Having seemingly ran out of angles to unnecessarily scare Canadians about Muslims on planes, Sun Media and reporter Brian Lilley today turned to trying to find a Canadian angle to the election-season torqued story of the week down in the U.S.: the desire to build a mosque and community centre in New York City on the site of an old Burlington Coat Factory, a few blocks away from Ground Zero.
Here’s the angle Lilley found: a Canadian went to a meeting held by the developers in NYC, raised some issues, and when she got back to Canada she got a phone call she alleges is from one of the developers, who apparently wasn’t super-pleased with her intervention, and then used a phrase that is equivelent to good-bye. But in a threatening way…
On Monday, back in Toronto, Raza says she received a call on her cellphone from a man who identified as Sharif El Gamal. “His tone was intimidating,” said Raza. “He accused me of ‘jumping into’ the meeting he called and then said ‘May Allah protect you.’ I was shocked and hung up.”
Raza says she took the phone call as a clear threat against her.
“Why would I need Allah’s protection?” asked Raza.
As we said, and Lilley didn’t in his article, “May Allah protect you” or “Fi Amanillah” is equivalent in the Islamic faith to good-bye. It’s a very commonly-used phase in that context.
by way of saying good-bye
Translation: May Allah protect you
Of course, you could say that with any words. For example, maybe Lilley’s entire article is meant to be a sarcastic joke that shouldn’t be taken seriously, and we just missed that because it’s ever so hard to portray tone effectively in print form. Still, let’s think twice next time someone sneezes and we say gesundheit or god bless you. Wouldn’t want to give them the wrong idea.
And if the caller did mean “may Allah protect you” as a threat and not in its common usage of good-bye, wouldn’t he be cancelling-out the alleged threat by wishing she be protected from it? I could see it if the person added “not!” or if the caller’s fingers were crossed, but that’s even harder to get over the phone than tone.
During a Roman Catholic service, during the break everyone shakes hands with those in neighbouring pews and says “peace be with you” to which the reply is “and also with you.” Next time you’re in mass, pay careful attention to tone. Might be a declaration of war masking as a blessing of peace.
But seriously, at the very least the background of the phrase deserved mention. And not only was QMI’s story missing the context around the alleged threat that is the sole reason d’etre for the article, it’s also missing the context around the issue itself. Such as that the right-wing is using this issue to stir-up the electorate in an election year with anti-Muslim sentiment; that it’s not confined to New York with protests against mosque construction across the United States and even a Koran-burning party by a church in Florida.
Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, should there be limits, what are the politics driving this issue, what are the risks of exploiting this issue, is there rising strife along religious lines in the U.S., what are the consequences of that, what about Canada; these would all be topics far more interesting of coverage than an allegedly-threatening good-bye.
* Not meant as a threat or typed in a threatening tone.