Citizens feel ‘disowned’

John Bkila
From The Mississauga News

Anger, resentment and frustration filled the room during a Canadian Arab Federation
(CAF) fundraiser last night at the University of Toronto Mississauga.

The theme of the night was “Disowned Canadians Abroad” as several guest speakers
highlighted the cases of Canadian citizens of Arab descent who were abandoned by the
federal government when they ran into trouble overseas.

“It’s become a pattern with Canadians of Arab and Muslim origin,” said Khaled
Mouammar, CAF president. “It’s shameful and disgraceful.”

Abousfian Abdelrazik, who was arrested in 2003 while visiting his sick mother in Sudan,
was one of the speakers. His detailed account fired the intense emotions in the room as
he told of being falsely accused of having ties to al-Qaeda, being detained in Sudan for
nearly six years and tortured.

Abdelrazik is suing the federal government for $27 million, claiming his constitutional
rights were violated when the government blocked his repatriation to Canada.

“Don’t be afraid. Break the silence,” he told the room. “What they are doing is wrong and
we need to stand up, all of us, and stop the racism.”

Suaad Hagi Mohamud couldn’t attend due to legal reasons. Instead, her close friend,
Abdi Dirshe, told her story.

A Somalia-born Canadian citizen, Mohamud was detained in Kenya for three months
after customs officials there said there were problems with her passport photo. They
prevented her from boarding a flight back home to Toronto in May.

Deemed to be an impostor by the Canadian government, she was cleared and released
only after a court-ordered DNA test in August proved her identity.

“As Canadians we must demand far more accountability from our government. Citizens
who are part of the Muslim and Arab communities feel under threat in their own country
and this threat must be removed,” said Dirshe.

Faraz Siddiqui, 24, told his story of being arrested in May in Lebanon for overstaying his
visa by 34 days.

Siddiqui, a Canadian citizen of Pakistani background, spent nearly a week in a
maximum security prison before being released. No charges were brought against him.
He had been in Lebanon for an internship with the United Nations.

“The government consulate could have affirmed my reasons for being there. They could
have helped me get in touch with my family and friends. Instead, they told me I had to
deal with the Lebanese government on my own,” he said.

Siddiqui attributed the Canadian government’s failure to put in place policies and rules
for aiding foreign citizens abroad as one of the major reasons for his situation.

“Canada seemed to be a place I could call home. But I’m afraid I can only depend on
my wits and personal contacts when I travel overseas now,” said Siddiqui.

More than 100 guests attended Saturday’s event and organizers hoped to raise several
thousand dollars through ticket sales and donations. Proceeds will go towards helping
out Mohamud, Abdelrazik and Siddiqui.

Organizers hope to hold similar fundraising dinners across Ontario and Quebec.

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