How Muslims should interact with CSIS

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You might say: “They can spy on me, I have nothing to hide!” People who say this demonstrate they do not understand the issue in the first place. The issue is: who’s looking at your information (unqualified), how it’s being interpreted (to make judgments about you), and how your information is being used (usually for power).

Like MI5, the FBI, ASIO, the Canadian Securities Intelligence Service (CSIS) is Canada’s spy agency. In this article, we’ve collected years of experience to help the Muslim community in Canada understand CSIS. This includes Imams, Activists, Community Leaders, and Masajid/Masjids — all of whom will likely encounter CSIS as some point or another. It is the duty of every Muslim and Canadian, Imam or layperson to uphold our principles, stand for justice, and speak the truth when it comes to injustice. But if one doesn’t understand the injustice of CSIS, they may not be compelled to speak to their community or media. That is why we made this article. So what should you do if you’re contacted by CSIS? Before we make a conclusion about CSIS, let’s first understand them better insha’Allah….

We’ve all gone through customs before. And it’s standard procedure now that when we are going to or returning to a country, a Customs offer will ask us certain questions to meet a certain criteria. After we’ve met that criteria, we’re free to go. Likewise, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) operates in a similar way. However, sometimes they take it much further by persistently probing and searching for information – sometimes for links or connections that were never there in the first place. On their website (https://www.csis.gc.ca), they state that their partners are the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), Correctional Service Canada (CSC), the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), and the  Communications Security Establishment (CSE). I raise this point because it’s important for Muslims to understand that these organizations share information. And hence, if CSIS has a problem with you (i.e. you don’t collaborate or work for them), they may contact their “friend” at the CBSA, and all of a sudden you might have a problem at the airport. The main difference between the regular police and CSIS is that will persistently probe an individual or organization, whether they are guilty of a crime or not. They also will rarely ever tell you why they’re contacting you or infringing on your rights. It’s like being fined and ticketed by a police officer but never being able to know why. Their goal is not to make you feel like a respected citizen or to take you at your word. Their goal is carry our what their supervisors, managers, and policy makers tell them to do. Like many of us, they do what they’re paid to do. And as a result, your experience with particular CSIS officer has more to do with the objectives of the people at the job, and less to do with the actual CSIS employee. And sometimes, it often has more to do with ideology and beliefs than actual security. It’s about protecting a very patriotic sense of nationalism, or staunch secular-liberal values — this is something that even many non-Muslims may disagree with (environmentalists, socialist movements that desire the freedom of expression). For CSIS, their tactics are always justified. The end justifies the means. And for Muslims, this is concerning.  While we want security for all (Americans, Canadians, Afghans, Iraqis, or Palestinians), others tend to behave where they’re only concerned about security based on a nationalistic identity — a shallow criteria because it begins to dehumanize our fellow human beings on this earth. Muslims cannot accept this infringements of our rights and privileges. Our faith is opposed to spying, mistreatment of minorities (even Christians or Jews living in a Muslim country), collusion, and pressure to get a minority population to conform and/or reform. There is so much misinformation and a lack of information among Muslim-Canadians about how CSIS operates. We hope this work will help Muslims in Canada and in the long-term, create a a better Canada for all of us. Feel free to contact us at “islamic.sunlight {at} gmail [dot] com” if you have any questions or comments.

The most important things to do when contacted by CSIS:

(1) Remain calm and professional. Ask the agent to call you back or wait. Record them on camera or record what they say to you using a voice recorder. If applicable, upload the recording on YouTube and send it your local Masjid, media outlets, and newspapers immediately. You are welcome to remove your name to remain confidential. Never keep it to yourself. And never feel guilty. CSIS will often use tactics whereby you feel compelled to speak to them. Realize they are a part of greater agenda, that is inclined towards a neoconservative/far-right policy.. CSIS has very little to do with national security and more to do with safeguarding elitist policies and power.

