By Bill Kaufmann, Calgary Sun
Last Updated: 21st January 2010, 9:58pm
The underwear bomber’s late Christmas present to Calgary wasn’t long delayed.
Vandals attacked a mosque in Ranchlands “four different times in a week,” said David Liepert, spokesman for the Muslim Council of Calgary (MCC).
The Muslim community is convinced the timing of the Boxing week onslaught immediately after the bungled attempt to bring down Northwest Airlines Flight 253 was no coincidence.
The goons egged the mosque and spray-painted messages like “Paki go home.”
Another calling card was swastikas — symbolism that initially surprised the victims who could at least feel an enhanced kinship with Calgary’s Jewish community.
“When that happened to them, our community stood alongside them because hate takes us nowhere,” said Liepert. “It was very disturbing to the people at the mosque who were praying there.”
Aroused local Muslims considered taking defensive action into their own hands, added Liepert.
“The young men offered to stay and protect the mosque, but we recommended against that,” he said. “You don’t want to see it escalate into something more.”
In that same vein, the Calgary Muslims decided to keep the incidents out of the media at the time, to avoid further inflaming the situation.
Liepert’s aware other minority groups under similar attack haven’t been as reticent to publicize such idiocy and admits it wasn’t an easy decision. “We were of two minds,” he said.
The reason for the reluctance is obvious. While genuinely grateful for a freedom to worship deeper than even in some Islamic countries, Muslims here walk on eggshells, waiting for the next terrorist outrage to drop on them.
The reminders are relentless and often headline-hogging. If it’s not radical conspirators being sentenced in Toronto, it’s a Calgary reporter along with a clutch of soldiers blown up in Afghanistan.
The weeks after 911 were the worst, say local Muslims, though the potential for renewed hate backlash always looms.
“There are hotheads everywhere — they’re so polarizing,” said Liepert.
“With some people, there’s no chance of peaceful co-existence. It’s something we see in Calgary.”
The fair-haired, bespectacled Liepert — who converted to Islam from Christianity 16 years ago — was engaged last week in one of those exercises local Muslims must feel are a constant obligation.
Alberta’s U.S. consul-general Laura Lochman had requested a bridge-building meeting with the MCC and was ushered into the cavernous prayer hall of a northeast Islamic centre by her grateful hosts. Under a burgundy headscarf, she listened as a senior imam led a few dozen students in prayer.
Then came the familiar pleading for Canadians’ acceptance, to believe their fealty to Canada is real.
There’s the usual condemnation of Muslim radicals’ crimes and distancing from them. It’s a mantra never heard from others here whose co-religionists or countrymen are guilty of blood crimes.
A catalyst for the meeting with Lochman was the question “what can be done to prevent Muslim youth from being radicalized?”
Lochman was asked what role an aggressive U.S. foreign policy has on inflaming Muslims — a link U.S. intelligence officials concede.
Despite all the bombs, occupations and refugees, the diplomat’s decidedly non-distancing response: President Obama’s Cairo speech last June proves America’s never been at war with Muslims.
Not wanting to imperil his community’s place in Calgary, Liepert answers the same question gingerly, that violence from any side can radicalize.
Some realities remain taboo, regardless of how big living room elephants are.
It’s hard, sometimes, even to speak of your own victimization.