‘I am sorry that I did not stand up when my religion was being hijacked’
June 11, 2013 | Joanne Hill - Correspondent
Arshad Mahmood (right) proudly waves the Canadian flag; Tahir Gora is next to him. Both men are on the executive of Progressive Muslims Institute Canada. Gora also spoke at the rally. (Photo: Joanne Hill)
A small but determined group of progressive Muslims and their allies gathered at Queen’s Park in Toronto on Sunday to send an unequivocal message against terrorism and the Islamic doctrine of armed jihad.
The rally was organized by Progressive Muslims Institute Canada (PMIC) in response to recent terrorist attacks committed by Muslims, including the Boston Marathon bombings and the murder of a soldier in England, as well as thwarted attacks in Canada.
The speakers expressed a commitment to Canadian values and denounced violence committed in the name of Islam. Arshad Mahmood, PMIC honourary director, apologized for not speaking out sooner.
“I stand here today to tell my fellow Canadians that being a Muslim does not mean never having to say you’re sorry,” he said. “I stand here today and publicly announce that I am sorry. I am sorry that I did not come here before. I am sorry that I did not stand up when my religion was being hijacked. I am sorry that I did not claim the ownership of what was always mine: my religion. I am sorry that although I retain the title of Islam the radicals and the terrorists and the pseudo-intellectuals kept encroaching on my religion until they took complete possession and, to this date, they have it. But I’m here today to tell those encroachers that we are going to claim the possession of our religion... I choose to be a Muslim and I choose to be a Canadian and I choose to stand here today and tell everyone that I am disgusted at the horrific acts performed by terrorists in the name of my religion.”
The rally was attended by people from different religious and ethnic backgrounds.
Harriet Morton said she was glad she had made a special effort to attend despite having recently had surgery on her leg. Her voice shook with emotion and tears were in her eyes as she spoke to the Jewish Tribune.
“For me, it was a very emotional experience, because I never believed that Muslims who care for peace would have the courage to come out in the open,” she said. “I was touched deeply by what they said and how they feel. I hope this is just the beginning of larger rallies and more of them being outspoken and reading more about them, too, because they need that and we need that for peace.”