Muslim Canadian Congress
The Muslim Canadian Congress was organized to provide a voice to Muslims who support a "progressive, liberal, pluralistic, democratic, and secular society where everyone has the freedom of religion." The organization claimed to have 300 dues-paying members prior to its 2006 split.
It was formed in December 2001, in the wake of 9/11 by a group of Toronto area liberal and secular Muslims led by Tarek Fatah. It is a Muslim organization in Canada beside the Canadian Muslim Union to ask for a "separation of religion and state in all matters of public policy."
The group has gained prominence by opposing the implementation of Shariah Law in civil law in Ontario and supporting the country's same-sex marriage legislation. The group also promotes gender equality and was involved in organizing a Muslim prayer session in which the prayers were led by a woman, Raheel Raza. It has also been critical of Islamic fundamentalism and has urged the government to ban donations to Canadian religious institutions from abroad arguing that doing so will curb extremism.
Tarek Fatah was its communications director and spokesperson until he resigned in August 2006 and Farzana Hassan was the MCC's president from August 2006 until April 2010.
The Congress suffered a serious split in the summer of 2006 when several of its members and leaders left to form the Canadian Muslim Union. According to reports, the split occurred over questions of how the group engages with the broader Muslim community. The basic issue was that the MCC was no longer a credible voice within the Canadian Muslim community
The issue came to head over the MCC's position on the arrest of 17 Muslims in the 2006 Toronto terrorism case and objections by some MCC leaders to the MCC's participation in anti-war demonstrations during the 2006 Israel-Lebanon War where flags of Hezbollah and Hamas were raised along with posters of Iranian leader Ahmedinejad and Hezbollah leader Nasrallah.
The entire executive and most of the board members eventually resigned. The largest resignation took place on August 22, 2006. The CMU was formed the next day. CMU's philosophy of Liberal Islam is similar to the MCC's but with what they claim is their intention to work "within the Muslim community".
In 2007, the MCC came out against a Canadian Human Rights Commission complaint made by several youths associated with the Canadian Islamic Congress against Maclean's Magazine for publishing an allegedly Islamophobic column by Mark Steyn saying that"The reaction of the CIC has only given credence to his premise - that Muslims in the West cannot accept the values of individual freedom, a free press and the right to offend... How ironic and how unfortunate. For Steyn's thesis could as easily have been disproved by the traditional means of rational debate."
Earlier that year, the MCC came out against a proposal by John Tory and the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party to publicly fund faith-based schools accusing the Tories of "pandering to clerics".
The MCC has also been outspoken on the issue of women wearing the hijab saying "It is not a requirement of Islam that Muslim women stay covered completely" and that women should be assured that not wearing the hijab is not a sin. In October 2009, the MCC called for a ban on burka and niqab (though not the hijab), saying that they have "no basis in Islam." Spokesperson Farzana Hassan cited public safety issues, such as identity concealment, as well as gender equality, stating that wearing the burka and niqab is "a practice that marginalizes women."
In April 2008, the MCC criticized the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) for its statement a claim by the Canadian Islamic Congress that Maclean's magazine was publishing Islamophobic articles. The MCC stated that "the OHRC has become the virtual organ of Canada’s Islamist organizations and that it has taken sides in the bitter struggle within Canada’s Muslim community where sharia-supporting Islamists are pitted against liberal and secular Muslims" and that "the OHRC decision had the finger prints of its pro-Islamist commissioners who have close association with the Canadian Islamic Congress. It is not just the commissioners, but we have reason to believe that there are staff on the OHRC that support sharia law and endorse the CIC’s positions."
The MCC is associated with the US based Muslims for Progressive Values and Democratic Muslims in Denmark.
Some of the MCC officers profess serious reformation in Islam, and of those one has launched a New Islam movement.
- "Curb donations to religious institutions: Muslim group". CBC News. 2006-06-13. Retrieved 2009-09-13.
- Tanara Cherry, Directors of Muslim group quit en masse, Toronto Star, August 24, 2006
- Sonya Fatah, Moderate Muslim group splinters -Terror arrests and war in Lebanon prove divisive for MCC crippled by internal strife, Globe and Mail, August 25, 2006
- "MCC thanks CUPE Ontario for resolution on Israel". Muslim Canadian Congress. 2006-05-31.
- Jennifer Ditchburn, "Tory minister slams Islamic Congress complaint against journalist", Canadian Press, December 12, 2007
- "MCC dismisses John Tory's new flip-flop: "Pandering to clerics will not work", Canada NewsWire, October 1, 2007
- "Elections chief firm on veil ruling", Kitchener-Waterloo Record, September 14, 2007
- Tarek Fatah, "It's no sin to shun the hijab", Globe and Mail, December 17, 2007
- "Muslim group calls for burka ban". CBC News. 2009-10-08. Retrieved 2009-10-08.
- "MCC shocked at OHRC decision to trumpet Islamist cause" (PDF). Muslim Canadian Congress. April 9, 2008.
- Joseph Brean (April 9, 2008). "Rights body dismisses Maclean's case". National Post.
- Muslim Canadian Congress homepage