(2) If contacted by CSIS, realize: (a) they do not have the power to arrest. Their job is to simply collect information. Their concern is not to help or harm you, but rather they are an organization with a large budget that looks and searches for issues even if there aren’t any. (b) realize that you have no obligation to speak to them and this is probably one of the best things you can do. CSIS will rarely and barely ever tell you the real reason for which they are contacting you. Sometimes speaking to them too much can actually make them more suspicious of you. (c) If you have to meet with CSIS (which is rarely the case), make sure you have an experienced lawyer present.

(3) Make du’a (prayer) to Allah subhana wa t’ala. Say your Salah. During the life of the Prophet Muhammad, salalahu ‘alayhi wasalam, he faced many psychological hardships and stress. This was the example of the Prophets — our real role models.  Feelings of anxiety and paranoia and guilt are natural. Reading the Qur’an is one of the best things you can do. Muslims need to remember to be courageous and principled. In reality, if you think about it, receiving a phone call or knock on the door, is actually nothing compared to what others have underwent. There is no reason to overreact and frankly, if you are involved in the Muslim community in Canada, you can expect CSIS to contact you as some point in time. The issue is not so much with CSIS. Thorns in our should will always exist, it’s a part of life. What’s really the issue is how you react. We need to react wisely and strategically. Although we all know that they enforce discriminatory policies in a post-9/11 and Islamophobic climate, it’s easier to said than realized. So enjoy it. Enjoy the process of striving for justice and dismantling the notion everyone has your interest in mind. Ease cannot be achieved without hardships. We should feel sorry for CSIS and the people that work for them. They deserve to know the truth about Islam and Muslims. I’m sure there are some people in CSIS that genuinely believe that they are doing good work. But there’s also a lot of problems that emanate from the top-down and their policies. Below we will share some insights and awareness about how CSIS operates.

A video every Canadian should watch:

A few things you need to understand about CSIS:

(1) CSIS’ strategies with the Muslim community

a) In a MA thesis paper published by McMaster University and supervised by Professor Celia Rothenberg, when CSIS contacts a member of the Muslim community they will use the following strategies. Please note, in our experience, we hold a strong opinion that CSIS at no point in time is required to be honest with the people they’re contacting. And in fact, very likely, they are contacting an individual/organization for a different reason other than stated:

-“We’re contacting you as a part of an outreach effort”
-“We’re conducting research and we’d like to hear about your experiences overseas”
-“We’d like to ask you about people whom you may have known”

b) When CSIS interacts with people of influence, organization, or individuals they deem to be important, they often have a softer and more respectful approach. This has to do with their objective at the time of contacting the person of interest. If their objective is to get information, establish a relationship, or influence that person, they often send CSIS officers who are acquainted with Islamic culture and strong interpersonal skills. Some CSIS officers are known say “Peace Be Upon Him” after the name of the Prophet Muhammad (salalahu ‘alayhi wasalam). And while Muslims would certainly appreciate this, at the same time, those Muslims meeting with CSIS shouldn’t be naive. By understanding CSIS, you will understand that Muslims ought to have a balanced approach to CSIS — this is especially important for community leaders. Being too cozy with CSIS, discredits a community leader’s reputation, to the point where their own community members may not respect them or find them to be approachable. This is an understanding based on principle and not personal whims and desires. Likewise, the same goes for the African-American or Native community. Young African-Canadians or members of Black Lives Matter wouldn’t respect their community leaders if they knew that their leaders had a cozy relationship with CSIS. Islamically speaking, Muslims are a people who are balanced. We don’t overly dislike someone or love someone based on our whims. And hence, when it comes to an organization that has a lengthy history of bullying the Muslim community (i.e. it’s not just Maher Arar, there are many Maher Arar’s in Canada), Muslims must be courageous and act on principle.

c) When CSIS meeting with people of interest who they deem to be of little importance, they may use a harsher tone and even bully this person. We spoke to a Canadian Muslim psychologist who had also been contacted by CSIS, and he believes this tactic is used deliberately. The goal is to put pressure on the person to possible have a meeting, establish a relationship, or get that individual to change their views and/or become less outspoken.

