The Globe and Mail | Overcoming Islamophobia: Fear is never the best basis for action

How might non-Muslim Canadians engage intelligently in the conversation we all need to have?

To begin, I suggest that they:

  • Read two books by the thoughtful English writer Karen Armstrong, entitled Islam: A Short History and Muhammad: A Prophet for Our Time, plus Globe and Mail columnist Doug Saunders’s The Myth of the Muslim Tide: Do Immigrants Threaten the West?
  • Visit the Aga Khan Museum (as well as its gardens) in Toronto and appreciate the rich culture included in the exhibitions. Also, as a caution, visit the Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba where, after the Muslims were driven out of Spain in the 13th century, their monumental mosque was converted into a Catholic cathedral (to my eye, a monstrosity even though I normally love medieval cathedrals), marring a place of rare peace and beauty.
  • Watch Islamic Art: Mirror of the Invisible World, a documentary film that has been shown on PBS and is available on DVD.
There are about a million Muslims in Canada, and 1.6 billion around the world, one-quarter of whom reside in India and Indonesia.
There are about a million Muslims in Canada, and 1.6 billion around the world, one-quarter of whom reside in India and Indonesia.

Earlier & Related

Karen Armstrong, author of Islam: A Short History and Muhammad: A Prophet for Our Time
Karen Armstrong, author of Islam: A Short History and Muhammad: A Prophet for Our Time

Aga Khan Museum and Ismaili Centre Urbantoronto
L->R: Ismaili Centre, Toronto & Aga Khan Museum within the unifying Aga Khan Park

ESSAY: Overcoming Islamophobia: Fear is never the best basis for action
WILLIAM A. MACDONALD, Special to The Globe and Mail
Published Friday, Aug. 14, 2015 1:06PM EDT
Last updated Saturday, Aug. 15, 2015 10:59AM EDT

There is no valid reason for Islamophobia, no matter what Islamic State or homegrown extremists claiming to act in the name of Islam do in Canada, the United States or other countries. We cannot let 0.003 per cent of the Muslim world speak for the other 99.997 per cent. Canada must avoid this error – and it can. The answer is simple. It requires a willingness by us all to think for ourselves, to be open with others, and, most importantly, to engage in conversation. Fortunately, that conversation is already under way.

Fear can goad people into action, but it is never a good guide for that action. For some reason, Americans seem to be more naturally fearful than Canadians, and the media there stoke that fear more than Canadian media do. The primary danger for us is succumbing to that heightened fear through contagion. The best antidote is calm, common sense and fair-minded discussion. We all have a stake.

Mackenzie King, arguably Canada’s most successful prime minister, once said he wanted to be remembered not for what he achieved, but for what he avoided. Most important, he avoided the breakdown of unity during the Second World War. Today, in a world preoccupied by extreme terrorist violence, it is essential that Canada, in relation to its Muslim population, avoid a repetition of its failure so far to deal with its First Nations in a mutually accommodating way.

The numbers tell their own story. There are about a million Muslims in Canada, and 1.6 billion around the world, one-quarter of whom reside in India and Indonesia. Despite the current problems particular to Islam, there is no irresistible link between Islam itself and terrorism. No Muslim country is in the world’s top 20 in terms of homicides per capita, nor is Islam associated with any of the 10 largest genocides in history.

Map: World Distribution of Muslim Population This “weighted” map of the world shows each country’s relative size based on its Muslim population. Figures are rounded to the nearest million. (Image credit: Pew Forum)

The only long-run solution to the relationship between Islam and the rest of the world is rooted in mutual accommodation. Whatever is being done to fight terrorism must always keep that reality in mind. Words matter, and we should avoid to the extent possible including the terms Islamic or Muslim in our descriptions of extremism or terrorism, even if the violence is being done in the name of Islam. Readers already know that’s what al-Qaeda and Islamic State claim.

Read the complete essay in it’s entirety at The Globe and Mail | Overcoming Islamophobia: Fear is never the best basis for action

Also Discover, Explore & Learn more about the “Canadian Difference” and Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life

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