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Canada Muslim group denounces sheik at centre of hate-crime probe

A Muslim sheik under investigation over racial slurs against Jews was severely condemned yesterday by a prominent spokesman for the Muslim community in British Columbia.

"The word Muslim should not be mentioned here. If he is a religious leader, he does not represent Muslims in Canada," Imam Zijad Delic, the spiritual leader of the Richmond Mosque, said yesterday.

"He represents his own views and the views of some people around him. That's it. . . . The vast majority of people do not stand behind what he says, and I'm talking about 99 per cent of the people."

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South African-born Sheik Younus Kathrada, who is associated with the Dar al-Madinah Islamic Society, has been under investigation for hate crimes since last October.

In sermons posted on the Internet, he referred to Jews as "the brothers of the monkeys and the swine." He said the Prophet tells them, "Oh Muslim, Oh slave of Allah, that verily behind me is a Jew. Then come and kill him."

Islamic scripture predicted an apocalyptic battle with the Jews, he said. "Unfortunately we hear too many people saying we must build bridges with them. No. They understand one language. It is the language of the sword, and it is the only language they understand."

In another lecture, Mr. Kathrada said Islam endorses offensive jihad, or holy war, to convert non-believers. "It is in order to establish security on this earth," he said. "It is so that the word of Allah will be the superior word."

All Muslims should desire to become martyrs if the opportunity arises, he said. "For one of you to be in the front row of the Muslims . . . with the mujahedeen is better than him standing in prayer for 60 years. It is inconceivable that a true believer will not desire martyrdom."

RCMP Corporal Tom Seaman confirmed yesterday the hate-crime investigation Vancouver police started has been turned over to the Integrated National Security Enforcement Team, which combines the resources of the RCMP, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and municipal police.

Cpl. Seaman said the enforcement team is looking at allegations and complaints about the cleric's writings. Mr. Kathrada's work was also posted on the Dar al-Madinah Islamic Society's website.

Although the enforcement team also deals with terrorism, Cpl. Seaman cautioned against assuming that the investigation is dealing with anything more than the hate crimes allegations. "I am not saying they are looking at anything to do with terrorism," he said.

Len Rudner, national director of community relations for the Canadian Jewish Congress, said the sheik's preachings in October were the first time the group had heard about Mr. Kathrada.

Mr. Rudner also said he was not too concerned that the investigation is not completed yet. "We expect the law enforcement agencies are going to engage in due diligence and we maintain confidence in them," he said.

Mr. Kathrada said yesterday he continues to be involved in the Islamic society and that police have not questioned him.

"I am a volunteer still at Dar al-Madinah," he told The Canadian Press. "I'm active as a member of the Muslim community as I've always been. Absolutely nothing has changed."

Mr. Kathrada said the media generated the controversy. "They stir things up, they make a story out of nothing and that's what really disturbs me. I've lived it first hand."

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Previously, he has said his comments were taken out of context. "I am not the demon the media is trying to make me out to be," he said in a prepared statement in October.

"It is not our belief that Jews are subhuman," he said, adding that he has never promoted killing Jews and tells his audience that he does not agree with anyone carrying out acts of terrorism.

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