Mon, Nov 01, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Two Muslims in Vancouver probed over comments

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , TORONTO

Two prominent Canadian Muslims who made derogatory remarks about Jews have been condemned by moderate Muslims and other Canadians, and the police have opened investigations to determine whether the men have broken any laws.

A statement on a Web site by a Muslim cleric from Vancouver calling Jews "the brothers of monkeys and swine" was perceived as particularly disturbing, especially after Russia reported that one of his followers had left Canada to join rebels in Chechnya and been killed in combat.

The cleric, Sheik Younus Kathrada of the Dar al-Madinah Islamic Society, posted a clarification on his Web site last week, saying that his comments had been taken out of context.

"I am not the demon the media is trying to make me out to be," he said. In a separate development, Mohamed Elmasry, president of the Canadian Islamic Congress, a national group, said during an Oct. 19 broadcast of a cable television current affairs program that all adult Israelis were legitimate targets for Palestinian suicide bombers.

"They are part of the Israeli army, even if they have civilian clothes," said Elmasry, an Egyptian born immigrant and professor of computer engineering at the University of Waterloo. He frequently writes articles on Islamic topics for opinion pages of newspapers.

"Anybody above 18 is a part of the Israeli popular army," he said.

Vancouver police said they were investigating connections between Kathrada and the man killed in Chechnya. Russian officials said the 26-year-old man, Rudwan Khalil Abubaker, was believed to be a bomb-making expert.

"It was the first time such Muslim extremism has been firmly documented in Canada," Frank Dimant, executive vice president of B'nai B'rith in Canada, said of the remarks made about Jews by Kathrada, who was born in South Africa and reportedly studied in Saudi Arabia.

About 600,000 Muslims live in Canada, most of them immigrants from southern Asia and northern Africa. But many Muslim religious and education institutions in Canada have been financed in recent years by organizations based in Saudi Arabia, where Wahabism, a militant form of Islam, is predominant, leading to an increase in the number of fundamentalist teachers and clerics.

The comments by Elmasry led to newspaper editorials calling for his resignation and denunciations by both Jewish and Muslim leaders.

Elmasry apologized, saying his comments represented "the biggest mistake in my 30 years of public life."

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