I Am Not a Terrorist, Despite What My Critics Told a Senate Committee
My name is Faisal Kutty. I am a lawyer, law professor, public speaker and writer. I write in response to testimony to your distinguished Committee on February 23, 2015 by a fear monger well-versed in McCarthyism, Mr. Marc Lebuis.
In my opinion, Mr. Lebuis and Pointe de Bascule hold anti-Muslim, anti-Islam views. Often unable to identify real threats, they insult law-abiding Canadians through innuendo and mischaracterization of tenuous or even non-existent links and associations.
It appears their goal is to sow fear and promote the existence of a conspiracy to Islamize Canada and destroy “Canadian values,” which of course means their own ideals. The session on February 23rd witnessed baseless attacks (all under the protection of Parliamentary Privilege) on respected national Muslim organizations and individuals that have tirelessly worked to integrate Muslims into becoming proud citizens of our great country.
Having been a vocal critic of anti-terror legislation and the steady erosion of our fundamental liberties even prior to 9/11, I have attracted more than my fair share of smears from well-funded and well-coordinated networks aptly termed by Islamophobia researchers as Fear Inc. Mr. Lebuis is a prominent member of the Canadian franchise of this conglomerate.
I have always ignored their paranoid rants, but when such fear mongers are invited by a Senate Committee and given a Parliamentary platform to legitimize their slander without effective rebuke and challenge by Senators, I am compelled to set the record straight.
Here is what Mr. Lebuis, Director testified about me:
…we’ve had several incidents that are extremely disconcerting, to put it best. For example, just recently, after the two terrorists attacks that we went through, we had a de-radicalization event that took place in a university in Ontario. Doug Best was invited, and two people were on either side of him. One of them was Faisal Kutty, and one of them was Muhammad Robert Heft. This is the picture of Mr. Best alongside — I’m supposed to have the poster here; I’m very sorry. But the announcement is very clear.
We had Faisal Kutty right beside Mr. Best, and Doug Best has a very important role within the RCMP in terms of security. He is in charge of the concern of the security threat for the Ontario region……
Then we have another guy, by the name of Faisal Kutty, and this is the most disconcerting for me. He was with Superintendent Doug Best, and the event was called, by the way, The Radicalization Towards Violence and its Impact on Muslims. But Faisal Kutty, in the early 2,000s, was the spokesperson of two al Qaeda funding organizations. He was also the head of the board of directors for several years of what was called at the time CAIR-Canada, which became the NCCM, the National Council of Canadian Muslims. He is very prolific in his writing. He consistently defends and promotes people who are known and banned in certain countries. Mr. Ganucci, he was trying to defend and promote. Ganucci was banned from entering Canada right after an event that he was trying to talk about.
Facts appear to be an inconvenient and irrelevant consideration for Mr. Lebuis. I have never served as a spokesperson for any terrorist organization. A lawyer, representing a client, is a far cry from a spokesperson.
Since my days at York University and Ottawa Law School I have been critical of government overreach and human rights/civil rights violations in the name of security. Indeed, this was the very reason I co-founded the Canadian Muslim Civil Liberties Association (CMCLA) in the mid-1990s and then helped get CAIR-CAN off the ground shortly thereafter. I then went on to serve as vice-chair and legal counsel to CAIR-CAN for a number of years. The group is now known as the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM).
CMCLA, CAIR-CAN, and I have openly and unequivocally condemned violence of all kinds, including those committed in the name of religion and politics. At the same time, we have tried to fulfill our democratic duty to hold our elected officials and civil servants accountable.
As a lawyer practicing in the areas of charities, human rights, civil rights and national security, it is not uncommon that organizations and individuals seeking legal help with such issues will seek me out. Over the course of my 19-year legal career, I have provided legal representation to many groups and individuals caught up in such situations. There is nothing sinister about providing legal advice. Indeed, it is misleading and self-serving to assert that representing an individual or group as their legal counsel is the same as being “associated” with them. Mr. Lebuis also glibly ignores the presumption of innocence and the right to free speech we all cherish. As a member of the Bar I have simply fulfilled my duty to zealously advocate for and represent the interests of my clients within the confines of the Law and the Rules of Professional conduct that lawyers are bound by. I have done nothing more, nothing less.
By their spurious logic, all criminal lawyers must be closet criminals as well.
My track record — articles, speeches, media appearances and engagement with Intelligence Officials & Law Enforcement — speaks for itself. I have always urged Canadians (including Muslims) to fulfill their patriotic obligation to defend our country, but also to be vigilant in holding our government and its agencies accountable. In this vein, I have critiqued national security practices but also written and spoken about how to tackle violent radicalization and the important role that the community must play.
These alarmist purveyors of fear only marginalize and contribute to radicalization by reinforcing stereotypes and perpetuating the “us” versus “them” divide. Their rhetoric creates an environment conducive to silencing criticism. This chill and guilt by association allows violations of civil rights to go unchecked and curbs dissent.
I will not be bullied. I have and will continue to defend the Charter and the Rule of Law even as I push for terrorists and other criminals to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
Indeed, my perspective was valued enough that as far back as July 17, 2006, I was invited by the Consulate General of the United States in Toronto to meet with four members of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence.
I have also worked closely with the RCMP and CSIS when required to protect our national security while holding them to Constitutional standards. In fact, since 9/11, Mr. Hussein Hamdani, Mr. Naseer (Irfan) Syed, and I have been in the forefront of engaging with intelligence and helped facilitate a number of town hall meetings with the community. Over the last few years, each one of us (as well as Mr. Muhammad Robert Heft and others) has devoted substantial time and resources to foster communication and trust between the community and Intelligence and Law Enforcement agencies. The aim is to make Canada a safer place.
I firmly believe that Muslims must play a key role in the fight against violent radicalization. Mr. Lebuis, Pointe de Bascule and those of their ilk are peddling fear in the squalid tradition of McCarthyism. Yes, they may have a veneer of Muslim “friends” but this should in no way legitimize their unfounded, bold and unwarranted assertions about Islam and the community. Giving credence to such generalized, baseless and polarizing views will only marginalize the community and play into the hands of terrorists who thrive on dividing us by fueling fear and hysteria.
How is it that entities that have wanton disregard for the facts, the Constitution, multiculturalism and all the other things that make Canada great are invited by a Senate Committee to sow the seeds of discontent with so much deference and so little challenge?
I respectfully urge this Committee to see such testimony for the bigotry, ugliness and divisiveness it engenders.
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Faisal Kutty is an assistant professor at Valparaiso University Law School in Indiana and an adjunct professor at Osgoode Hall Law School of York University in Toronto.
[First published on Huffington Post Canada and reprinted on IQRA.ca with permission of the author].