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."
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 that stands for "separation of religion and state in all matters of public policy."
The group 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.
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 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 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". CMU has been dormant since 2011. The slate of its officers is not available online.
Despite this split, MCC continued its work of promoting Secularism, and its members and directors continue to face opposition from those following political Islam. Some of its members have also received serious threats from unknown individuals.
Tarek Fatah was its communications director and spokesperson until he resigned from the board in August 2006 and Farzana Hassan was the MCC's president from August 2006 until April 2010. Munir Pervaiz assumed the position of President in 2015. Farzana Hassan and others continue to be its directors. Tarek Fatah is now recognized as the founder of the MCC and enjoys full support of its directors.
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 Niqaab 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 stating 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. It has also joined International Coalition Against Blasphemy Laws.
MCC officers profess serious reformation in Islam. MCC also supports Canada's secular democracy, and continues to be the major Muslim voice against political Islam in Canada.
The Muslim Canadian Congress is a think tank that provides a voice to Muslims who are not represented by existing organizations: organizations that are either sectarian or ethnocentric, largely authoritarian, and influenced by a fear of modernity and an aversion to joy.
“Members of the Muslim Canadian Congress come from all parts of the world with diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds. We are proud of our Muslim heritage and the great contribution of Islam to human civilization, but are also cognisant of the failures of Islamic caliphates and the bloodshed that runs throughout Islamic history in pursuing jihadi expansion. As Canadians, we renounce the doctrine of armed jihad and follow the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the Canadian constitution as our guiding principles.”
The Muslim Canadian Congress looks to the future, and not to the past for the best days of the Muslim community; a community that will fully integrate and participate with other Canadians to build a country that is a beacon of hope, peace, prosperity and joy for the rest of the world.
We are an organization open to all Muslims who agree with our mission statement. We define a Muslim as any person who identifies himself or herself as a Muslim.
As Muslims we believe in a progressive, liberal, pluralistic, democratic, and secular society where everyone has the freedom of religion. We want our communities to be equal and active contributors and participants in the development of a just, democratic, and equitable society in Canada.
We believe in the separation of religion and state in all matters of public policy. We feel such a separation is a necessary pre-requisite to building democratic societies, where religious, ethnic, and racial minorities are accepted as equal citizens enjoying full dignity and human rights enunciated in the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
We believe that fanaticism and extremism within the Muslim community is a major challenge to all of us. We stand opposed to the extremists and will present the more humane and tolerant face of our community.
We oppose gender apartheid that is practiced in parts of our community, and believe it is contrary to the equity among men and women enshrined in Islam. We believe that Muslim men and women should work together, shoulder-to-shoulder, in their effort to rejuvenate our community.
We envision Canada as a society with strong and well-funded public institutions in the health, education and social services sectors. We feel these public institutions are the foundation and pre-requisite for an enterprising and vibrant private sector.
We will work for a more progressive, anti-racist and accessible immigration policy in Canada; a policy that recognizes the contributions of immigrants as vital assets of society and essential for the survival of the country.
We hope to build a Canada where personal initiative and creativity are celebrated and rewarded, but not at the cost of our collective social conscience and an abandonment of our responsibility towards the broader community.
- "Curb donations to religious institutions: Muslim group". CBC News. 2006-06-13. Retrieved 2009-09-13.
- 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