A senior leader of Canada's Muslim community compared a recent policy requiring no face-coverings be worn when new immigrants take the citizenship oath to the dire oppression of Jews in Nazi Germany.
Imam Sayed Soharwardy, a Canadian of Pakistani descent who serves as president of the Supreme Muslim Council of Canada, made his comparison on CTV, provoking strong reactions from Canada's Jewish community.
“Because intimidation of their faith, badmouthing about their faith, badmouthing about their book, badmouthing about their beliefs — that was going on in Germany before the Holocaust. The same thing is happening now about Muslims,” he said.
“Muslims are going through that situation right now where the Jews faced before the Holocaust,” he told CTV earlier this week.
Chairman of the B'nai Brith, Frank Diamant, condemned Soharwardy's statement, saying that his comparison was patently false by historical standards and demonstrated contempt for the actual events Holocaust.
Diamant called on religious and public figures in Canada to respect the true political context of the Holocaust - and to exercise restraint and avoid unacceptable comparisons in their statements.
Journalist Ezra Levant sharply attacked the Soharwardy claim as well, telling The Sun TV the Imam is a "media whore" who will "do anything to get publicity."
Levant noted that Soharwardy claims to be liberal in his views but supports the application of Islamic Sharia law in Canada, and went so far as to file a now-failed lawsuit to curtail the freedom of speech in Canada after the Western Standard published cartoons of Muhammad.
He also noted Soharwardy constantly seeks to propagate an "insane conspiracy theory" claiming Western organizations seeking to aid Somalia during the famine in the country were actually plotting to kidnap Muslim children and forcibly convert them to Christianity.
The Vancouver Sun newspaper reported Soharwardy deflected criticism of his remarks saying he had been "misunderstood," and that he plans to initiate a meeting with the Jewish Community Council of Calgary.
“I have asked for a meeting, and after the meeting, I’m going to comment,” Soharwardy said. “I just don’t want any misunderstanding that people are trying to create.”
Judy Shapiro, community relations director with the Calgary Jewish Community Council, told The Nation she understood that the Imam was disagreeing with federal government policy.
“But there is no comparison between what Canadian Muslims are facing today and what the Jews faced in Germany before the Holocaust,” Shapiro said.
“Not only is such a statement factually wrong, but it’s insensitive, at the very least, not only to the Jewish community, but to all Canadians. To equate Canadians to Nazis is totally unwarranted.”
Shapiro added no meeting has been set up – but indicated any such meeting would be strictly private.
Canadian officials maintain that the face-covering ban at citizenship ceremonies is the only way to be certain new immigrants actually take the oath.
The ban comes at a time when the Supreme Court is hearing arguments as to whether a Muslim woman has the right to wear her veil when testifying against two men she accuses of sexually assaulting her.
Legal analysts say wearing a face covering during testimony raises serious questions in terms of a jury or judge's ability to evaluate a witness' affect and veracity.