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Said Rageah. Photo: screenshot YouTube CityNews Toronto

Discrimination or a demand for a preferential treatment?

The Sakinah Community Center in Scarborough depicts itself as “a full-service Muslim community center providing social services, facilitating health and fitness and building strong youth and families through an Islamic based framework.”

Sheikh Said Rageah, the imam and founder of Sakinah Community Center accuses the City of Toronto of passing “a discriminatory by-law”. On February 1, 2017, Rageah led a protest at City Hall with the attendance of hundreds of Scarborough’s Muslim community.

“The City of Toronto has passed a new by-law that will ban places of worship and religious schools from less expensive employment lands. This ban will make it impossible for existing places of worship or religious schools to expand or start,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

Speaking with CityNews Rageah claimed that the City of Toronto doesn’t want the Muslims in Scarborough and therefore passed a by-law to “push” them out of the city. The following is a transcription of Rageah’s statement:

Right now as we see it, we are not wanted. This is the bottom line. We are not wanted in the City of Toronto, and the best way to push us out is by saying, you know, you can’t these centres of yours in where your community lives, therefore you got to go outside of the city. We can’t be located in Vaughan because we can’t afford. We can’t be located in you know Whitbey, because it is too far for us. We all live in Toronto, in the City of Toronto. So why this discriminatory by-law is in place.

In another interview with CityNews Rageah said:

If the City is forcing us to be away from the city or to be in an area that we cannot afford we feel that we are not welcome, we are not wanted, and that is not the reason why we here in Canada.

In an interview with Al-Forqan (February 13, 2017 click HERE and HERE) Rageah said (originally in Arabic):

We are still fighting to stop this unjust by-law to protect our rights and to defend our cultural identity! as the mosques and the [Islamic] schools maintain our culture and protect our children from being deviated and dragged towards the organized crime which constitutes a great concern within both Canadian government and society. 

Mariana Valverde, a University of Toronto professor specializing in urban law and governance, sided with Rageah’s position. In an op-ed article on the Toronto Star entitled “How zoning laws can discriminate against Muslims and others” (February 3, 2017), Valverde wrote among other things the following:

Why should mosques have to fight for space one battle at a time, especially when they do not necessarily have the resources to hire lawyers to appeal all the way to the OMB?… Religious uses are highly restricted. But some religions have more money and more political capital than others… If restrictions on religious uses are not loosened, Toronto’s non-Christian religious organizations, who have very little real estate and who due to immigration need to expand their mosques and temples, will be forced out into less restrictive municipalities. That would be the worst possible message to send to Toronto’s diverse citizens – especially Muslims, and especially now. Using zoning laws to covertly or even unwittingly exclude groups from our city is in complete contravention of the city’s motto, “Diversity our strength.”

Councillor Michael Thompson (Scraborough Centre) fends off allegations of discrimination claiming that the leaders of Sakinah Community Center want to receive a preferential treatment. Speaking with CityNews, Thompson said the following:

It is actually totally, totally, totally inappropriate to be making those types of comparison. We’ve attempted every effort to actually work with this group. In fact, they have not even seen it fit to file a rezoning application which he have directed them to. Simply what is going on here is this. There is an attempt by the leaders to have the City basically override our rules and provide a preferential treatment for this group.

Ontario Municipal Board noted (February 07, 2017) that the Sakinah Foundation has not filed the requested documents:

[15] Two other motions were discussed at the PHC, one by Scarborough Chinese Baptist Church which had not been filed in sufficient time to comply with the Board’s Rules and the other on behalf of the Sakinah Foundation which was raised orally at the hearing without filing documents. While it appeared that these motions may be unopposed the Board wanted to ensure that proper notice had been provided and that they were filed according to the Board’s Rules. In consideration that the motions may not be opposed, the Board agreed that they could be dealt with through a Telephone Conference Call (“TCC”). The Board directed the parties to ensure that documents had been filed according to the Board’s Rules and to contact the Board Case Coordinator to schedule a TCC to hear the motions.

Background information on Said Rageah, imam of Sakinah Community Center

Imam Said Rageah (سعيد راجح) was born in Somalia and in the late 80sn moved to North America. Rageah has a Bachelor’s in Islamic studies and a Masters in Shari’ah and he has had several posts over the years, including: founder of Masjid Huda in Montreal and Masjid Aya in Maryland, adviser for Muslim Youth magazine, and member in the Aqsa Association.

He is also the founder of both Muslim Magazine and Al Aqsa Association, and served as the Chaplain at both the University of Calgary and the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT). He served as an Imam at the Abu Hurairah Mosque in Toronto, the Chairman for the Journey of Faith Conference and as an instructor for the AlMaghrib Institute.

The following are excerpts from Said Rageah sermons and lectures during recent years.

When I want to hire someone only Muslim worker

In a sermon delivered at Abu Hurairah Centre in Toronto (the video was uploaded to YouTube on February 8, 2009), Imam Rageah called on Canadian Muslims to unite and translate their demography into a political and economic power that is necessary to make the government allow Muslims to implement the Islamic Law (Sharia) in their communities and to change the foreign policy.

