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December 8, 2013

Canadian Charger must oppose Ottawa’s fake "anti-terrorism" list

John Riddell and Suzanne Weiss

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We wish to express our concern with Canadian Charger's editorial, "Canadians: List Egypt's Brotherhood a terrorist group." The article's call on the Harper government to ban the Muslim Brotherhood as "terrorist" group is a serious breach of the Charger's previous stand for democratic rights and against Islamophobia.

Since the inception of the government’s “anti-terrorism” campaign, progressive Canadians have opposed Ottawa’s list of banned “terrorist” organizations. This list has nothing to do with combating terrorism, which Ottawa supports enthusiastically when it’s carried out by Israel. The list is used instead to shut down free speech and association in this country. It has been used as part of the justification for harassing or barring from Canada prominent progressive activists, such as Amy Goodman and George Galloway, who have no conceivable link to banned “terrorist” groups.

Ottawa smears anti-imperialist activists

This fact was demonstrated by an experience we had in 2007, in which Canadian Charger’s editor, Mohamed Elmasry, was very much involved.

Together with about a dozen other Canadians, we took part in the Fifth Anti-Imperialist Conference in Cairo, a public event attended by many members of the Muslim Brotherhood and a few from Hamas and Hezbollah. Dr. Elmasry was in Cairo at the time, and he entertained the Canadian delegates and thanked us for our participation. We all greatly appreciated this support, coming from a prominent long-time champion of democratic rights in Canada.

On our return, John Riddell was attacked in major media for having taken part in the conference, on the grounds that he had been in the same room as members of banned “terrorist” organizations, Hamas and Hezbollah. He received a public warning from the federal government that he should “expect police attention.”

And the police did act. In at least one case, a Middle Eastern immigrant was warned that she might not receive citizenship because she had been spotted entering Riddell’s dwelling. Thus the ban on Hamas was used to threaten Canadian residents with expulsion for associating, not with Hamas, but with Riddell.

Freedom to defend Palestine

Suzanne Weiss recently had a similar experience in Germany. On October 25, she attended a meeting at the University of Freiburg, Germany, held by a club, Café Palestina. The club had just won a court case against an official attempt to ban the meeting. The reason was that the speaker, Prof, Christophe Oberlin from France, had been to Gaza 30 times in the last few years, in order to train Palestinian doctors. The authorities viewed this as a form of association with Hamas, a supposed “terrorist” organization.

As you see, the anti-terrorist ban was used not against Hamas but against German citizens who wanted to attend a free and open discussion of Palestine. In the same way, a ban in Canada against the Muslim Brotherhood would be used to broaden attempts to shut down free speech in Canada -- and also to victimize and blackmail vulnerable immigrants with false charges

Prof. Oberlin reported that as he approached Gaza from the Egyptian side this autumn, he noted the complete militarization of the border and a full blockade, including cutting off all the tunnels. These tunnels were the people’s life-blood in Gaza. “This is unprecedented,” Oberlin said. “This never happened even under Mubarak.” The present military regime’s moves to victimize the Gazan people are linked to its witch-hunt against the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, which has associates in the Gaza government….

One of the issues discussed in the Freiburg meeting was the right of free speech and expression. It was noted that the German and Harper governments not only are stalwart defenders of Israeli apartheid but also stifle discussion on the Palestinian rights.

License for police intimidation

A ban on the Brotherhood would be used both to intimidate residents of Canada and to shut down free speech. Ottawa would hunt down, threaten, slander, and intimidate Canadian residents of Egyptian origin, using false and secret “evidence.” Moreover, presenting the Brotherhood’s viewpoint here – even in order to criticize it – would become illegal.

We urge Canadian Charger to reconsider its viewpoint. What the Charger is advocating repudiates everything the publication has worked for in Canada so courageously. Indeed, the Charger is giving the government a weapon to use against its own editors in the future.

We have been proud to be a contributing editor to Canadian Charger. But we must now say that we cannot be associated with a publication that defends Ottawa’s “anti-terrorism” list.

John Riddell and Suzanne Weiss have been activists for many years in the movement for Palestinian freedom. They live in Toronto.

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