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Canada
Prime Minister Jean Chrétien
Visiting the Ottawa Central Mosque
Ottawa, Canada
September 21, 2001

I want to thank you for meeting with me today.

I have come here, as your Prime Minister, to bring a message of reassurance and tolerance.

I know that the days since September 11, 2001 have been ones of great sadness and anxiety for Muslims across Canada. Because the cold-blooded killers who committed the atrocities in New York and Washington invoked the name and words of Islam as justification.

Many of your faith have felt constrained when expressing your sympathy and solidarity with the victims. This despite the fact that many Muslims also perished in the attacks. Worse. Some have been singled out for denunciation and violence. Acts that have no place in Canada or any civilized nation. And which have made me feel shame as Prime Minister.

I wanted to stand by your side today. And to reaffirm with you that Islam has nothing to do with the mass murder that was planned and carried out by the terrorists and their masters.

Like all faiths Islam is about peace. About justice. And about harmony among all people. And I sense your sadness at the way that a great world religion has been unjustly smeared by this evil.

Above all I want to stand by your side to condemn the acts of intolerance and hatred that have been committed against your community since the attack. Let me say that I turn my back on the people who have done this. I have no time for them. And I call on our police and courts to apply the full force of our laws against them.

As a sign of the importance our government attaches to this issue, we have amended the criminal code to provide for tougher sentences for those who are convicted of hate crimes.

While they may feel a righteous motivation for such conduct, nothing could be further from the truth. By giving into hate and an unreasoned thirst for vengeance, they are doing the work of the terrorists, who win when they export their hatred. They are, in my judgement, a disgrace to the memory of the victims.

As I have said, this is a struggle against terrorism, not against any faith or community. And Canada will not use the justification of national security to abandon our cherished values of freedom and tolerance. We will not fall into the trap of exclusion as we have in past.

I say today, once again, that we are all Canadians. We stand together as one against this evil. We grieve together as a family. As one nation we defy the twisted philosophy of the terrorists. And shoulder to shoulder we will pursue the struggle for justice.

END


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©2001 Government of Canada.