Rageah spoke in favour of following the example of the Sikh neighbourhood in Edmonton, Alberta, by bringing the Muslim community to live together in one area in which the authorities will not be able to make any decision without the approval of the Muslims.

He urged Muslims to hire only Muslim workers, to buy products or services only from Muslim-owned businesses and to avoid advertising with media outlets owned by kafir, meaning unbeliever or infidel. In this way, he maintained, Canadian Muslims can strengthen themselves and live according to Islam.

The following is a transcript of segments from Rageah’s sermon:

With four, five [hundred] thousand Muslims you can create the most powerful lobby in Canada… with that number of Muslims you can create one of the strongest Muslim business in Toronto… If you just put our resources, if we put our resources together, if we can work together as an Ummah [Muslim nation] we can change a lot… As Muslims, we are scattered all over the city. You have people living in Brampton, you have people living in Mississauga, you have people living in Whitby, you have people living in Richmond Hill. Imagine if we all get together in one area. In the City of Edmonton, the Sikh, Sikh, they live in one neighbourhood and nothing can be changed or done without their approval. We here we may as well benefit from the system that they have here.

What can you do with unity? A lot. You can change a lot. You can change the foreign policy of this country. You can change how the Muslims think. You can even when need help, when you need help you call Muslim for your need you will help the Muslim community… Brothers in the masjid [Mosque] right now, they are coming up with the magazine or newspaper called Ummah Times. What Ummah Times is that? Ummah Times is advertising all your businesses all the Muslim businesses [are] Ummah. All you need to do – I will never advertise with a kafir [unbeliever, infidel], there you go. I hear some advertisements giving to 680 News $5,000. Before your Muslim brothers $50 and $80 or $100 we think twice before we do it.

Unless we work together, the day we need a truck driver we know where to find truck drivers. The day that I need a cab I should have a number of a Muslim cab it’s ok, pick me up. When I want to see a doctor, only Muslim doctor. When I want to hire someone only Muslim worker. Then we can strengthen ourselves. This is the way and this is the only way we can exist in the society, living according to Islam. When the Sharia [Islamic Law], when the government of Toronto, Ontario gave us a break and said: deal your internal affairs based on your Sharia [Islamic Law] we did not go and say: Those few people are Ismailis and Ahmadis, they are not even Muslims. Why would they speak on behalf of Muslims. But, we say no, we keep quiet and see and watch what happens, and then the result was that they said… we will never allow you to rule yourselves, your internal affairs based on the Shariah… My brothers in faith [اخوتي في الله], anything that happens in your Muslim community, in the City of Toronto, anything that can be done, five hundred thousand Muslims that is a great number, large number, you can do a lot, work together. Let’s be an Ummah [nation]

Take your children to Islamic schools. Take your vehicle to Muslim owned business. If you buy a vehicle make sure there is a Muslim business or car dealer that sells cars. If you want to do anything just ask if that individual is a Muslim or not. If he is not, then look for a Muslim, because I’m sure you’ll find a Muslim. I’m sure you’ll find a Muslim in that field… O Allah, Raise the standing of Islam and the Muslims [اللهم اعز الاسلام والمسلمين], and humiliate the infidels and the polytheists.” [اذل الكفرة والمشركين]

You should put your trust in Allah… not this state, that state

In a Friday sermon at Manchester Al-Furqan Mosque, Said Rageah called on Muslims to avoid relying on any state. Rageah supported his position by quoting a Quranic verse in which Allah says: “And never will the Jews or the Christians approve of you until you follow their religion.” According to Rageah, the best and only alternative for Muslims is to choose Islam.

The following are excerpts from Rageah’s sermon (Published on YouTube on April 26, 2012):

(05:31-07:03): “We have to learn how to change ourselves, and the first step is my brothers to the faith in Allah (إخوة في الله), one of the steps of change is for us to be independent. You know what independent means? It means: You should not rely on anyone other than Allah, the most glorified, the most high, (الله سبحانه وتعالى). It means that you should put your trust in Allah, the most glorified, the most high, (الله سبحانه وتعالى), not international nations, not international governments, not this state, that state, but on Allah, the most glorified, the most high, (الله سبحانه وتعالى), because regardless what you’re trying to do they will never be out there for your benefit and they will never be happy with you until you became a follower, until you became a follower. Not become like them because Allah says (لان الله يقول): ‘And never will the Jews or the Christians approve of you until you follow their religion‘ (ولن ترضى عنك اليهود ولا النصارى حتى تتبع ملتهم). Allah said: they will not be pleased with you O Mohammad, they will not be pleased with you O Muslim, until you follow their footsteps… (10:33-10:49): “So if you want the change, first step of change is be independent, be yourself, do not follow anyone else footsteps. Choose Islam.

