Althia Raj: Going to war against Islam is the wrong war

It would be folly for us to fear an anti-Muslim climate when it seems particularly prevalent in America at the moment. There is talk of hate crime statistics being “clandestine,” a belief that the…

Althia Raj: Going to war against Islam is the wrong war

It would be folly for us to fear an anti-Muslim climate when it seems particularly prevalent in America at the moment. There is talk of hate crime statistics being “clandestine,” a belief that the Islamic State might be a global problem or that a Muslim woman’s right to wear the hijab must be denied.

The problem with the folks who want to stigmatize Islam is that Islam is not considered one of those places in America in which negative stereotypes are readily inspired and absorbed by the majority of people.

It’s not that Muslims never have done something nasty in America. There have been examples. But it’s the focus on jihad violence in the west that defines the war against Islam as one against Islamic terrorism.

Another aspect of these assaults is Islam’s own and their own theological interpretations of the Koran and sharia. This is why they are so often labeled jihad, if you will, implying that they intend to take over the world and kill all non-Muslims.

Now, I have nothing against Islam. I am a Muslim, born and raised in my home country of India, about as mixed up in Islam as can be. I was of an age when I got into more trouble for being a girl than I am for being a Muslim.

And I’m not even criticizing Islamists, those militant Muslims who act out on their beliefs. I have no problem with Islamists’ power-claiming, teaching and sometimes deadly endeavours. That’s my point. I’m merely pointing out that these groups use the occasion of their jihadish attacks to get the attention of all sorts of non-Muslims who are often dumbfounded by the violence and didn’t realize that there are people killing non-Muslims, too.

Erin O’Toole’s fear that a few Muslims might commit a heinous act while overseas are a real concern, and it merits discussing. But he fails to address the very real cases of severe religious persecution that Muslims across the globe are suffering for what they believe.

I think the quotes in his ad are great. What worries me is what follows: “Because of the free, compassionate and tolerant nature of Canada’s immigration system, unlike other countries, we were not faced with the dilemma of condemning Canadian citizens for growing radicalized based on religion, after 9/11.”

One does not need to be a good citizen, nor a religiously inspired refugee, to be a “beneficiary” of Canada’s immigrant and refugee program. Instead, people are welcomed based on their ability to work and pay taxes. Refugees do their part by living in a place like Lebanon, as Moulana Abdul Haq Sultani and others have done. The ones who “rooted themselves” upon their arrival as recently as a few months ago are almost exclusively from Punjab province. There, the Hindus, Christians and Sikhs come from majority communities and practice what is considered to be the religion of the Punjab. Sikhs, in fact, have great fundamentalist belief in the Khalsa. It is a faith widely considered to be a most valuable collection of Sikh saints and one of the three most valued monotheistic scriptures.

And this is what makes it so disturbing to a Muslim-Canadian that a Sikh is being called a “radicalized.” These Sikhs are still rightfully struggling to maintain the purity of their religion. The Sikh community is having a rough time, just like any other religious minority in Canada. But there is an unfortunate way in which Muslims look down on other communities.

So, I’m not worried about violence by Muslims while they’re abroad. It would be foolish for us to fear an anti-Muslim climate when it seems particularly prevalent in America at the moment. There is talk of hate crime statistics being “clandestine,” a belief that the Islamic State might be a global problem or that a Muslim woman’s right to wear the hijab must be denied.

The problem with the folks who want to stigmatize Islam is that Islam is not considered one of those places in America in which negative stereotypes are readily inspired and absorbed by the majority of people.

To Muslims, Canadian Muslims and everyone concerned about terrorists, violent crime must be condemned. And to a community that will be exceptionally anxious should anything happen to Erin O’Toole or any other Canadian while abroad, we should be reassuring them.

Althia Raj is a contributing editor

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