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Canadian Muslims condemn ISIS savagery in Iraq, Syria

Mohammed Azhar Ali Khan

Canadian Muslims – living in a country where race, religion or ethnicity do not produce discrimination or oppression, the law is supreme, freedom of expression is enjoyed by all and the people are friendly and receptive to diversity – are horrified by the barbarity in Syria and Iraq.

They find the so-called Islamic caliphate particularly repulsive because its actions, particularly violent persecution of Shias, Christians, Yazidis, women and moderate Sunnis, violate the basic teachings of Islam that command justice, tolerance, compassion and respect for people of other beliefs. Its brutality goes against the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) whose life clearly illustrated that his mission was to be a mercy for all mankind.

Canadian Muslims worry about ISIS’s brutality for three other reasons. One is that while violence and brutality are common throughout the world and are committed by people of different faiths and also by those who profess no beliefs, the so-called caliphate says it is acting in accordance with Islamic teachings – a monstrous lie.

Another reason is that Canadian Muslims are already facing Islamophobia which hate-mongering bigots have been preaching in Canada, the US and Western Europe. They have not had much success in Canada. But every time someone commits a violent or terrorist act and does so invoking Islam, Canadian Muslims and their religion get portrayed as barbaric and savage.

Finally, the propaganda of these so-called Islamists can brainwash Canadian Muslim youth and turn them to violence. A few Muslim youth in Toronto and Ottawa have been found guilty of attempted terrorism in Canada. Some youth come from war-torn or repressive countries – such as Somalia, Iraq, Iran or Syria – and have had difficulty in adjusting to Canadian life, particularly when they encounter racism. They also become incensed when governments like those of the United States and Israel attack and kill innocent Muslims to steal their land or resources. Some Canadian youth have gone to Somalia, and reportedly to Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, to fight the invaders or their surrogates.

This is not new in Canada. During Spain’s civil war some Canadians fought for the republican side against General Francisco Franco. Some Canadians fought for the US in Vietnam and for Israel against Arabs.

But both the government and the people are taking a dim view of Canadian Muslims giving up the comforts and freedom of Canada to fight in foreign wars.

Islam is the only religion viewed negatively by most Canadians, only 28 percent are favorable. Maclean’s magazine recently warned against the rise of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism in Canada. A reader wrote in response saying that the feelings against Islam are generated by the honor killings, jihad and incidents such as an Afghan mullah raping a 10-year-old girl in a mosque saying he thought she was 17 and then the victim’s family contemplating killing her to save her “honor.”

These are feeble excuses to blame Islam or Muslims. In terms of jihad, most Muslim countries since the First World War have only fought in self-defense with very few exceptions, such as Iraq’s invasion of Iran and later of Kuwait. The mullah’s conduct was criminal. But the priests here have a long record of abusing children in residential schools. Rapes and murders are not uncommon, especially of Aboriginal women, in Canada. These are the products of human weakness, not a result of someone following a particular faith.

Muslims across Canada have condemned the ISIS’s brutality and pretensions, including the Canadian Council of Imams. “We categorically condemn the actions of this group and its monstrous crimes against humanity absolutely and without equivocation,” the imams stated.

They emphasized that “Canadian Muslim communities live peacefully and respectfully with people from different faiths and beliefs, as well as various ethnicities across Canada. They wholeheartedly understand and believe that it is a religious and a civic duty to promote and support peaceful coexistence and multiculturalism and to condemn bigotry, hate and discrimination against any group, here and everywhere: that is essential to being both Muslim and Canadian.” The imams often speak out against extremism, as they did in their 2010 statement, and advise Muslims to avoid it.

Calgary Imam Syed Soharwardy went on a 24-hour hunger strike to express his revulsion against the “crimes against humanity” that are being committed in Syria and Iraq.

The Muslim Coordinating Council of the National Capital Region, which includes 40 Sunni, Shia, women’s, ethnic and youth organizations, also condemned the brutality. It reminded Canadians that “Islam stands for human brotherhood, justice, compassion, integrity, human dignity and equality. Discrimination or persecution of people on the basis of race, religion, gender, nationality or opinion violates basic Islamic principles.”

Other organizations, such as the National Council of Canadian Muslims and leaders in Manitoba, have also strongly condemned the barbarism of the Iraqi-Syrian group. NCCM cited recent, isolated attacks on Muslims in Canada and the defacement of mosques and synagogues to highlight the danger of incitement to hatred.

The challenge for Muslim leaders is to convey this message strongly to Muslim youth and to other Canadians.

— Mohammed Azhar Ali Khan is a retired Canadian journalist, civil servant and refugee judge. 

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