It’s difficult to read the above. We live in a democratic disposition. We are told we have the freedom of belief, the freedom of speech, and the freedom of religion. However, this is not always true. A citizen of any country should always be fair and balanced. Yes, we love our country, in the sense that this is our home that we help to build. However, our countries are not perfect and we should always strive to improve them. We often hear the fallacious argument: “well at least your not in North Korea.”If country X has raped 10 people, and country Y has raped 2 people, do we say “well at least country Y is better than country X.” Of course not. That is because when it comes to justice, we must be act on principle, not emotions. Although we know that there’s never 100% justice in this life, we must always hold ourselves and others to an ideal and objective standard. Because it is the principles that make us who we are and that determine our success — if we followed our whims and desires instead (the epitome of subjective judgement), we’d destroy ourselves. A good way to remember to act on principle is to incline towards empathy and not sympathy. For example, the drone operator that kills innocent civilians decides not to push the button because they put themselves in the shoes of the civilians they are killing (empathy). But the same drone operator might push the button, because he doesn’t resonate or see those civilians as human beings. He has no sympathy for them — his desires lead his behavior. It’s our principles that should dictate our behavior and controls our desires.

CSIS and its affiliates can and may try restrict a Canadian’s travel. For example: withholding their passport during renewal time. Or preventing them from flying to entering neighboring countries. They may do this even if a person has never broken the law or committed a crime. Muslims should not be intimidated by such cheap moves. Instead, we should look at this as an opportunity to engage the media, spread awareness, and start organizations that educate Muslims and non-Muslims about the realities taking place under our noses.

 

CSIS’ historical record and track record

Most civil liberty violations by CSIS go unreported. This is because Muslims would rather have the matter be kept private and do not want media attention. The vast majority of CSIS investigations or suspicions turn out to be innocent. This means that the Canadian-Muslim populous undergoes psychological pressure when in fact much of it is unnecessary. Below are some important incidents involving CSIS and Islam or Muslims that have been given media attention:

Maher Arar
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maher_Arar

Omar Khair – Amnesty International – sending children to prison
http://www.amnestyusa.org/news/press-releases/usa-khadr-trial-at-guantanamo-condemned

Ken Stone – contacted by CSIS for writing a letter
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Su4LIxN1UeY

Abousfian Abdelrazik
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/abdelrazik-accuses-csis-of-harassment-1.824723

CSIS exaggerated case on Montreal man in Sudan jail, watchdog says
http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2013/10/31/csis_exaggerated_case_on_montreal_man_in_sudan_jail_watchdog_says.html

We have inside information that:

-CSIS has approached mosques in Canada and asked WHY a particular person delivered a sermon (“khutbah”). This should upset every Muslim in Canada, that CSIS would try to regulate our freedom of religion and freedom to express ourselves. No Muslim agrees, promotes or believes in harming civilians. This is a myth promoted by the far-right and media. Hence, it should be known that a small percentage of CSIS is concerned about security (which Muslims have no problem with and desire themselves), much of CSIS’ activities revolve around dissent and regulating ideology.

-CSIS has also contacted mosques claiming that they suspect a radical/extremist/fundamentalist recruiter is among their congregation. However, they fail to mention names. In our opinion, we believe this strategy is used to put pressure on a mosque.

-During the Harper government, they prevented a particular CBC show and/or topic from airing which involved Muslims and could potentially exposed injustices. This likely happened between 2011 and 2014. And Muslims affiliated with Windsor, Ontario were involved. Please contact us if you’d like to work with us on getting more information about this issue to the media.

-Unlike the MI5 in Britain, CSIS does not send official letters when they want to meet with you. Strangely, their policy states that they will randomly appear at your house, call you, and worse case scenario, show up at your work.

