For Muslims, guilt by association

When Ahmed Farooq crosses the Canada-U.S. border, he isn’t surprised when he is singled out for questioning. He is, after all, a young, single, Muslim man born in Saudi Arabia who fits the racial profile of would-be terrorists.

But the fourth-year medical resident at the University of Winnipeg never expected to be hauled off a United Airlines flight for praying.

That’s what happened last month, after a fellow passenger complained that Dr. Farooq was trying to “control the aisles” when he exchanged seats to pray next to a window. The accusation meant Dr. Farooq — who was returning to Winnipeg from a physics course in Sacramento — was marooned at his own expense in Denver for a day.

“Why should I be taken off a plane just because I’m a certain religion?” said Dr. Farooq, 27, who immigrated to Canada when he was 12. “I have seen people take out their Bibles to pray. But if I had taken out a Koran in the environment there is now, it would have created fear.”

The Denver police officer who interviewed him told him the crew overreacted, he said, while an airline spokesman has said the company is obliged to take any allegations threatening passenger safety seriously.

Five years after the 9/11 terror attacks in the United States — and just over one year after London’s terror attack — Canada’s Muslim community is still feeling the sting of guilt by association. . .

“Since 9/11, we feel we have to come forward and denounce terrorism and extremism and violence. But at the same time, we resent that we have to do this,” explains Karl Nickner, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Canada (CAIR-CAN). . .

CAIR-CAN, and a number of other groups, have asked all three levels of government to help organize a summit to address the problem of marginalized youth who are falling prey to radical extremists.


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