Man of goodwill a victim of terrorist assault in Calgary

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, September 18, 2014

“All that really matters is that he’s a human being, and we don’t treat our fellow human beings that way!” —Cochrane reaction to Calgary assault

One of our Calgary coffee companions was the victim of terrorist violence the other day.

Terrorism: the mindless, hate-filled pre-occupation with one’s own warped understanding of life and reality that results in sadistic attacks on the lives and emotional wellbeing of others, criminal acts perpetrated for no other reason than that the intended victim looks or thinks differently from the perpetrator, often in matters of race and religion.

Civilized people have rightly condemned Boko Haram and ISIS recently for such terrorist mentality in Africa and the Middle East, just as they have for years condemned Hitler’s and the Ku Klux Klan’s heinous agendas in Europe and North America.

But in Calgary? In 2014?

Against someone widely acclaimed as a man of goodwill?

Our coffee companion once walked 6,500 km across Canada leading the Multifaith Walk Against Violence. And now he himself is the target of such idiocy?

Our coffee companion consistently champions the importance of multicultural understanding in our ethnically diverse country. And now he himself is the target of racial bigotry and intolerance?

And not by one of those foreign-looking “Others,” but by a middle-aged white woman who uses her gray Nissan Sentra and tongue as weapons to intimidate and harm a man of such worthy contribution to our Canadian landscape?

Last Friday morning, Imam Syed Soharwardy, founder of Muslims Against Terrorism and the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada, was assaulted while crossing the parking lot on his way into the Genesis Centre in northeast Calgary.

No doubt his appearance identified him as a potential target in the warped mind of his attacker. Did she have any idea of the great Canadian – the great human being – her intended victim was?

Did she even care that, over the years, he has repeatedly come to the defense of oppressed women in so-called “Muslim” countries? Or that, when once asked how to help the oppressor, replied by quoting Muhammad: “by stopping him from the oppression”?

Did she even care that he has spoken out publicly against the criminal acts committed by ISIS, or by Boko Haram, or other so-called “Muslim” movements?

Or that he recently went on a 24-hour hunger strike to express his revulsion against “crimes against humanity” that are being committed in Syria and Iraq?

Did she even care that he has recently teamed up with the good folks at St. Martin’s Anglican Church in Calgary to launch that parish’s Imam in Residence program in cooperation with the Al Madinah Calgary Islamic Assembly? That program is committed to bringing down the very walls of ignorance and suspicion that divide folks and tempt them into assaulting people-of-difference in parking lots.

Did any of this really matter to her when she got into her car last Friday morning, parked on the road outside the Genesis Centre, and (as Syed explained to me by phone) spotting him getting out of his car in the parking lot, drove up quickly behind him and knocked him to the ground?

Did any of this matter to her when, as he picked himself up and tried to flee from this total stranger, she opened her car door and chased him briefly on foot, yelling obscenities and racial slurs after him, shouting “You are a terrorist” and telling him to go back to where he came from?

Or when she got back into her car and tried to run him down a second time, clipping him just as he managed to step out of the way of more serious harm?

Did any of this matter in her perverted mind, as the Head Imam for the Al Madinah Calgary Islamic Assembly hurried into the Genesis Centre where he led his congregation in their weekly prayers for peace and understanding?

Did any of this matter at all as she carried out her hateful racist acts against my Pakistani-born friend who is one of the most passionate supporters of the Canadian way I’ve ever encountered?

True, the incident has been reported to the Calgary police, along with the car’s license plate number. But as I write this column, I haven’t heard anything further on that yet.

What I do know and feel was well expressed to me by several of my morning coffee companions here in Cochrane when I shared the story of what happened to Syed. It doesn’t matter whether we agree with his religious views or not, they said; all that really matters is that he’s a human being, and we don’t treat our fellow human beings that way!

Even in all this, Imam Syed Soharwardy, my friend and mentor for the past four years in responsible interfaith and multicultural matters, is not out for revenge.

“I don’t want to punish her,” he told me. “I just want an explanation.”


© 2014 Warren Harbeck

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