September 16, 2003


One of Canada's most moderate and respected Muslim clerics was pulled off a plane Thursday and thrown in jail by U.S. immigration officials in Fort Lauderdale without any charges being laid.

Ahamad Kutty, who has preached tolerance and peace throughout North America for more than two decades, was ordered off his Orlando-bound flight from Toronto and interrogated in an airport holding cell and a local jail for 16 hours as the U.S. marked the second anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington. . . .

An FBI spokesperson in their Miami office said two officers were called to the airport to question the men on the request of immigration officials.

"We were there for a couple of hours but didn't see any reason to have them detained further," the FBI's Judy Orihuela said yesterday. . . .

In the wake of 9/11, Kutty became a beacon of reason and calm within the city's Muslim community. In an October, 2001 column, the Star's Jim Coyle quoted one of the imam's sermons at the Jami Mosque in which he cautioned his congregation against Islamic extremism:

"Let us make no mistake about it: Today, Muslims have no enemy greater than fanatics in their midst.

"Let us know that fanaticism is ignorance; it is nothing but sickness and bigotry; let us know that fanaticism is opposed to both scripture and reason."

Reader Faisal Jawdat emails: "What, are we trying to make sure only radical violent muslim leaders get in, because the moderates might encourage people to be, well, moderate?"

Well, anyone can make a mistake, I suppose, but this seems to have been based on the fact that (1) these were Muslim clerics; and (2) they were traveling on 9/11. Perhaps a (justified) lack of faith in Canadian security played a part, too, but that doesn't excuse it. And it's stupid. As I said right after 9/11, non-fanatical Muslims (which is most of 'em, of course) are the best defense against fanatical Muslims. It's true, of course, that many "moderate" Muslim clerics have in fact been rather slow to denounce the kooks -- I blame the influence of Saudi money -- but here's a guy who wasn't. If things are as this story makes them appear, the White House should call him and invite him to meet with Bush, by way of recompense. And they should send a plane.

UPDATE: Don't warm that plane up just yet. Reader Mark Fox sends this story from the Globe and Mail:

A Canadian imam who was detained in the United States last week once wrote that Muslims in Iraq should rise up to "force the occupiers to leave their lands" and called U.S. President George W. Bush's administration a "cabal of Zionists and new conservatives."

Ahmad Kutty said in an interview yesterday that he does not believe such statements represent the bulk of his teachings and do not explain why U.S. authorities detained him on suspicion of terrorism when he arrived in Florida from Toronto on Sept. 11. . . .

Though I suppose means matter as well as ends here, if this is what passes for a "moderate" Muslim cleric, then the whole notion of moderate Islam may have to be reexamined. I'm not sure that this gets the Homeland Security folks off the hook, though, since it doesn't appear to have anything to do with their decision.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Well, these guys aren't moderates, though they certainly seem to be trying to follow Kutty's advice:

ABU GHRAIB, Iraq (AP) - The United States is holding in Iraq six prisoners who claim to be Americans and two who say they are Britons, the general in charge of detention centers said Tuesday.

Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, commander of the 800th Military Police Brigade, said the eight were considered security detainees - those who attacked or helped carry out attacks against coalition troops - and were being interrogated by military intelligence.

Hey, keep this up guys and you'll prove me wrong, and Ann Coulter right. . . .

ANOTHER UPDATE: But hey, it's not all bad news!