Canadian Muslims 'need to stop behaving as though everything is normal'
By Imam Dr. Yahya Fadlalla
(Yahya Fadlalla is an Imam based in Hamilton. In addition to his Islamic education, he has expertise in terrorism with a doctorate in computer science --specializing in cyber-terrorism, cryptography and information warfare.)
In the aftermath of the 17 Toronto-area people charged with planning terrorist acts, we have to remember they are innocent until prosecuted fairly and transparently and proven guilty in a court of law -- not by the public, the media or our Prime Minister who already judged them: "They hate us because of our way of life."
We also have to remember that these are only 17 from about 750,000 Muslims in the greater Toronto area, most of whom are highly educated and a community with an extremely low crime rate.
In my opinion, Canada will likely face major terrorist acts in the future if certain things do not change. There are three aspects to this: government, media and the Muslim community. If all three are dealt with, I believe the problem can be confronted successfully.
No doubt the vast majority of Islamic establishments, such as mosques, work hard to better and benefit their communities. But some of them are tangled in many problems. It seems to me that the way some so-called imams or leaders run their mosques or organizations is akin to the way the countries they came from are run: by the iron fist of a dictator who seems not to look after anyone except himself, his goals or his ideology.
This is un-Islamic.
Where is our government while some of these organizations collect monies and/or receive funds from foreign lands with ties to terrorists, but are not audited?
Where was the government (and police) when wise Canadian Muslims brought to their attention violations of the law that occur in some mosques and the radical behaviours of some so-called imams and leaders?
As a matter of fact, government and police seem to put wind under the wings of these so-called imams or leaders by meeting and accepting them as liaisons to the Muslim community. In some cases some government officials seem to intentionally get close to the so-called leader or Imam in order to be invited by him to solicit votes from the community, indirectly and unconsciously helping him and his perilous ideology to prosper. This needs to change.
As for the media: They seem not to realize that they are pumping up people who are not only unqualified to give Islamic opinions as they do, but also do not represent the Muslim community. The media, to the insult of many Muslims, call these people community leaders or spokesmen.
The media seem to choose far-leftist Muslims who say the hijab (Muslim women's head-covering) is old-fashioned and must be abolished or state that there are horrifying "problems with Islam." The other faction the media appears to propagate is made up of extremists who classify any beardless Muslim man as an idiot sinner and view Jews and Christians with narrow-mindedness, declaring them Kafirs -- infidels who deserve kidnapping and beheading. (This is contrary to the Koran that calls them with respect Ahl-ul-Kitab --people of the scriptures revealed upon Moses and Jesus).
It is true that there are a few informed Muslim thinkers sporadically interviewed by the media, but much better can be done to depict a true picture of Islam and of Muslim Canadians. Why does the media use terms like "Muslim terrorists", "Muslim radicals" and "Muslim extremists"? Not only does the media seem to insist on using these terms but in publishing the views of some of those extremists, they help spread their radical ideologies.
It is a fact that there are extremists among Muslims, but why are they referred to by their religion? This taints Islam in the eyes of the public and consequently affect Muslims in their job searches and relationships with non-Muslim friends, neighbours, colleagues and, in some cases, family members.
This, in turn, creates and stirs anger in the Muslim community on top of the ongoing frustration caused by what their Muslim brothers and sisters are facing in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and other parts of the world. This anger usually appears to be directed towards the West, including Canada, while it creates sympathy toward Al-Qaeda and Taliban.
The media needs to correct certain practices when it comes to reporting on Muslims and Islam.
Muslim community involvement is important. It starts at home. The only fear parents seem have of the children and the Internet is pornography. But there are thousands of websites that give shocking details of how to, among other things, plan an attack, a hijack or kidnapping, and even tell what to do if you are apprehended.
It is possible for anyone to sit in a room with a computer and get the same information as if he or she were in a training camp in, for example, Afghanistan.
We Muslims also need to be aware of the mosque youths go to and the ideology of its imam and the people they associate with.
It is easier to recruit a 20-year-old who is in a crisis of identity and in search of his place in the community than it is to recruit someone who is in his 40s, married, with a job, career and life experience.
Many of our youths seem to have an identity crisis. A youth thinks he will be like a rock star in his community if he belongs to a group that has a good cause in his inexperienced, innocent and often coached views. However, seen pragmatically, some of these good causes are nothing but terrorism under fancy names such as jihad.
This is an un-Islamic jihad and is un-Islamic Islam.
Denial or marginalization of the problems exists in the Muslim community and the government. About the first week of June, our ambassador to the U.S., appearing before a senate committee in that country, downplayed the existence of terrorism in Canada -- while at the time the U.S. intelligence community (which surely cooperates with its Canadian counterpart) cited about 52 terrorist organizations in Canada.
Some so-called leaders and imams keep denying terrorism exists in the Muslim community.
Some others seem to wrongfully think that it is against Islamic teachings to describe a Muslim as an extremist; more grievously, they seem not to see themselves as such. On the contrary, they appear to consider themselves righteous.
Some others exaggerate and declare that the vast majority of mosques are penetrated by extremists.
These so-called leaders and imam do not realize (or perhaps they do) that they created communities amongst the one Muslim community (Wahhabis, Salafis, Tablighi Jamaat, Sufis, Shi'as, etc.) with their un-Islamic and self-serving ideologies.
Islam strongly teaches unity and abhors disunity and those who cause it (see Koran 3:104-105 and 6:159).
Another possible role of the Muslim community is to make sure what goes in the mosques and organizations is to best serve the interest and betterment of the community, and not serving the so-called imams or leaders who seem to seek meetings with the police and/or government officials to declare they do not condone terrorism and that they call and pray for peace within Canada.
If they sincerely do not condone terrorism, then why did not we see them organize demonstrations and rallies condemning terrorism as they did with controversial cartoons of Prophet Muhammad?
Away from the cameras, some of them seem to encourage hatred, declaring the Jews and Christians who are our neighbours and colleagues as infidels. They exalt their heroes of 9/11 as martyrs and take the devastation wrought by them as intrepidness.
Some so-called imams pray at the end of sermons on Fridays -- in front of gatherings that include energetic yet inexperienced youths -- for the destruction of Jews and Christians.
Upon hearing such prayers, a youth may very possibly start to hate his or her non-Muslim friends and neighbours and think it is his or her duty to pray for their destruction.
Such prayers, I would say, fall under a classification of a hate crime.
When the prayers are not answered, violence is seen as a solution. But, if non-Muslim Canadians were Kafirs, why then did these so-called imams and leaders leave their Muslim countries and come to live and stay in a land of infidels? The Koran says: "... why do you say what you do not, it is grievously hateful in the sight of God that you say what you do not." (Koran 28:3-4.)
Even with regards to unbelievers and infidels, the Koran tells Muslims: "God forbids you not with regards to those who fight you not for (your) faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them, for God Loves those who are just." (Koran 60:8.)
It is a fact on the tongues of Muslims that they have more rights, religious and otherwise, and freedom in Canada than they had in their Muslim countries.
Imams in general seem to forget that the congregations, especially youth, need to see sermons in actions and not only in words. Sermons can include and encourage respecting the law of the land (Canada), loving and protecting it.
Radicals exist everywhere and the fact that they exist in the Muslim community should not be a surprise to anyone. Did we Muslims fail to show that we are peacemakers and peace-lovers? It is time for us Muslims to stop denying our ills or blaming them on others.
Muslims must immediately stop behaving as if everything is normal. Perhaps before we Muslims make statements condemning extremism, we should first condemn those within us that are actively promoting it.
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