Raheel Raza

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Raheel Raza
Born 1949/1950 (age 64–65)[1]
Residence Toronto, Canada
Alma mater Karachi University
Occupation Journalist, author, public speaker, media consultant, anti-racism activist, and interfaith discussion leader
Known for Opponent of terrorism in the name of Islam
Notable work Their jihad-- not my jihad!: a Muslim Canadian woman speaks out (2005)
Board member of
Muslim Canadian Congress
Religion Cultural Islam
  • Constance Hamilton Award of the City of Toronto
  • Canadian Ethnic Journalists & Writer’s Club award for excellence in journalism[2]

Raheel Raza (born 1949-50 in Pakistan) is a Muslim Canadian journalist, author, public speaker, media consultant, anti-racism activist, and interfaith discussion leader.[3][4][5][6] She lives in Toronto, Canada.[7] She has been compared to Asra Nomani and Amina Wadud for her controversial views on Islam.[8]

She is the author of Their Jihad, Not My Jihad: a Muslim Canadian woman speaks out.[3] She opposes terrorism committed in the name of Islam. She also is an outspoken adversary of what she has called "inequality toward Muslim women".[9] As a result, she has received death threats.[10]

Early life[edit]

Raza is a Canadian of Pakistani origin.[11] She graduated from Karachi University with degrees in Psychology and English.[12] In 1989, she, her husband and her two sons moved to Toronto.[6][12]


On Islamic extremism[edit]

She has unequivocally condemned 9/11, terrorism and all violence in the name of religion, and in the name of Islam in particular.[4][9] She believes radical Muslims have their own interpretation of Islam, and that the Koran does not justify suicide bombings.[13]

Raza believes that an ideology of hate that has nothing to do with Islam "had been happening here in Canada to the extent that hate was being spouted through places of worship, and by people who make it their day job to incite young people in this hatred. Towards what they perceive to be the imperial powers, the western occupation of parts of the world." She believes that parents are the first line of defense against imported hatred of Canadian values.[14]

She observed, "I have been sued for calling extremists, 'extremist,' and I am listed on the 10 'World's Most Hated Muslims' list. I'm No. 6. I hope to be No. 1. Obviously I'm doing something right."[9]

On Islamophobia[edit]

Raza said "Let's take a moment to debunk Islamophobia."[15] Stating that accusations of Islamophobia are used "too often" to stifle debate and criticism, she added: "many Muslims in the West use Islamophobia as a penalty card against free speech, whenever there is criticism of Muslims. This reactionary response is stifling dialogue, debate, and discussion—all signs of a healthy thriving democracy."[15]

Female-led mixed gender prayers[edit]

Raza has been a human rights activist, and has advocated what she believes is gender equality, especially for Muslim women.[9][16] She became the first woman to lead mixed-gender Muslim prayers in Canada, in 2005, and said: "I already have a fatwa against me".[11][17][18][19][20] Of leading the prayers, she said: "It was a very profound experience. It's not about taking the job of an imam. It's about reminding the Muslim community that 50 per cent of its adherents are women, who are equal to men. Women are equally observant, practising Muslims who deserve to be heard."[1]

Imam Amina Wadud, another Muslim woman, had previously led mixed-gender prayers in New York, which had led to fatwas and death threats against her.[11][21] After Wadud led mixed-gender prayers in Oxford in 2008, Raza was invited by Dr. Taj Hargey, "a self-described imam who preaches an ultra-liberal interpretation of Islam" that allows men and women to pray together and women to lead mixed congregations in prayer, to go to Oxford and become the first Muslim-born woman to lead a mixed-gender British congregation in Friday prayers.[1] After she led the prayers, Raza termed it a "silent revolution" and said she and other females aspired one day to become imams, and that she dreamed of having a mosque "for women by women".[17] According to Muslim reformist Tahir Aslam Gora, such prayers did not become regular.[18] The Canadian Islamic Congress said Raza's concerns were a "non-issue for Canadian Muslims".[19]

Opposition to prayers in schools[edit]

Raza opposed congregational Muslim Friday prayers in public schools, saying that in 1988 the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled that the use of the Lord’s Prayer in public schools was not appropriate. Raza said "It seems that the TDSB doesn’t see how some students are coerced into such gatherings." She said such prayers are contrary to the notion of separation of church and state. She called the prayers "discrimination and harassment" for requiring girls to pray at the back of the room and for disclosing their "private personal female condition".[22]

Banning veils[edit]

She has argued for a public ban in Canada on religious face coverings, saying: "When people come to Canada, we're not coming to the Islamic Republic of Canada. We are coming here because we want ... the separation of church and state."[23]

Opposition to Park51 Muslim community center[edit]

See also: Park51

In August 2010 Raza, along with Tarek Fatah, both from the Muslim Canadian Congress, opposed the Muslim community center, Park51, located near the World Trade Center site (or Ground zero).

