British Muslim activist and former radical, Maajid Nawaz wrote on the Paris tragedy, "Jihadism ... is incredibly hard to tackle, because its recruits remain invisible in our very own societies, born and raised among us, fluent in our languages and culture, but full of venom for everything they have been raised into."
Canadians too are concerned about the complicity of Muslim youth in acts of terror and influx to ISIS. Canadian Muslims are concerned about the rising surge of anti-Muslim sentiments in North America. Other Canadians are concerned about the expression of racism and xenophobia in public spaces. A vicious cycle of hate seems to have been engendered where hatred of the West feeds the hatred of Islam. The way out of this hate is by looking within instead of pointing fingers at others.
The root causes of radicalization include perceived injustice and identity formation. Radicalized Muslim youth often experience marginalization and alienation from society at large and cognitive dissonance from repressive religious teachings. Instead of alleviating human suffering through volunteer work and human rights activism, they pursue thrill-seeking adventures offered by online recruiters. Indeed, they misappropriate Muslim suffering for their self-serving purposes.
Some people do not care for such a nuanced understanding. They look for simplistic answers to complex problems. Instead of questioning politicians for supporting regimes that spread puritanism through petrodollars, they blame "Islam." Likewise, they fail to question the wisdom behind bombing other countries that often causes political vacuum and radicalization, and ignore racism and xenophobia that alienates vulnerable youth. On their part, Muslims have not dismantled the authority of repressive "celebrity scholars," despite the Qur'anic admonition in verse 9:31, "they have taken their scholars as lords besides Allah."
The pressing need for effective internal critique cannot be overstated. Canadians may have to reflect on the sentiments behind arguments against immigration and foreign workers and reducing Muslims to issues of niqab and sharia. Likewise, Canadian Muslims must stand against self-serving "scholars" for stoking hatred and instigating human rights abuses through takfir (excommunication), blasphemy charges and heterosexism.
Neo-classical Economics teaches that while free trade makes nations better off, not every group within a nation is enriched. This means outsourcing and introduction of cheap foreign workers. So instead of directing their ire at poor foreign workers, Canadians should be questioning politicians funded by corporations. They should reflect on economist Todd Hirsch's book "The Boiling Frog Dilemma" on the need to move up the value added chain and the importance of immigrant entrepreneurs and innovators for productivity.
Canadians should also note that the niqab is not an Islamic issue but one of freedom of choice. While some Muslims peddle the niqab as a "symbol of piety," Ottawa based Imam Jebara has opined that a vast majority of Muslims discourage the niqab for it is prohibited in two of the primary rituals of Islam, the daily prayer and pilgrimage to Mecca. He asserted that great Islamic scholars like Imam Malik noted that the daughters of the Prophet's disciples did not cover their faces. He further mentioned that just as Imam Malik considered face veils a "foreign innovation," the 11th century scholar Ibn Hazm strongly argued "against face veils, citing countless sources."
Canadians should note that about a decade ago the Canadian Council of Muslim women (CCMW) along with their allies vehemently rejected religious arbitration, otherwise known as "sharia courts" in Ontario. CCMW consulted many Muslim women to support the conclusion that "family matters are best settled under Canadian law". As such, instead of stereotyping the whole Muslim community, Canadians can acknowledge and support Muslim groups that stand up against self-styled conservative Muslim leaders, who bully fellow Muslims with threats of heresy and apostasy.
Likewise, Canadian Muslims must look within to address problems that impede the spiritual growth of Muslim communities. They must question why instead of embracing doctrinal differences, the entire Ahmadi Muslim community has been ejected outside Islam. This takfir (excommunication) has led to the immense persecution of Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan and elsewhere, despite the clear admonition of the Qur'an in verse 4:94, which reads, "and do not say to one who gives you [a greeting of] peace "You are not a believer."
Canadian Muslims of all stripes -- Sunni, Shii, Sufi, Ismaili and Ahmadi -- will also have to dismantle patriarchal attitudes and deep-seated heterosexism. This includes respecting religiously plural spaces, which embrace LGBT Muslims. Unfortunately "scholars" in Canada like Bilal Philips and Abdullah Hakim Quick regurgitate spurious texts on the death punishment for "homosexuality" under an "Islamic state".
However, Canadian Muslims can learn from the Grand Mufti of Zambia, Sheikh Assadullah Mwale, who recently came out in full support of LGBT Muslims by stating, "you were created the way you are" and therefore "everyone is allowed in Islam and very much welcomed."
Hopefully, when Canadians and Canadian Muslims are honest about problems within their respective communities and address them sincerely, we can move ahead and make the true North really strong and free.
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