- The Washington Times - Friday, January 18, 2008

SAULT STE. MARIE, Ontario — Three Muslim women in Canada have filed a human rights complaint against Syed Soharwardy, the Alberta-based imam who brought publisher Ezra Levant before the Alberta Human Rights Commission after Mr. Levant’s magazine republished the Danish Muhammad cartoons.

Qasira Shaheen, Robina Butt and Shugufta Iftikhar filed their complaint, dated Dec. 28, with the Canadian Human Rights Commission, saying they “were treated differently from men in the following manner: Abusive language uttered towards us; Not permitted to ask any questions; Denied participation as equal members of the Muslim community; Physically and verbally threatened; Made to sit in the back of the hall; Accused of disrupting and sabotaging the proceedings; Forced to vacate the premises; Followed-up by obscene and threatening phone calls and letters in the mail.”

The incident was recorded and a videodisc copy was included with the complaint, the women state.

Mr. Soharwardy denies the charges, stating, “I am one of the biggest proponents of women’s rights in Canada’s Islamic community.” The imam also told The Washington Times that the women are wives of men who tried to “hijack” the mosque over sectarian differences.

“These three women are subject to their husbands, who are my enemies in the mosque, and who put them up to it,” Mr. Soharwardy said. “We are Sufi, they are Wahabbi.”

Muslim radio show host Najeeb Butt, husband of complainant Robina Butt, told The Times that the women were motivated by respect for human rights, concern for their local mosque and the reputation of Canada’s Muslim community.

“I support her 100 percent,” Mr. Butt said. “Human rights apply regardless of race, gender, religion or color.”

Mr. Butt called Mr. Soharwardy an example of a person who gives Muslims a bad name and who “is not only defacing other religions, but Islam as well.”

Although Mr. Levant is sympathetic to the women, he does not support their complaint.

“I’m opposed to anyone being subject to the arbitrary rules and procedures of [Canada’s] human rights commissions,” he said, though he added that a criminal complaint might be in order.

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