Abbotsford Muslim leader respond to council candidate’s online writings

Tahir Khalid says Vince Dimanno’s Quora post about Islam are wrong and risks marginalizing Muslims

The chairperson of a local Muslim organization says Vince Dimanno’s statements about Islam are “factually incorrect” and simplistic, and invited the council candidate to visit Abbotsford’s mosque to learn more about the religion.

Dimanno wrote last year online that Muslims “are effectively obligated to kill non-Muslims.” Asked about the comments on Monday, Dimanno – a board member of the AbbyFest Multicultural Society – told The News that his statements were meant to spark debate, and that he heartily supports immigration from Muslim countries.

RELATED: Council candidate says online posts on Muslims, 9/11 meant to spark debate

The News had asked members of Abbotsford’s local mosque to comment. On Friday, Tahir Khalid sent The News a long statement on Dimanno’s writings.

Khalid wrote that Dimanno’s “views on Islam and Muslims lack the nuance these discussions deserve.”

And he said Dimanno and anyone else who may share concerns should enlighten themselves by engaging in conversations with local Muslims.

“We would love to host him at our centre and explain our understanding on the subject of Islamophobia, freedom of expression and extremism,” Khalid wrote.

Khalid said comments like Dimanno’s help marginalize Muslims. And he said the statements show Dimanno “has developed a phobia against Muslim people.”

Read the full statement below:

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First of all, thank you for reaching out and seeking our opinion on this matter. Our community appreciates giving us an opportunity to present our views.

As for Vince Dimanno, we pray that he is able to see the truth and be guided. Like most Canadian Muslims, we find that his views on Islam and Muslims lack the nuance these discussions deserve. We extend an invitation to him and anyone else that is equally concerned about Islam/Muslims to reach out to their local Muslim communities for a genuine conversation prior to engaging in a game of rhetoric on a public platform. We would love to host him at our centre and explain our understanding on the subject of Islamophobia, freedom of expression and extremism.

From his recent comments on the Quora forum, it is evident that his opinion on Islam/Muslims needs to be addressed prior to discussing M103. Statements like “They (Muslims) are effectively obligated to kill non-Muslims that will not convert to Islam.” are not only factually incorrect but inherently dangerous towards marginalizing the very group of people he calls on to ‘join him in criticizing their religion’. With misconceptions such as these, it’s not surprising that he has developed a phobia against Muslim people. Unfortunately this type of black and white thinking is often at the heart of those perpetrating violent islamophobic acts.

Our religion welcomes constructive and respectful criticism – our mosque has organized multiple platforms to engage the wider community in such conversations. We respect and appreciate the fact that the Canadian constitution allows for freedom of expression under reasonable limits. However, Mr Dimanno fails to understand that mocking and criticizing are two very different responses with varying consequences. Valid and constructive criticism is a fuel for positive change and growth. However, mockery disguised as criticism only leads to the downfall of a nation – history proves this time and time again. We also find his use of labels like ‘moderate’, ‘fundamentalist’ and ‘extremist’ lacking any objective grounding or definitions.

Furthermore, it is disappointing to witness how Mr Dimanno reduces the issues of suicide bombings and the oppression of women to inherent traits of Islam rather than discussing these complex issues at a more nuanced level factoring in cultural norms, years of colonization, oppression and violence led under non-religious secular banners. As an example, in Iraq, there were zero recorded suicide attacks in the country’s history until 2003. Since then, there have been more 1,892 [1]. This is to simply show that mass generalized statements like the ones made by Mr. Dimanno do not help resolve problems rather create more divisions and misconceptions. If one can make a generalization about Muslims, it is that they believe in Islam but that’s pretty much all you can generalize about these 1.5 billion people.

Also, one cannot simply address the issues faced by Canadian Muslims without constantly addressing the geopolitical issues of Muslims 1000s of miles away. Anyone who is able to humanize Muslims will witness their heterogeneity.

As for M103, Canadian muslim community continues to witnessed threats, attacks and vandalism. Quebec city mass shooting of January 29, 2017 was a wake up call. We see this motion as a noble attempt to condemn anti-Muslim bigotry and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination in Canada.

Someone like Mr. Dimanno has to be more careful in exercising his ‘freedom of expression/speech’ due to the position and reputation he is seeking in the society. As community members, we are supposed to look up to individuals like him who aim at representing us and our needs. The lack of consideration, nuance and reality check displayed in his statements is an eye opener for all candidates and community members to reach out to their local Muslim community centres and mosques and have a conversation. Listen-acknowledge-understand-talk.

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