Canadian Muslims complain of CSIS harassment

Muslims in Canada are complaining about their treatment at the hands of the Canadian Security Intelligence Agency

Muslims in Canada are complaining about their treatment at the hands of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

Some claim that since the Sept. 11 attacks, all Muslims are considered potential terrorists by the secret service. Muslims were being targeted by aggressive and rude CSIS agents, they said.

The Canadian claims mirror the findings of a British report released last month that said Islamophobia following the Sept. 11 attacks had made life difficult for Muslims in Britain. 

Omar, a Canadian Muslim man who wanted to remain anonymous, was rushing home to an early evening prayer when he was met at the door by two CSIS agents.

A still-upset Omar told CBC Radio: "The first thing he [one of the agents] said was that they were from CSIS and that they would like to speak to us about Momin Khawaja, who is currently detained. When I said I didn't know the individual, he said, 'We know that you know him and he is in a lot of trouble and all you are worried about is your prayer.'"

After several minutes of what Omar calls intrusive aggressive questioning, the agents stepped away from the doorway, allowing him to enter his apartment building. 

"At one point I actually had to ask the gentlemen to step back because he was invading my personal space quite a bit —and I had to repeat myself twice before he would do it," Omar said.

Omar told them he would try to call them the next day. But his schedule of university classes and a part time job left him no time to make the call.

In short order he received reminders that CSIS was still interested in speaking with him.

"The next day I came home and I found another one of his cards in my mail box ...saying, you were supposed to call me ...I am still waiting for your call," Omar said.

Omar decided not to call the agents as he doesn't know the man they were asking about, and he was put off by their intimidating approach.

Advocacy groups said in the back of Muslim Canadians' minds were cases like that of Maher Arar, the Canadian man deported to Syria with the connivance of CSIS and allegedly tortured there in 2002.

Arar was never charged with a crime.

The executive director of the Canadian branch of the Council on American Islamic Relations, Riad Saloojee, said the encounters with CSIS were most frightening for people who came to Canada from police states. 

Saloojee said: "It tends to be in most cases a fishing expedition, sometimes perhaps sort of a witch hunt type of interrogation or type of questioning. And this really makes people very, very confused, and very traumatized." He advised people to take a lawyer with them if they decided to talk to CSIS. He added the agency often lost interest when it heard that a lawyer would be present.

The British report – from the non-government anti-racism Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia – warned in June that a failure to address anti-Muslim prejudice could increase the influence of extremists in Britain.

CSIS declined to talk to the CBC about the allegations.