Farhat Hashmi operating in Canada
WASHINGTON: The wave of fundamentalist thinking among largely middle class Canadian Muslims has received a fillip from Al-Huda founder Dr Farhat Hashmi who recently immigrated to Toronto.
According to Farzana Hassan, a Toronto-based freelance writer, “As if the conservative push to uphold faith-based arbitration in Ontario was not enough of a blow to progress in Canada, another version of Muslim fundamentalism has recently begun to consolidate its foothold on Canadian soil, particularly in the greater Toronto area. Although Dr Farhat Hashmi is a well-known theologian with a doctorate from the University of Glasgow, she epitomises hard-core, doctrinaire orthodoxy - a worldview which appears to be gaining strength as a result of ambitious funding from certain quasi-governmental organisations in Saudi Arabia and Yemen.”
According to Ms Hassan, writing in the California-based outlet, Islam Today, Dr Hashmi has come to wield “tremendous influence on the hearts, minds and souls of South Asian Muslim women, some of whom come from avowedly secular backgrounds.” The newest Canadian venture of Dr Hashmi’s Al-Huda foundation involves the launch of a one-year diploma programme, aimed at producing female Muslim role models as “paragons of virtue and piety in every respect.” Ms Hassan argues that this translates into “utter subservience, bigotry and ignorance,” as those “trapped within such a programmed and brainwashed mentality refuse to recognise oppression to begin with, and if perchance they do, they justify it, citing examples of ‘inherent’ gender differences and ‘male superiority.’
Dr Hasmi has preached that Muslim women should let their husbands marry a second time so “other sisters can also benefit”. Such views, enthusiastically endorsed by Al-Huda graduates, often find expression in the form of reprimands and sermons to “less enlightened sisters.” According to Ms Hassan, “As a moral obligation, these pious women assume upon themselves the responsibility to point out differences between sin and piety, sunnah or bid’aa, haram or halal. This list of dos and dont’s is expansive, but the world view it generates is as narrow as the confines of the burqa or abaa’ya, which according to Dr Hashmi, must be worn as a commandment from God because Muslim women are ‘required to cover all beauty under the teachings of Islam.’
Ms Hassan, who recently attended one of Dr Hashmi’s sermons on the role of women in Islam, reports that when one woman asked what a wife should do if her husband was unwilling to help her destitute parents, Dr Hashmi promptly quoted verse4: 34 of the Quran, arguing that the wife should comply with her husband’s wishes, “no matter what, as he was her divinely appointed imam.” She made no reference to the Quran stressing the children’s responsibility towards their parents. Ms Hassan writes, “Whether Dr Hashmi’s myopic worldview will gain wider acceptance among the Canadian Muslim community is yet to be seen. What is worrisome, however, is that an increasing number of women are flocking towards this well-known, politically funded, well-organised theologian, as they are not able to critique her rationale due to their own lack of knowledge and understanding. Is this a failure of the moderates and liberals among us? Perhaps. Meanwhile, the establishment of a mini Saudi Arabia right here in Toronto is well under way.” kh