The irony of CSIS: they perpetuate the problem they seek to cure. They’ve created an atmosphere where Muslims fear speaking openly about certain issues, even though these issues cause no harm to anyone. As a result, young people have lost faith in some community leaders, and resort to the internet for their Islamic knowledge. While the internet has much good to offer, if a Muslim isn’t aware of authentic knowledge, they may adopt misunderstandings and their role to be an effective and efficient Muslim to share and spread Islam.

 

Know your rights – meeting with or speaking to CSIS

If you have to meet with CSIS, make sure that you have a lawyer present. Why? To answer this question, one needs to understand CSIS. Like most intelligence agencies, CSIS does not have your interests in mind. They do not exist to give you the benefit of the doubt or to defend your rights as a Canadian. They are there to collect information and possibly share with other bodies and organizations (RCMP, CBSA, Passport Canada, Canada Immigration, Passenger Protect, etc.). Hence, when you say something to them, you may perceive or interpret it in one way; however, they may interpret it in another way. Also, having a lawyer present, they are there to protect your interest, and to ensure CSIS does not use sleazy or disrespectful tactics, and ensures that you are not recruited as an informant.

Some Muslim community members such as Muhammad Robert Heft and Naseer Irfan Syed take a more liberal and lighter approach to meeting with CSIS. However, if you ask the majority of lawyers, CAIR, civil liberty organizations, and the National Council
of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), most will advise you to have a lawyer present.

Try your best to ensure that the meeting with CSIS is recorded on audio and/or video.

The best thing to do if and when you are contacted is to make noise. Always remain calm and professional; however, if you can, ask the CSIS officer to call you back or come back in a few minutes. If and when they do, record everything on your cell phone camera or use a voice recorder. Afterwards, report the incident immediately to the National Council of Canadian Muslims, SIRC, and your local Masjid. If you want to go beyond that, get the media involved. The last thing CSIS wants to do is shed light on its big-brother and discriminatory policies to the Canadian public. This could and would lead to a loss of confidence that Canadians have in their government.

Below is an article by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) on CSIS:
CSIS AND YOUR RIGHTS: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
https://ccla.org/csis-and-your-rights-what-you-need-to-know/

Know your rights: what to do when contacted by CSIS by the People’s Commission Canada
http://www.peoplescommission.org/en/csis/booklet.php


Conclusion
 

 

Putting the word “Canadian” in front of your organization’s name doesn’t mean much. If anything, CSIS is an un-Canadian organization. Our advice to those who are employees to CSIS is to uphold Canadian values by leaving CSIS, and writing about your experiences and the discrimination your witnessed to the media. Courage and wisdom go hand in hand. Historically, intelligence agencies been an extension of the military, government, and right-wing nationalistic politics or policies. Many community leaders and Imams think that CSIS is a harmless, friendly, innocent organization that is part of the Canadian makeup. There is much work to be done in order to equip Imams and community leaders with a balanced perception. We have become a timid community. And then we wonder why the youth are so passive and apathetic. CSIS is doing what they’re meant to do: intimidate and pressure the Muslim community. But Fear Allah (swt), not CSIS. Keep speaking the truth, keep helping build and constitute to a better and more positive society, and keep educating yourself and others about Islam.

 

Primary resources for understanding CSIS

Below is an article by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) on CSIS:
CSIS AND YOUR RIGHTS: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
https://ccla.org/csis-and-your-rights-what-you-need-to-know/

Know your rights: what to do when contacted by CSIS by the People’s Commission Canada
http://www.peoplescommission.org/en/csis/booklet.php

The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) [formerly CAIR-CAN]
http://www.nccm.ca
Report and Incident and Seek Free Advice

SIRC – file a complaint against CSIS:
http://www.sirc-csars.gc.ca/cmpplt/index-eng.html

Secondary resources for understanding CSIS and our civil liberties when it comes to the CBSA, RCMP, CSEC, Immigration and Passport Canada, Public Safety, the Canadian government, etc.

