Raheel Raza

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Raheel Raza
Born 1949/1950 (age 66–67)[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 Islam
  • Constance Hamilton Award of the City of Toronto
  • Canadian Ethnic Journalists & Writer’s Club award for excellence in journalism[2]
Website Raheelraza.com

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 "Islamic extremism".[9] As a result, she has received death threats with some people considering her an Islamophobe.[10]

Early life[edit]

Raza is a Pakistani currently living in Canada.[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]

Activism and political views[edit]

On Islam[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 claims "radicals" have their own interpretation of Islam, and that the Koran does not justify suicide bombings.[13]

She alleges that hatred has been preached in places of worship and elsewhere, and urges parents to be on the alert for this so that extremism does not get imported into Canada.[14] Raza identifies herself as a libertarian.[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.[11][17][18][19][20] Raza termed it a "silent revolution" and said she hopes to become an imam someday. She also dreams of having a mosque "for women by women".[17] She received death threats following the 2005 prayer event.[10][21]

Imam Amina Wadud, another Muslim woman, had previously led mixed-gender prayers in New York City, which had led to fatwas and death threats against her.[11][22] After Wadud led mixed-gender prayers in Oxford in 2008, Raza was invited by Dr. Taj Hargey to go to Oxford and become the first Muslim-born woman to lead a mixed-gender British congregation in Friday prayers.[1] 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. 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".[23]

Banning veils[edit]

She has argued for a public ban in Canada against the hijab and the burqa.[24]

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). She describes the project as a Fitna, meaning that it was done intentionally to provoke a reaction and make trouble.[25]

In a Fox News interview with Bill O'Reilly she referred to Mayor Michael Bloomberg as having a "bleeding heart" for this cause that is actually dangerous for those who were affected by the 911 terror attacks, as the location of the Ground Zero Mosque seemed unnecessary and hurtful for the victims of the attacks.[26]

On Immigration[edit]

Raza has called the Canadian government to suspend all immigration from "terror-producing" countries, like Iran in 2012.[27]


Raza is a board member of and Director of Interfaith Affairs for the Muslim Canadian Congress.[28][29][30]

She founded and is currently president of Forum for Learning, an interfaith discussion group. It is a non-profit organization.[31]

In 2006, the National Muslim Christian Liaison Committee honored her for promoting Muslim-Christian dialogue in the wake of the Pope Benedict controversy.[32]

Donald Trump[edit]

Raza stated in an interview with Bill Maher that Donald Trump was “an equal opportunity offender. And, secondly, this is supposed to be the First World, the civilized world, but he is really fudging that line about civility.”.[33] In a later article for USA Today, Raza wrote that "as politically incorrect as his language may be," Trump had "succeeded in sparking an international conversation about radical Islam that we must have now", and called for Trump to "step up and put moderate Muslims on stage."[34]


Raza is a freelance writer.[35] 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.[36][37] She has also lectured at York University on the portrayal of Muslims in the media.[38]

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][39] 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 eight other women's rights activists, in the documentary film Honor Diaries[40] which explores the issues of alleged 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.[41]

Select articles[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b 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 McGregor, Charles (February 19, 2008). "Speaker looks to be No. 1 on world hate list". DurhamRegion.com. Archived from the original on 18 July 2011. Retrieved June 21, 2015. 
  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. Archived from the original on 6 July 2011. Retrieved June 21, 2015. 
  14. ^ CBC News Staff (June 4, 2006). "Toronto Bomb Plot Case; Homegrown extremism". CBC News. Archived from the original on 4 June 2009. Retrieved Jun 21, 2015. 
  15. ^ [1]
  16. ^ "Three faiths in conversation". Orangeville Citizen. March 29, 2007. Retrieved August 9, 2010. 
  17. ^ a b Bruning, Karla (December 2, 2006). "Muslims Debate Traditions that Deny Women the Right to Lead Prayer in Mosques". Lakeland Ledger. Retrieved June 15, 2015. 
  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. ^ First woman to lead Friday prayers in UK
  22. ^ [2]
  24. ^ Jonathan Montpetit (March 3, 2010). "Student files rights case over Quebec niqab ban". Toronto Star. Retrieved August 9, 2010. 
  25. ^ "'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. 
  26. ^ "Muslim Raheel Raza Opposes Ground Zero Mosque - Pawns Bloomberg". Youtube. Retrieved 12 June 2012. 
  27. ^ http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/david-b-harris/irans-fifth-column-target_b_1577752.html
  28. ^ Natasha Fatah (April 1, 2004). "One Law for All". CBC News. Archived from the original on October 24, 2007. Retrieved August 9, 2010. 
  29. ^ "Religious school funding divides community groups". CTV Edmonton. October 9, 2007. Retrieved August 9, 2010. 
  30. ^ Raza, Raheel (August 2, 2010). "Mischief in Manhattan". Ottawa Citizen. Retrieved August 9, 2010. 
  31. ^ "Celebrating Differences". The Montreal Gazette. October 2, 2007. Retrieved August 9, 2010. 
  32. ^ Michael Swan (September 22, 2006). "Canada's Catholic-Muslim dialogue continues forward in wake of pope's remarks". Catholic Online. Retrieved August 9, 2010. 
  33. ^ Brendan Gauthier (2016-03-06). "Trump's an "equal opportunity offender": Raheel Raza slams the Donald for hate-mongering against Muslims on Bill Maher". Salon. 
  34. ^ Raheel Raza (2016-08-17). "Trump is right about radical Islam: Raheel Raza". USA Today. 
  35. ^ 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. 
  36. ^ "Merry Christmas From a Very Merry Muslim," FrontPage Magazine, Dec. 24, 2010.
  37. ^ [3] Archived January 6, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  38. ^ Dorn Townsend."Building an Enclave Around a Mosque in Suburban Toronto", The New York Times, November 18, 2007, accessed August 10, 2010
  39. ^ Gloria Elayadathusseril. "Razor-sharp style; Immigrant, author, journalist, speaker and consultant Raheel Razar". Canadianimmigrant.ca. Retrieved August 9, 2010. 
  40. ^ "Honor Diaries". 
  41. ^ "Chicago Film Festival". Retrieved 26 February 2014. 

External links[edit]