With news of the Fort Hood rampage in Texas and the revamped Canadian citizenship guide warning newcomers that “barbaric cultural practices” will not be tolerated, conflicting debates about terrorism and our expectations in the West are once again active and will continue to be until we collectively confront the two menacing forces of radicalism and racism.
Both of these variables are alive and well and should invoke a deep horror. Yet those who persistently deny the reality of any one of these insidious evils do so to the peril of our society as a whole.
So let’s start with racism. Labelling and stigmatizing people leads to deep divisions within a society and facilitate a hostile environment not conducive to the positive growth of an increasingly diverse civilization.
Many Muslims have been on the receiving end of stigmatization. We need to be clear that the vast majority of Muslims in the West are peace loving. Muslims who regularly attend mosque and read the Qur’an should not automatically translate into our minds as enemies of our democracy. Although there are Qur’anic texts that call for jihad by the sword, most Muslims in our society do not adhere to this strict, literal interpretation.
In fact, moderate Muslims are referred to as apostates by radical groups and they understand the threat of extremist zeal even more than non-Muslims. The Muslim Canadian Congress has frequently stood up in defence of our democratic values, while renouncing all attempts to conceal the nature of extremism. It continues to do so even in the face of death threats. So we need to think twice before exercising discrimination on all people of the Muslim faith.
It is those Muslims who embrace a militant and extreme ideology rooted in Salafism that we need to be concerned about. Salafism is often used interchangeably with Wahabbism and, in its most extreme form, calls for jihad by the sword against all perceived enemies of Islam — particularly the West — and includes the subjugation of women, sometimes brutal.
We cannot afford to import this irrational zeal, which is accepted and encouraged in many parts of the world. We have every right to challenge such ideologies.
It is time for us to make clear distinctions between peace-loving Muslims from those who are radicals. Suppressing open discussion and dialogue only serves to drive the evils of racism and radicalism underground where both can flourish to the detriment of all us all.