I don’t believe a bit that Muslims have anything to do with that (Charlie Hebdo attack)

In a speech at Sakinah Community Centre (the video was published on January 28, 2015) Rageah claimed that the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo satire magazine in Paris (January 7, 2015) were not carried out by Muslims and said that the allegations in this case are similar to those which were heard after the 9-11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. The following is a an excerpt of Rageah’s speech (26:03-27:51):

The United Nations received 55 thousands images of what happened to some of the Muslims in Syria, but they didn’t do anything about [it]. But one person, three people, eight people, 12 people, all the people die, you have 50 presidents, 50 coming together, locking arms, marching. Is that for humanity? No (لا). I don’t believe, by the way, for the record, I don’t believe [that] Muslims did that. It does not make any sense and it is not for you to accuse us. It is not for the Muslims to say: we did it. I don’t believe a bit that Muslims have anything to do with that, because, Glory be to Allah (سبحان الله‎), September 11 [2001], the building melted, but they found a Saudi passport, Allah willed it (ما شاء الله). What a miracle! You know here [in the case of Charlie Hebdo attack] they kill, you know, people, but miraculously the guys are so intelligent to assassinate 12 people, but he was so dumb to leave his document in the car? Allah willed it (ما شاء الله), May Allah bless you (تبارك الله). I mean, the amateur, you know, thief knows how to clear his mess and it is so unique that the media has files of these people, that the President of the country [France’s François Hollande], 45 minutes, he’s on the scene. He is not afraid that some of these cars are already bombed, you know, you know, is he not afraid? Is does not make any sense. But I dare a Muslim to say: we did it, because we did not.

He [Stephen Harper] is an enemy of Islam

Rageah portrayed then Prime Minister Stephen Harper as an enemy of Islam. The following is an excerpt (25:20-26:59) of his speech at Assalam Mosque in Ottawa in 2012 (the video was uploaded to YouTube on September 12, 2012):

If one of us was invited by the Prime Minister of this country [Stephen Harper] and he says: ‘I’ll give you a special invitation, exclusive invitation, come to my house, have dinner with me, chat with me, sit with me, talk to me, I’ll talk to you.’ I guarantee you, everyone of you will come out of that meeting raising his head with pride, so proud of himself, so pleased, you know, twitting every second: O I’m sitting with the Prime Minister [Stephen Harper], you know, you know, putting on Facebook: This is my picture with the Prime Minister [Stephen Harper], you know, and you’ll brag on that day and night. Every single moment when someone says: Peace be upon you, (السلام عليكم), O do you know I was just chatting with the Prime Minister [Stephen Harper]. When Someone says: ‘How are the children?’ ‘His house is excellent.’ Your life will be nothing but him, and he [Stephen Harper] is the enemy of Islam. He [Stephen Harper] is an enemy of Islam. I guarantee you, we go to him right now, and he is the man who said, you know, the threat of this country is Islamism. All of us would say: ‘Mister Prime Minister, can we take a picture with you?’ We are so proud of that, because it is the human nature, but Allah is telling you: ‘Stay with me every night.’ Seclusion (خلوة) with Allah we don’t care. We don’t care. The voluntary prayer during the night (قيام الليل) is a conversation (نجوة) between you and Allah, no one else.”

Rageah did not elaborate in his speech what is the Islamic ruling regarding an “enemy of Islam.” In previous speech (February 2012) at the University of Waterloo as part of the Islamic Awareness Week organized by the local Muslim Students Association (MSA) and partially funded by the university, Rageah implicitly justified the death penalty in an Islamic State for apostates and those who insult the prophets.

Carry the message of Islam to your own community… give them the light of Islam

In his recent visit to Sweden, Rageah met with Muslim youths apparently sons and daughters of refugees from the Middle East who resettled with their families in a small Swedish village.

Rageah explained to the Muslim youths the obligation upon them to follow the teachings of Islam and also the importance of playing a leading role in introducing Islam to the local society in order to spread Islam in their new community.

The following are excerpts of Rageah’s speech (posted on YouTube on December 8, 2015):

Why do you think Allah brought you here? Why do you think Allah brought your parents and they brought you here? Do you think because there was a civil war back home and they had nowhere else to go, and now all of the sudden they came to Sweden to this small village that I cannot even pronounce its name? Do you think they came here accidentally? No. It was designed by Almighty Allah. It was designed that you perhaps can be born and raised here, so you can carry the message of Islam to your own community, to the Swedish community, because maybe your father when he is speaking Swedish he has an accent, maybe your mother when she is speaking she has an accent. Maybe they don’t understand the culture of the people. Perhaps Allah brought you here so you can adapt, understand, analyze, read and learn the culture of the people and then in return you come back and give them the light of Islam… Unfortunately a lot of young ladies and a lot of young boys, or young men, they think they were brought here so they can have fun, they can listen to music, they can shovel the snow that their father never have seen before, they can make a snow man in front of their houses, they can slide down the hill. This is not the reason. The reason that Allah brought you here is so you can can carry the message of Islam to the people. Why? Because each one of us, Almighty Allah [said] call to the way of your Lord (ادعوا الى سبيل ربك ). So your responsibility is to call people to Allah.

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About Jonathan D. Halevi

Jonathan D. Halevi
Lt. Col. (ret.) Jonathan D. Halevi is co-founder and editor of CIJnews and a senior researcher of the Middle East and radical Islam at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He is also a co-founder of the Orient Research Group Ltd.

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