We Muslims know the ... mosque is meant to be a deliberate provocation, to thumb our noses at the infidel. The proposal has been made in bad faith, ... as "Fitna," meaning "mischief-making" that is clearly forbidden in the Koran.... As Muslims we are dismayed that our co-religionists have such little consideration for their fellow citizens, and wish to rub salt in their wounds and pretend they are applying a balm to sooth the pain.[24]

In a Fox News interview with Bill O'Reilly she referred to Mayor Michael Bloomberg as a "bleeding heart white liberal" for his stance.[25]

On Immigration[edit]

Raza has recently called on the Canadian government to suspend all immigration from "terror-producing" countries, like Iran and Pakistan.[26]


Raza is a board member of and Director of Interfaith Affairs for the Muslim Canadian Congress.[27][28][29]

She founded an organization called Forum for Learning, and she is currently the organization's president. The organization is a non-profit organization and its stated objective is "interfaith interaction and discussion."[30]

In 2006, the National Muslim Christian Liaison Committee honored her for promoting Muslim-Christian dialogue in the wake of the Pope Benedict controversy.[31]


- Following the mixed-gender prayer congregation that she led in Toronto in 2005, she received death threats.[10][32]


Raza is a free-lance writer.[33] In 2000, she received an award from the Canadian Ethnic Journalists and Writers Club.[12] She has written for The Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, Khaleej Times, Gulf News, FrontPage Magazine, and The Commentator.[34][35] She has also lectured at York University on the portrayal of Muslims in the media.[36]

Raza is the author of Their Jihad, Not My Jihad: a Muslim Canadian woman speaks out, a collection of her op-ed columns from the Toronto Star.[3][37] She is also a poet and a playwright.[13]



  • Their Jihad... Not My Jihad: Revised 2nd Edition, Raheel Raza, Possibly Publishing, 2012 ISBN 0981943748
  • How Can You Possibly be an Anti-Terrorist Muslim?, Raheel Raza, Possibly Publishing, 2011 ISBN 1-4609-2279-4

Documentary Film[edit]

Raza participated, together with 8 other women's rights activists, in the documentary film Honor Diaries[38] which explores the issues of gender-based violence and inequality in Muslim-majority societies. Her personal story was featured alongside those of the other activists, all of whom are working to combat gender prejudice that is embedded in honor-based societies.[39]

