: ظفر بنگش
) (born circa 1950
) is a noted Islamic movement journalist and commentator and a leader of the Muslim community in Ontario
Bangash is Director of the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought (ICIT), and president of the Islamic Society of York Region, a suburb of Toronto. He is imam at the Islamic Society of York Region's mosque and community centre in Richmond Hill, Ontario. He is a former editor of Crescent International newsmagazine, and a Trustee and formerly assistant director of the Muslim Institute, London, where he worked with Dr Kalim Siddiqui (1931-1996), the founder of the Muslim Institute and Leader of the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain. Bangash is also co-founder of the Muslim Unity Group.
He is best known for his commentaries current affairs while editor of Crescent International. Though he stepped down as editor since joining the ICIT, e continues as as a columnist and contributor to Crescent.
In 2007, as a spokesperson for the Muslim Unity Group in Toronto, Bangash appeared with other Muslim leaders at a Toronto press conference calling for the Ontario government and Toronto District School Board
to address the problem of increased harassment of Muslims and racial minorities since 9-11
He was the keynote speaker at a 2007 Marxist conference in Toronto prompting Bangash critic Tarek Fatah of the liberal Muslim Canadian Congress to comment "For atheists, considered worthy of the death penalty by Islamists, to team up with their ultimate opponents in attacking Canadian civic society, demonstrates the fundamental bankruptcy of these two political ideologies." Bangash justified his collaboration with secular leftists saying "The issues of justice, inequality and poverty are common themes we can work together on. They are concerns of conscience."
Bangash was the focus of controversy when his association with a planned mosque in Newmarket, Ontario was used as a rallying point by opponents attempting to convince the municipality to rescind zoning approval for the building. A group called "Concerned Citizens Against Terror for Citizens of Newmarket" led by Ron Banerjee of the Hindu Conference of Canada and Meir Weinstein of the Jewish Defence League organized protests and a public meeting against the mosque's construction. Banerjee claimed that Bangash himself posed a "clear and present danger to the safety and security" of the country. The protest group was accused by one community member of not being members of the community and coming in from outside for the purpose of "stirring the pot". Mosque leaders have said that while Bangash is president of the Islamic Society of York Region to which the new mosque belongs, he is not the mosque's imam and has no direct involvement with the facility.
In June 2007, the Canadian Arab Federation (CAF) honoured Bangash at a gala dinner for his "unwavering" support of Palestine. CAF President Khaled Mouammar also defended Bangash, stating that "he is a man of dignity" and that "he has no blood on his hands like those Israeli war criminals who come to Canada and are received by our politicians, like Ariel Sharon."
Bangash is a supporter of the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran
and has called for Islamic revolutions in other countries, stating that "Muslims must strive to overthrow the oppressive systems in their societies through Islamic revolutions, and not by participating in fraudulent elections organized by the elites operating through various political parties that actually divide the people." Tarek Fatah describes him as the "unofficial spokesperson for the Iranian regime in Canada." However, Bangash has denied being an advocate of creating an Islamic theocracy
telling the Toronto Star
"I am suggesting not necessarily an Iranian-style theocracy but I am advocating that people in the Muslim world should get rid of their corrupt regimes in the same way as the people of Iran got rid of the corrupt regime of the shah, of course."
In 2004, the Toronto District School Board
proposed the introduction of "anti-homophobia education" at a downtown Toronto school. Bangash was outspoken in supporting the right of Muslim parents to exclude their children from classes discussing families with same-sex parents. "We don't want our children subject to that kind of thinking. It's very clear in our belief that marriage is between a man and a woman. It goes against the core beliefs of Muslims; our understanding springs directly from the Qur'an," said Bangash.
Bangash opposes the United States
calling it is "the greediest, most exploitative, most manipulative, most hypocritical and most ruthless power that the world has ever known." He has also written that "unless the US and Israel realise that their murderous policies, far from cowing the Muslims, will only intensify hatred for them, there will be peace neither in the Muslim world nor for the US and its zionist surrogate, Israel.
In an interview with on the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), Bangash stated that:
"the imam's [Ayatollah Khomeini] designation of the U.S. as a great Satan was very precise. It emerged from a very careful study and understanding of the behaviour of the United States government and its policies down the generations...It has perpetrated over there [in Iraq] under the guise of delivering democracy and freedom when tens of thousands if not hundred of thousands of innocent people have been murdered in cold blood similar crimes are being perpetrated in Palestine by the US support of the Zionist occupiers of Palestine... It is an evil power that it needs to be dealt with and it needs to be continued and put in its place.
He told the National Post that he believes that the U.S. government knew of Osama bin Laden's plans to launch the 9/11 attacks in advance and allowed them to occur in order to provide a pretext for attacking Afghanistan.
He rejects the notion of a two-state solution
or a power-sharing arrangement between Jews and Palestinians stating that Israeli Jews should "go back where they came from:the US, Canada Europe, Russia, or whoever is willing to take them in." Bangash has also stated that "Zionist thugs will have to vacate every inch of Palestine if there is to be justice (and therefore peace) in that tortured land. At the Toronto Peace & Justice Conference in March of 2006, Bangash gave a speech in which he stated that "for the state of Israel, peace would mean when all the Palestinians have been put into the graveyard, six feet down.
On the question of suicide bombing Bangash told the Vancouver Sun that he opposes the targeting of innocent civilians. He argues that suicide bombing is an act of desperation by a people who do not have the tanks, aircraft and advanced weaponry - "it's the Israelis who have them, they are using them, and people under occupation have the right under international law to resist their occupiers." He also claimed that suicide bombers usually attack military targets.
2006 Israel-Lebanon War
Bangash was active in protests against the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war
at one point eliciting cheers when he announced the number of Israeli soldiers killed by Hezbollah
forces during the conflict.
Criticism of Taliban and Osama bin Laden
Bangash has criticized the Taliban
and Osama bin Laden
saying their strategy was "the most stupid approach to take because you cannot convince the U.S. by attacking the U.S. You cannot force the U.S. to change its policies; you have to change your own situation in Muslim countries." He has also criticized Bin Laden's call for jihad
against the West saying "An individual cannot issue a jihad... Only highly qualified scholars respected through the Muslim world can do that, not somebody sitting on some mountain."
Canadian intervention in Afghanistan
Bangash has spoken out at rallies against Canada's role in the invasion of Afghanistan
calling for a national referendum on Canada's continued participation in the war.
Support from Peter Leibovitch
Peter Leibovitch, who is Jewish and a long-time friend of Bangash, has defended him against his critics saying "we live in a free society and have the right to different positions," adding that many in the Jewish community don't support decisions made by the Israeli government. "And a lot of Jews are not happy with (U.S. President) George Bush's new militarism... Zafar Bangash doesn't agree with American foreign policy nor do millions of Canadians. I didn't know it's a crime not to agree with George Bush."
Relationship with non-Muslims
Bangash told the Toronto Star
that when his Richmond Hill mosque opened, he and his congregation "went out of our way to contact the neighbours, contact the churches, Jewish groups, all kinds of people. We have invited to this centre United Church ministers to come and speak, Mennonite pastors to come and speak." In 2005, the mosque held a service in which every member of the congregation was asked to bring someone who was non-Muslim. Speaking to reporter Michael Valpy
, Bangash said that the mosque was packed and that “The congregation was thrilled by the result". Following the 9-11 attacks a Mennonite
pastor, Gordon Alton, contacted the mosque. Bangash, in his words, "broke all the rules of Islam" and asked Alton to preach at the mosque. “I think never in history had that been done before,” Bangash said, “but I felt we needed to return [his] gesture.”