Between a Pillar and a Hard Place

Soheib Bencheikh on Showing Respect for Muslims

Between a Pillar and a Hard PlaceSoheib Bencheikh is a respected Imam and theologian and, at this writing, the Grand Mufti of the Mosque of Marseille, the largest mosque in France.

He was in Montreal during the height of the debate on allowing Islamic Tribunals to operate in Canada (he considers the Ontario government's attempt to establish Sharia courts as pandering to the more conservative elements in Muslim society and insulting to the vast majority of Canadian Muslims) for a conference on the rise of religious fundamentalism and its impact on human rights.

During his stay in Montreal, Soheib Bencheikh appeared on Indicatif présent a Radio-Canada interview program hosted by Marie-France Bazzo. It was during this interview with Ms. Bazzo that he made the following observations about Muslim-Canadians who demand special treatment and those who grant their wish (my transcription and translation).

I am completely outraged, outraged even though I am use to Muslims demanding special treatment [because they are Muslims], but I don’t believe that this is the wish of the majority of Muslims living in Canada. I am also outraged by the attitude of some non-Muslim Canadians because, if they want to respect Muslims, it is not by further singling them out for special treatment.

If we want to show respect for Muslims as citizens of Canada, it is to see them as typical Canadians, modern [and] enlightened, and [Canadian] women who enjoy rights equal to men in every respect, etc. This is showing respect, this is the type of equitable treatment that Muslims expect from this country.

June 6, 2005