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Muslim journalist newsmaker of the year

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(Article taken from IOL)



Canadian Muslim Honored to be Newsmaker of 2004



“This nomination shows that the Canadian public is not willing to sacrifice their civil liberties in exchange for an illusion of national security,� Arar said.


By Muneeb Nasir, IOL correspondent


TORONTO, January 2 (Islamonline(contact admin if its a beneficial link)) – Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian who made international headlines over his detention ordeal, expressed jubilation over being named 2004 Canadian newsmaker of the year.


“I am honored to be named Canadian Newsmaker of the Year by Time Magazine, and I would like to thank everyone who supported me and helped keep my case alive in the media,� Arar told IslamOnline in a special year end interview.


In announcing the choice of Arar on December 19, the Time cited his tenacity and courage.


“For taking on the national-security agencies in two countries; for standing up to anonymous allegations with courage, forcefulness and common sense; for stepping into the public realm despite the cost to himself and his family, Maher Arar is TIME's Canadian Newsmaker of the Year.�


The 35-year wireless technology consultant was detained on suspicion of terrorist links by US officials on September 26, 2002, at New York’s JFK airport on his way home to Ottawa from a vacation in Tunisia, even though he was carrying a Canadian passport.


He was deported twelve days later to his homeland Syria by the US government.


Though denying any terrorist connections, Arar was held in Syrian jails for over ten months where he said he was beaten, tortured and forced to make a false confession.


Brave Wife


Arar’s wife, Monia Mazigh, championed his cause during his incarceration, eventually leading to his release and return to Canada.


She joined a number of human rights groups to press the government for his release and appeared frequently in the media and was widely respected for her tireless efforts.


Her dedication earned her a nomination by Canada’s leading newspaper as The Globe and Mail's 2003 “Nation-builder of the year.�


“If it were not for her, I believe I'd still be in prison,� Arar said with a smile on his face.


He filed a lawsuit against the US and Canadian governments when he returned to his Ottawa home.


Early in 2003, after many representations from Canadian Human Rights organizations and a growing number of citizens, the Canadian government created a Commission of Inquiry into the actions of Canadian Officials in his case.


Symbol of Injustice



“If it were not for her, I believe I'd still be in prison,� Arar said of his wife.


Arar believes his nomination by the Time is a testimony to the value Canadians attach to civil liberties.


“This nomination shows that the Canadian public is not willing to sacrifice their civil liberties in exchange for an illusion of national security,� he told IOL.


“My case is testing Canada's willingness to apply justice to all of its citizens, regardless of their ethnicity and religion, as is required by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.�


“It is also a golden opportunity for Arabs and Muslims in Canada to get involved in the current review of bill C-36 (Anti-terrorism act),� Arar said.


The number of Canadian Muslims has increased dramatically over the last decade, according to a national census.


With approximately 600,000 Muslims in the country, Islam became the number one non-Christian faith in Canada.


Arar’s argument was upheld by the Time in naming him its Canadian newsmaker of the year.


“Whatever the outcome, Arar has already forced Canada to rethink how it balances human rights and security concerns. His struggle has revealed troubling details about how Canada's police and intelligence agencies share information with foreign governments.�


“The case is also a disturbing reminder of America's outsized role in the world, particularly since 9/11, and it has prompted fresh debate on the harsh powers of Canada's Anti-terrorism Act,� it said.


Time’s Canadian Bureau Chief, Steven Frank, who wrote the story in the magazine’s Person of the Year issue said Arar emerged as a vocal proponent of human rights in Canada.


“If Arar is a terrorist, he is unlike any other. In contrast with other suspects dispatched to harsh justice, Arar didn't vanish into oblivion in his Middle East cell. Nor, after his release, did he recoil from public view. Instead Arar, who has a modest home in Ottawa, has stepped into the spotlight, emerging as a vocal proponent of human rights in Canada, a symbol of how fear and injustice have permeated life in the West since 9/11.�


Arar hopes that the public inquiry will bring closure on his case and allow his family to return to a normal life.


“My family and I are very happy that the Canadian government has undertaken a public inquiry which will examine events surrounding my arrest and deportation to Syria and the torture and deprivation that ensued.�


“I hope I will be able to know the full truth about who was responsible for my ordeal, including who leaked unsubstantiated information to the media after I came back and what were their true motives,� he added.



I love Canada !

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