Harper government won’t consider controversial suggestion to certify imams

By Vassy Kapelos | Global News
July 9, 2015

OTTAWA – A controversial suggestion to look at certifying Muslim religious leaders was rejected by the Harper government today, according to a spokesperson for the Minister of Public Safety.

“The recommendation in question is not something our Government is considering,” Jeremy Laurin said in an email.

The recommendation – that “the federal government work with the provinces and the Muslim communities to investigate the options that are available for the training and certification of imams in Canada” – was tabled in a report yesterday by the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence.

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But the executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims disagrees.

“When we read it, the initial reaction was profound disappointment,” Ihsaan Gardee said. “It stigmatizes and marginalizes an entire community by portraying them as a threat rather than as a partner.”

Gardee isn’t alone – three Liberal senators on the senate committee didn’t sign off on the final report, including Grant Mitchell.

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Gardee is encouraged by the Harper government’s rejection of the controversial recommendation, but thinks the damage has been done.

“It feeds into this ‘us versus them’ narrative that could also give legitimacy and credibility to the ideology of violent extremists who will point to this and say see you know what, you’re trying to integrate, you’re trying to be involved, but you will never be a part of this society,” Gardee said. “So it could actually be used a propaganda tool for the very extremists it aims to fight.”

The report needs to be adopted by the Senate before it can be sent to the government for a formal response – with the Senate in recess, that won’t happen until after the federal election in the fall.