Must-watch documentary film:
http://www.secrettrial5.com

Amaryllis Fox interview with +AJ

Is waiting for the government’s permission to discuss topics inside a mosque a sign of courage, leadership and community wisdom? Perhaps knowing “how” to discuss issues, increasing  one’s verbiage and social and political knowledge, and revisiting the principles in the Qur’an and Seerah is the issue:
Let us debate radicalization in mosques to stop it, say Muslim leaders

Article by Shanifa Nasser and Phil Gurski:
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/deradicalization-foreign-policy-1.3562405

Bill C-51 explained:
http://www.cjfe.org/billc51?gclid=CMja7b6Azc0CFQ-raQodKsoAeA

Misc videos:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Su4LIxN1UeY
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yx2BO2Wj1dc
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DFATmKAeUm4

Muslim Students Association (MSA) contacted by CSIS:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rZ6f7ZXe7Nc

Glen Greenwald – Canada and why privacy matters:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iD2LIOUT1Q0

Why are Canadian children on the no-fly list?
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/why-are-canadian-children-still-on-no-fly-lists-and-what-can-be-done/article30629435/

Why Muslims should oppose mass surveillance:

Why Muslims should oppose mass surveillance

Know your rights by CAGE UK:
http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLTGyoVMlXIh0zOijj6TxetGJ_QCNXonM1

Islam hijacked:
http://5pillarsuk.com/2014/08/10/tariq-ramadan-why-i-will-no-longer-attend-isna-and-ris-conferences

Articles by Muslim Matters:
http://muslimmatters.org/2010/01/11/occupation-not-islam-breeds-terrorism

http://muslimmatters.org/2010/10/18/yasir-qadhi-the-lure-of-radicalism-amongst-muslim-youth/

Documentaries for Muslim – keep yourself aware:
www.virtualmosque.com/society/entertainment/documentaries-you-should-watch

The Secret Trial 5 Documentary Film
www.secrettrial5.com

CSIS bullying:
http://www.canada.com/montrealgazette/news/saturdayextra/story.html?id=af2ed3cb-28b9-43a8-b1f6-899018fa580d

Smokescreen: Canadian Security Intelligence After September 11, 2001
Book by J Michael Cole (former CSIS employee)

Excellent research paper: how CSIS and Canadian government programs have shaped Canadian Muslims’ national and religious identity (MA Thesis, McMaster University):

Muslims national and religious identity

Canadian Intelligence Expert considers Deobandis of Pakistan to be an offshoot of the Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia, even though he considers both those countries to be allies of the West. He says they are both extremist sects (even though their scholars have been at the forefront of combating kharijism and promoting peace & security). He then goes on to say that “Tablighi Jamaat” is a “political arm” and “political front.” He says they try to keep the youth as “militarized” as possible. Our comments: any Muslim with an I.Q. above 10 realizes the idiocy and stupidity of these statements. These are our “intelligence experts.” This pro-Israeli “expert” spoke at the NATO Canada “Canada and the New Middle East” Conference in 2012. Ironically, the conference was in partnership with “Advocates for Civil Liberties” and “The Atlanntic Council of Canada” but really should have just said we’re here to spread our imperialist ideology.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkq5_PmLtcE#t=49m

Evidence of Torture in Canada & Executive Action: CSIS, RCMP, CBSA (The Jack and Mae Nathanson Centre on Transnational Human Rights, Crime and Security, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AluU1YRL5zg

Due to the lack of understanding of Muslims and amateur understanding of Islamic culture, it’s easy for CSIS to misinterpret someone. There’s definitely a weakness in terms of a lack of objectivity. Even if someone agreed with CSIS’ or CSEC’s methods, they sometimes lack the expertise to decipher and understand mainstream Islam VS the factions that are a security threat. More than a graduate degree and title is needed for someone to be an expert. But then again, their goal really may not be to decipher or secure Canada’s interest in the first place. As a result of this lack of expertise, they may be at times wasting resources and tax dollars. The majority of the time, they may misprofile or discriminate unjustly, and hence sacrifice Canadian principles for a false sense of security.

Government intervention in the Muslim Community (GIMC):
http://www.facebook.com/govintervention

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