We’re Muslims, but not terrorists
By Mansoor Ladha for Ismailimail.
Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, have been identified as mass shooting suspects of San Bernardino. Abdelhamid Abaaoud has been named as the mastermind behind the Paris massacre, which killed 129 people. One of the Paris bombers has been identified as Ibrahim Abdeslam.
The names of these and other terrorists may be Muslim, but the sentiments behind their heinous actions and evil philosophy are not supported by majority of Muslims around the world, who are peace loving, ordinary folks.
Already incidents of backlash against Muslims have been reported. In Calgary, a mosque has been broken into and donation boxes and a computer stolen while a mosque, ironically named the peace mosque, in Peterborough, Ont., has been set on fire as a hate crime.
Whenever I read statements by these self-appointed defenders of religion, I get really, really angry. In an ISIL video released in 2014, Abaaoud is reported to have said: “All my life, I have seen the blood of Muslims flow. I pray that Allah will break the backs of those who oppose him, his soldiers and his admirers, and that he will exterminate them.”
Jihad is a holy war undertaken as a sacred duty by Muslims to defend their faith. These terrorists neither have a right to call their mission a holy war, nor are they appointed to defend Islam. Who has given Abaaoud and other members of his clan the authority to appoint themselves as spokesmen and represent all Muslims? Do they think we Muslims are so stupid that we’ll support or endorse their monstrous actions?
The actions of these so-called “martyrs” are unfortunately affecting Muslims at large who have nothing to do with these events. Please refrain from blaming ordinary Muslims, in your communities, your neighbourhoods and in your places of work because they have nothing to do with the terrorists’ deeds in Paris.
This is not the time to adopt a policy of “an eye for an eye.” This is the time for civic, local and federal leaders, especially Muslim leaders, to show leadership and act to calm tempers and call for restrain. As Calgary’s Imam Syed Soharwardy said during a candlelight vigil, when a Muslim commits a crime,” it should not be linked with the entire community.” Hate against Muslims, he said, should also be seen as an act of terrorism.
Terrorists are motivated by political ideology and philosophy, and they are using religion to legitimize their actions. No religion would sanction what they have been doing in the name of religion. Their actions are purely political. How can any Muslim commit an act of terror by saying Allahu Akbar (God is great) and expect Allah to forgive him?
The Paris disaster will also have a profound effect on the selection of refugees from Syria. Canada and other countries will have to adopt tight screening amid fears and suspicion that some terrorists might pass through security network and continue terrorist activities. It is a genuine safety concern and shouldn’t be taken lightly. All refugee-receiving nations should tighten their security apparatus and ensure that only genuine applicants are approved.
Everyone has a role to play in eradicating stereotypical thinking that exists about Muslims and in educating those around us. It is the duty of every Muslim to discuss the issue with their neighbours and colleagues at work so that they understand that an average Muslim has no influence over what has been happening. Islam is a religion of peace and it forbids violence, terrorism, bombing and murder. Those who murder innocent people as an act of revenge for Muslims killed by the West do not represent me or majority of Muslims.
As the Aga Khan, spiritual leader of Ismaili Muslims, said during the opening of the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, the Muslim world, with its history and culture, is still unknown to the West. “Even today, the study of the Muslim world in our high schools and universities is a specialist subject. Very little of the Muslim world features in the study of humanities in the West, where courses are essentially centred around Judeo-Christian civilizations.
“This lack of knowledge is a dramatic reality which manifests itself in a particularly serious way in western democracies, since public opinion has difficulties judging national and international policy vis-à-vis the Muslim world,” he said. “The two worlds, Muslim and non-Muslim, eastern and western, must as a matter of urgency make a real effort to get to know one another, for I fear that what we have is not a clash of civilizations, but a clash of ignorance on both sides. Insofar as civilizations manifest and express themselves through their art, museums have an essential role to play in teaching the two worlds to understand, respect and appreciate each other,” he said.
Ignorance breeds suspicions and intolerance towards others. A pluralist, cosmopolitan society is one, which not only accepts differences, but also actively seeks to understand it and to learn from it. In this perspective, diversity is not a burden to be endured, but an opportunity to be welcomed.
The school boards have a major role to play in introducing courses on religion, especially on Islam, so that our children get a proper understanding of the Islamic faith and what it stands for.
Lot of work has to be done both by Muslims and non-Muslims. Credit should be given to those Muslim leaders who have already started working with law enforcement agencies and police to ensure safety of all Canadians. There have also been ample examples of Muslim leaders and ordinary Muslims who have provided the authorities tips and information about possible attacks or incidents of radicalism. Canadian Muslims rightly believe that it’s their duty to report potential threat to security that they may encounter in their mosques and communities. This liaison and co-operation with the authorities must continue.
We should be thankful that we are blessed with a country, which believes in equality, pluralism and rule of law, where majority of the people are tolerant towards minorities. It is my sincere hope that non-Muslims will not judge Muslims because of the acts of these murderers, but by millions of good Muslims who are their neighbours, work colleagues, and friends involved in their daily lives as average people.
Trust us, we are Muslims, but definitely not terrorists.
Mansoor Ladha is a Calgary-based journalist, travel writer and author of A Portrait in Pluralism: Aga Khan’s Shia Ismaili Muslims. His second book, Memoirs of a Muhindi, is scheduled to be published next year by University of Regina Press. – Header image: ORRAINE HJALTE / CALGARY HERALD
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