Israel ambassador's comments 'unjustified': critics
Published Thursday, May 8, 2008 10:00PM EDT
Israeli Ambassador to Canada Alan Baker on Thursday defended comments he made to a national newspaper regarding Canada's Muslim population.
Alan Baker told The Globe and Mail he is concerned Canada's burgeoning Muslim population is shifting this country's policies in the Middle East. The Globe interview appears on the same day Israel celebrates its 60th year of independence.
Baker told CTV's Mike Duffy Live that Muslim communities have impacted foreign policy in countries like Britain, France and Scandanavia -- and that he "fears" Canada might follow.
"And I think that wouldn't gel with Canadian values of mutual respect," said Baker.
His comments have sparked criticism from the Opposition and members of Canada's Muslim community.
Bob Rae, Liberal MP and foreign affairs critic, said he doesn't agree with comments the ambassador made in the Globe.
"I think Ambassador Baker should reflect on his comments because I don't think they were either accurate or constructive," Rae told CTV News on Thursday.
Baker asks in the interview whether the growing numbers of Muslims in Canada will "absorb" themselves into Canadian society, or "push" their values and principles onto Canadians.
"And this is the gist of the problem," Baker said in the interview with the Globe.
A representative from the Canadian Arab Federation accuses Baker of trying to sow "division" and "bigotry" in Canada.
"It's up to our government to make it clear that they will not tolerate such behaviour," Khaled Mouammar, the federation's national president, told CTV's Newsnet on Thursday in Toronto.
Mouammar is calling on Baker to retract his comments and issue an apology. He also suggested that Ottawa "rebuke" the ambassador.
On Mike Duffy Live, Baker said the comments were only a small part of an otherwise long interview with the Globe about Israel's achievements over the past 60 years.
Baker told Duffy that his main concern is that he is too often greeted by Muslim activists preventing him from speaking publicly.
"My problem is with attempts to prevent me or any other pro-Israel spokesperson from being able to give our opinions or respond to questions and this is what happens to me on (university) campuses or various other places."
Baker also alleged in the Globe interview that Liberal MP for Mississauga-Erindale Omar Alghabra, a Muslim, has been "less than friendly" on his views of Israel, although he does not provide a specific example. Baker stressed he has nothing against the fact Muslims are members of the Canadian Parliament. But he said,"it worries me that the type of political influence that we're seeing in Britain, in France, might ultimately reach the Canadian political system."
Alghabra told CTV News he found Baker's comments "shocking and inappropriate."
"It's disappointing that he was speaking in generalizing terms and in a divisive way," he said.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is scheduled visit Israel in June. Baker says it's an important visit because of Canada's involvement in Israel's peace process and Canadian visibility is important there.