Select articles[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Jerome Taylor (June 10, 2010). "Britain: First woman to lead Friday prayers". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved August 9, 2010. 
  2. ^ "Raheel Raza's Official Website". Raheelraza.com. Retrieved August 9, 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c Christopher White (2006). Seismic Shifts: Leading in Times of Change. United Church Publishing. ISBN 1-55134-150-6. Retrieved August 9, 2010. 
  4. ^ a b Donna Sinclair, Christopher White (2003). Emmaus Road: churches making their way forward. Wood Lake Publishing Inc. ISBN 1-55145-485-8. Retrieved August 9, 2010. 
  5. ^ Meena Sharify-Funk (2008). Encountering the transnational: women, Islam and the politics of interpretation. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. ISBN 0-7546-7123-2. Retrieved August 9, 2010. 
  6. ^ a b "Raheel Raza's Official Website". Raheelraza.com. Retrieved August 9, 2010. 
  7. ^ "Bhutto killing will impede rights, democracy, observers say". Canada.com. CanWest News Service. December 27, 2007. Retrieved August 9, 2010. 
  8. ^ "In particular Nomani, Raza, and Hassan have been strong and more controversial voices for reform of Muslim women's role..." Meena Sharify-Funk (2008). Encountering the transnational: women, Islam and the politics of interpretation. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. ISBN 0-7546-7123-2. Retrieved August 9, 2010. 
  9. ^ a b c d McGregor, Charles (February 19, 2008). "Speaker looks to be No. 1 on world hate list". DurhamRegion.com. Retrieved October 23, 2014. 
  10. ^ a b Jacobs, Mindelle (June 19, 2010). "‘Honour’ abuse more prevalent than we think". Calgary Sun. Retrieved August 9, 2010. 
  11. ^ a b c Giles Tremlett (October 31, 2005). "Muslim women launch international 'gender jihad'". The Guardian. Retrieved August 9, 2010. 
  12. ^ a b c Ray McGinnis (2005). Writing The Sacred: A Psalm-Inspired Path To Appreciating And Writing Sacred Poetry. Wood Lake Publishing Inc. ISBN 1-896836-73-9. Retrieved August 9, 2010. 
  13. ^ a b "Rabbi, Muslim and Catholic see other faiths' similarities". Orangeville Citizen. May 3, 2007. Retrieved August 9, 2010. 
  14. ^ CBC News Staff (June 4, 2006). "Toronto Bomb Plot Case; Homegrown extremism". CBC News. Retrieved August 9, 2010. 
  15. ^ a b Raheel Raza (June 17, 2008). "'Islamophobia' used too often to stifle debate or criticism". The Vancouver Sun. Retrieved August 9, 2010. 
  16. ^ "Three faiths in conversation". Orangeville Citizen. March 29, 2007. Retrieved August 9, 2010. 
  17. ^ a b Karla Bruning. "Muslims Debate Traditions that Deny Women the Right to Lead Prayer in Mosques", Lakeland Ledger, December 2, 2006, accessed August 10, 2010
  18. ^ a b Tahir Aslam Gora (June 26, 2008). "Opinions – Canada's a centre for Islamic reform". The Hamilton Spectator. Retrieved August 9, 2010. 
  19. ^ a b Khalid Hasan (July 3, 2005). "Woman leads mixed Friday congregation in Canada". Daily Times. Retrieved August 9, 2010. 
  20. ^ Giles Tremlett (October 31, 2005). "Women's lib becomes a gender jihad for Muslims". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved August 9, 2010. 
  21. ^ [1]
  23. ^ Jonathan Montpetit (March 3, 2010). "Student files rights case over Quebec niqab ban". Toronto Star. Retrieved August 9, 2010. 
  24. ^ "'We Muslims Know Ground Zero Mosque Meant to Be a Deliberate Provocation'". Fox News Channel. August 9, 2010. Archived from the original on December 14, 2012. Retrieved December 14, 2012. 
  25. ^ News, Fox. "Muslim Raheel Raza Opposes Ground Zero Mosque - Pawns Bloomberg". Youtube. Retrieved 12 June 2012. 
  26. ^ Harris, David B. (7 June 2012). "Iran's "Fifth Column" Targets Canadian Schoolchildren". Huffington Post. Retrieved 12 June 2012. 
  27. ^ Natasha Fatah (April 1, 2004). "One Law for All". CBC News. Retrieved August 9, 2010. [dead link]
  28. ^ "Religious school funding divides community groups". CTV Edmonton. October 9, 2007. Retrieved August 9, 2010. 
  29. ^ Raza, Raheel (August 2, 2010). "Mischief in Manhattan". Ottawa Citizen. Retrieved August 9, 2010. 
  30. ^ "Celebrating Differences". The Montreal Gazette. October 2, 2007. Retrieved August 9, 2010. 
  31. ^ Michael Swan (September 22, 2006). "Canada’s Catholic-Muslim dialogue continues forward in wake of pope’s remarks". Catholic Online. Retrieved August 9, 2010. 
  32. ^ First woman to lead Friday prayers in UK
  33. ^ Francis Adu-Febiri, Everett Ofori (2009). Succeeding from the Margins of Canadian Society: A Strategic Resource for New Immigrants, Refugees and International Students. CCB Publishing. ISBN 1-926585-27-5. Retrieved August 9, 2010. 
  34. ^ "Merry Christmas From a Very Merry Muslim," FrontPage Magazine, Dec. 24, 2010.
  35. ^ [2][dead link]
  36. ^ Dorn Townsend."Building an Enclave Around a Mosque in Suburban Toronto", The New York Times, November 18, 2007, accessed August 10, 2010
  37. ^ Gloria Elayadathusseril. "Razor-sharp style; Immigrant, author, journalist, speaker and consultant Raheel Razar". Canadianimmigrant.ca. Retrieved August 9, 2010. 
  38. ^ "Honor Diaries". 
  39. ^ "Chicago Film Festival". Retrieved 26 February 2014. 

External links[edit]