Why Haroon Siddiqui matters

We have no idea what Haroon Saddiqui plans to do with his time and his talents, now that he has retired from his well-served vocation as a leading columnist and commentator at the Toronto Star.

On the other hand, we are convinced that he has been faithful to that vocation during his 17 years at the Star and that he has made a valuable contribution to our shared mission of focusing attention and concern on the many issues about which we care deeply.

The core principle here is that he took his journalistic work seriously, not just because it was his job but mainly because he genuinely cared about the issues. He fully understood that the “issues” affected the people and he cared about the people, their needs and their interests.

That is what he stood for and that is what the Caribbean Camera stands for. We stood together with him on the major issue of the crass, opportunistic and mercenary politics of demonizing the Islamic faith and Muslim people being perpetrated here in Canada in the context of this year’s federal elections.

Haroon would have none of it and he went out of his way to point out how such irresponsible and reprehensible politics harms our Muslim community, infringes their basic human rights and sows division in our society in such a dangerous way as to threaten the respect and tolerance to be shown towards all persons, faiths and cultures, the very values on which Canadian society is built.

Similarly, Haroon chastised the federal government for the latter’s blind obsession with equating “terrorism” and violent extremism with Islam and Muslims. He harped mercilessly on the consequent decision to participate in ill-conceived wars against so-called Islamic terrorists abroad.

He highlighted the disastrous implications of such policies for Canada’s reputation as an agent for international peace, security and conflict resolution. He ridiculed the attack on Muslim women’s right to wear the veil.

Even though the absurdity of those official attitudes did not escape him, perhaps he did not think it necessary to rain fire and brimstone on the traditional acceptance of the wearing of the veil by Roman Catholic nuns, the centuries-long persecution and atrocities visited on non-Christian “infidels” (including Jews) in Europe, and the “Holy Crusades” inflicted on non-Christian countries by kings and emperors acting in the name of Christianity.

For those of you who are not familiar with his work and for those of you who have not yet seen his two-part sayonara to the Star’s readers, we strongly recommend both parts: “Challenges we’ve met, and new ones we will need to” published on March 29 and “Haroon Siddiqui’s parting reflections on career and country” published on April 1.

We congratulate you, Haroon. We are proud of you and we are grateful for the professionalism and the sense of social responsibility that have guided and motivated you over the long years!