By Mohammed Azhar Ali Khan
14th June 2013
Canadian Muslims, trapped between lone-wolf terrorists and Islamophobes determined to malign an entire community for the crimes of a few, are hoping Canadians will remain fair-minded and rebuff the purveyors of hate and lies.
This year terrorists planned or carried out attacks in Boston, Toronto and London. They were nominal Muslims and fumed against Western policies that ravage some Muslim countries. Their criminal actions showed that they do not follow Islamic teachings or care about hurting innocent people or damaging Islam’s image and jeopardizing Muslims living in the West. But for Islamophobes such attacks are manna from heaven. They demonize Islam and Muslims.
A book published in the US this month, “Why the West Fears Islam: Exploration of Islam in Western Liberal Democracies,” asserts that Muslims in the West embrace Western values and favor integration. Jocelyne Cesari, director of Islam in the West program at Harvard University and a senior research fellow at the Berkley Centre for Religion, Peace and World Affairs at Georgetown University, found no evidence that Muslims hate Western civilization or wish to harm the Western countries where they live. She says her study shows that attending mosques promotes social and political integration instead of fomenting extremism.
A study released in February by the Triangle Centre of Terrorism and Homeland Security at Duke University, “Muslim-American Terrorism: Declining Further,” stated that since Sept. 11, 2001, terrorism by Muslims had claimed 33 lives as against the 200 killed by far-right terrorists and the 180,000 who were murdered.
The FBI agrees. Its official website lists all terrorist attacks on US soil from 1980 to 2005. This shows that the most violence came from Latinos (42 percent), Christian groups (24 percent), others (16 percent), Jews (7 percent), Muslims (6 percent) and Communists (5 percent).
In Canada acting Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission stated that “our democratic values define us” and that “in times of panic and confusion we must be at our most vigilant in protecting them.” He quoted Supreme Court of Canada Justices Iacobucci and Arbour who wrote in a 2004 decision that “a response to terrorism within the rule of law preserves and enhances the cherished liberties that are essential to democracy.”
In fact, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police stressed after the VIA-Rail arrests that a Toronto imam had alerted them to the threat enabling them to foil it. Other imams and Muslim leaders in Canada said that they would do the same.
This is where the Islamophobes come in. They assert that Muslims hate the West and threaten its survival. US Islamophobes like Pamela Geller and Daniel Pipes come to Canada to spread their venom disguised as freedom of speech. They are abetted by the hatemongers in Canada.
In Ottawa Pipes got huge coverage from the Islamophobic media which ignore scholars and others who offer balanced views on Islam or the Middle East. The Islamophobic media gleefully carried Pipes’ assertions comparing Islamism (a cover for Islam) to fascism and communism and saying that Islamists (cover for Muslims) want to impose Shariah on the West under a worldwide anti-Western jihad. He termed Islamism (cover for Islam) as “the enemy” and cautioned against Islamists (a cover for Muslims) trying to “get jobs in the media, in the law courts, in the education system, in the political process. That’s how you gain influence and change a society your way.”
Canadian laws bar hatemongering against identifiable groups. If someone had said against Jews what the media quoted Pipes as saying against Muslims, all hell would have broken loose. But if it is Muslims you are attacking, Islamophobic media will gladly lend you a helping hand.
As in the US, mosques have been targeted in Canada. In the last three years mosques or mosque sites have been vandalized or defaced in Ottawa, Gatineau, Guelph, Montreal, Hamilton, Waterloo, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Durham and Charlottetown. In May an attempt was made to set fire to a mosque in Vancouver.
However, Muslims have also received support. When one Jewish organization in Toronto invited Pamela Geller, a notorious American Islamophobe, the Toronto Board of Rabbis publicly stated that they find Geller’s extremist views on Islam and the invitation to her “distasteful.” Her views are well known in Canada, the Rabbis said, and her speaking in Toronto would only increase tensions.
A 2011 national survey showed that only 43 percent of the 2,345 Canadians polled by the Montreal-based Association for Canadian Studies expressed “very positive” or “somewhat positive” perceptions of Muslims. This compares with that of the Chinese (75 percent), Protestants, Blacks and Hispanics/Latin Americans (74 percent), Catholics (73 percent), Jews (72 percent) and francophones (70 percent).
Clearly the poison being served to Canadians by Islamophobes is producing results. News from countries like Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq is not helping either. Canadian Muslims, themselves divided and largely ineffective, face a major challenge.
Mohammed Azhar Ali Khan is a retired Canadian journalist, civil servant and refugee judge.