepts the Liberal platform. Some may view it as an Islamic endorsement of Trudeau’s liberalism.
In 2014, Trudeau explained that all Liberal Party candidates in elections must be pro-choice, meaning supporting the legality of abortions. “As a party, we’re steadfast in our belief . . . That it’s not for any government to legislate what happens, what a woman chooses to do with her body and that is the bottom line,” Trudeau said.24
Four years later, Trudeau made the “attestation” of liberal values, including abortion (“reproductive rights”) and LGBTQ rights, a condition for receiving government funding for summer jobs. The attestation reads: “Both the job – and my organization’s core mandate – respect individual human rights in Canada, including the values underlying the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as other rights. These include reproductive rights and the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, race, national or ethnic origin, color, mental or physical disability or sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression.”25
Canada’s leading Islamic organizations, the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) and the Islamic Society of North America Canada (ISNA), were among more than 100 Islamic charities and organizations that signed this declaration, thereby granting yet another implicit Islamic endorsement of Trudeau’s liberalism.26
The foundations of the policy executed by Trudeau, who enjoys the support of the Canadian Islamic establishment, are in contradiction to the principles of Islam. Trudeau passionately defends and promotes LGBT rights.27 He believes that gender identity is a social construct that can be changed according to the individual’s feelings, and he supports a progressive sex education curriculum.
Islam only recognizes two genders – male and female. Homosexual and lesbian relations are considered as major sins punishable by the death penalty (including stoning, being thrown from a cliff or high building, and burning).28 According to Islam, anyone who underwent gender reassignment surgery should return to his or her original sex.29
The Liberal Party under Trudeau’s leadership espoused the “reproductive health rights” of women as the flagship issue of its women’s rights platform.30 Trudeau accused the anti-abortion groups of holding views that are “not in line” with Canadian society. “An organization that has the explicit purpose of restricting women’s rights by removing rights to abortion, the right for women to control their own bodies, is not in line with where we are as a government and quite frankly where we are as a society,” Trudeau said.31
According to Islamic law (islamqa.info), “It is not permissible to abort a pregnancy at any stage unless there is a legitimate reason, and within very precise limits… After the third stage, and after four months have passed, it is not permissible to abort the pregnancy unless a group of trustworthy medical specialists decide that keeping the fetus in his mother’s womb will cause her death, and that should only be done after all means of keeping the fetus alive have been exhausted.”32 Al-islam.org adds: “Aborting the fetus after it has been transformed into a human being with a soul in the womb is a very grave sin and it is considered as killing a person, and all of the Islamic regulations in relation to Qasas (the penalty for murder), the Diyah, and the Kaffarah would be applicable.”33
On October 17, 2018, the Trudeau government legalized the production, distribution, sale, possession, and recreational consumption of cannabis (marijuana) across Canada.34
Islamic law defines marijuana as an intoxicant. The penalty for drug use is similar to the penalty for drinking alcohol, which means 80 lashes in public. The penalty for drug trafficking may be more severe (including execution), depending on the discretion of the court.35
Abortion, LGBT, Drug Use Are Punishable in Islam
Trudeau utilizes Islamic symbols in secular contexts, approaching the Islamic definition of sacrilege. On June 25, 2017, Trudeau participated in the Toronto Pride Parade, where he welcomed the crowd with the greeting, “Pride Mubarak,” meaning, “Blessed Pride.”36 The usage of the Arabic word Mubarak in the context of the Pride Parade, which coincided with the festival of Eid al-Fitr, may be construed by Muslim believers as extremely offensive, as homosexuality is a major sin in Islam punishable by death.
Furthermore, at this LGBTQ annual celebration, Trudeau also proudly wore socks decorated with the Arabic words Eid Mubarak, or “blessed Holiday,” and emblazoned with the Islamic symbol of the crescent. Trudeau also took part in promoting the new line of “Halal Socks,” which includes socks adorned with the word “Islam” (on socks dedicated to Islamic Relief Canada) and illustrations of mosques.37 Sherry Qureshy, co-founder of Halal Socks, explained that the design of the socks was approved by Canadian imams: “We talked to about seven or eight masjids[mosques]. We altered some designs based on the feedback we got. Overall there were no issues with the designs. Stars, moons and crescents, and even Eid Mubarakwritten in English and Arabic was totally fine,” Sherry said to Muslim Link.38 Halal Socks, however, may not39 be welcomed40 in Salafist circles41 as socks and shoes are often discussed in the Islamic Law in relation to issues of filth and impurity.42
Trudeau’s overt sympathy with Islam and his participation in 2014 in a Muslim prayer service in Surrey, British Columbia, wearing traditional Islamic garb triggered unfounded rumors about his conversion to Islam when he recited the pledge of allegiance (shahada) to Allah and Mohammad as part of the prayer.
In an interview with the Ottawa Citizen in 2014, Trudeau said: “I was raised with both a deep faith and a regular practice of Catholicism… I’m Catholic, I’m of faith but I’m just not really going to go to church. Maybe on Easter, maybe Midnight Mass at Christmas.”43 He described himself as a “lapsed Catholic.”44
Does Trudeau Seek to Move Islam toward Western Values?
However, it appears that Trudeau believes he has the ability and moral power to leave a mark upon Islam and lead it toward moderation and adaptation to democratic, Western values. The acceptance (or tacit consent) of his liberalism by the Canadian Muslim leadership may be interpreted by Trudeau as a sign of success for his strategy of striving to de-radicalize Islam through the secular state.
Apparently, Trudeau’s strategy is based on the assumption that with an emphasized sympathy toward Islam, he can inculcate the younger generation with liberalism, and, in the future, create a reformed Muslim community that embraces liberal values and distances itself from the religious leadership in the same way as other immigrant communities. Willingly or unwillingly, Trudeau has taken on the role of the great reformer of Islam, (a new version of the Islamic concept of Mujaddid al-Asr[reformer]), who successfully incorporates liberal values in Islam with an Islamic seal of approval.
Aligning themselves with Canadian values, two senior members of the Canadian Council of Imams (CCI) publicly retracted their anti-LGBTQ statements. Imam Dr. Abdullah Hakim Quick, vice-president of ICC said: “Many years ago, I made hurtful comments against homosexuals for which I have apologized. My views have evolved over the years. I am fully committed to peaceful coexistence and respect among all people.”45 Imam Dr. Mustafa Khattab, secretary of CCI, said: “I have come to terms with and apologized for misinformed and insensitive comments I made about members of the LGBTQ2S community in 2012. Since that time, I have made concerted and humble efforts to learn more about my unconscious biases and unlearn the incorrect beliefs I had towards individuals who are different from me in the near past.”46
The Muslim establishment is benefiting from government support, including generous financial aid to Islamic institutions, and it is taking advantage of existing circumstances to expand Muslim influence in Parliament and other governmental institutions. However, it appears that the Muslim leadership will soon have to deal with a growing number of critics in Salafist circles, who warn against the clash of values and the danger liberalism poses to the Muslim community in the long term. The debate on this issue may eventually lead to the establishment of an independent Islamic party to encourage independent Muslim candidates to run for office or create an Islamic bloc in Parliament that would commit itself to remaining faithful to Islamic values.
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