Recently, Rabbi Koffler Fogel of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs expressed that combating anti-Muslim hate in Canada should be unanimously endorsed. However, citing the calls for anti-Semitic violence from some Canadian mosque pulpits, he stated that legitimate criticism of aspects of Islam that are used to promote violence and hatred should not be quashed.
Rabbi Fogel correctly pinpoints the vague nature of the word "Islamophobia." Associate Professor of Law Khaled Beydoun writes in his 2016 paper "Islamophobia: Toward a Legal Definition and Framework" that "there is no singular, cogent or consensus definition of Islamophobia."
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Likewise, Robin Richardson, author of "Islamophobia: A Challenge for us all," mentions eight problems associated with the word "Islamophobia." He asserts that the word "phobia" implies mental illness that affects only a minority and that labelling others as insane or irrational precludes meaningful dialogue. He also mentions that emphasizing religion ignores the role of racism, xenophobia, military and political interventions.
In fairness, such problems also exist with the word "homophobia." Likewise, some raise concerns on the usage of the word "anti-Semitism" when it is conflated with the criticism of the Israeli government policies. The parallel concern in the case of "Islamophobia" is when it is used to silence legitimate criticism of popular Muslim speakers who peddle the Caliphate, medieval legal laws and draconian punishments for apostasy, homosexuality and heresy.
However, Beydoun insists on using the word "Islamophobia" as it has entered common parlance but seeks to define it more precisely for legal purposes. The definition he proposes includes viewing Islam as "inherently violent" and "Muslim identity" as associated with terrorism. He asserts Islamophobia includes private animus, state sanctioned policies and the way the two interact with each other.
It is true that violence is perpetrated by an insignificant minority of Muslim extremists. Yet, hatred and supremacist views are preached by some popular Muslim speakers. Their narrative is one factor that pushes those at the cusp to do the unthinkable.
While Western military and political intervention in Muslim countries is one factor that creates conditions for radicalization, Pakistani scholar Javed Ahmad Ghamidi also blames the religious narrative taught in madrassas for mobilizing terrorism.
The problem is less with the existence of the texts and more with Muslim speakers usurping them polemically instead of rendering them obsolete.
This narrative is stoked by some Imams in Canadian mosques. Rabbi Fogel referenced a news item from the Canadian Investigative Journal (CIJ) to highlight how some Imams in Canada preach hatred of Jews.
According to CIJ News, last year in December, Sheikh Muhammad bin Musa Al Nasr at Dar Al-Arqam mosque in Montreal was noted to have referred to Jews the "most evil of mankind" and "human demons." He referenced the eschatological Hadith text that states that the stone and tree will inform Muslims to come and kill Jews. Sheikh Abdulqani Mursal at Masjid Al Hikma mosque in Toronto is also reported to have referenced the text.
The CIJ News article also showcases how in 2014 Imam Sayed Al Ghitawi at Al-Andalous Islamic Center in Montreal invoked Allah's help in jihad to destroy the "accursed Jews" and to make their "children orphans and their women widows." Likewise, the article mentions that in 2016, Imam Ayman Elkasrawy at Masjid Toronto mosque, invoked Allah to slay the enemies of Muslims "one by one and spare not one of them" and to "purify Al-Aqsa Mosque from the filth of the Jews!"
The CIJ News article also indicates that a mainstream Muslim Canadian website posted the book The Gardens of the Righteous that contains Hadith texts that portray Jews in a negative light. The texts include those that indicate that the anti-Christ would be a descendant of the Jews and will have 70,000 Jewish followers from Isfahan, Iran.
Muslim youth deserve better religious leaders.
Other texts include those that depict Jews as having earned the wrath of Allah; those which prohibit Muslims from greeting Jews and Christians and forcing them to take narrow side of the road; and those that admonish Muslims to act differently from Jews and Christians.
However, the problem is less with the existence of the texts and more with Muslim speakers usurping them polemically instead of rendering them obsolete.
Several scholars like Javed Ghamidi, Moiz Amjad and Khaleel Mohammad have raised concerns on the authenticity of the eschatological texts that include the anti-Christ.
Their arguments include the fact that the Qur'an does not include material that relates to the second coming of Christ or the emergence of the anti-Christ. Another argument they make is that the Qur'an is clear that the Prophet did not have knowledge of the Unseen and therefore could not possibly have mentioned details on eschatological matters. Additionally, they claim that texts that demonize Jews were produced during later times with mass conversions of Christians for propaganda and polemical purposes.
Canadian Imam Mohamed Jebara demystified the myth of the massacre of Medinese Jews. He mentions how past Muslim scholars like al-Awzai, Malik, at-Tabari, al-Asqalani severely questioned the fabricated tales of Ibn Ishaq on the massacre of Jews, used for polemical purposes. Imam Jebara is clear that at the Prophet's death, his neighbours were Jewish and his armour was pawned to a Jewish man Avi Shachm and Jews were still living in Medina.
(Photo: Veronica Garbutt via Getty Images)
Like Khaleel Mohammad's article "Demonizing the Jews: Examining the Antichrist Tradition in the Sahihayn", Sinem Tezyapar's article "Are anti-Jewish slogans truly Islamic?" and Rohail Waseem's article "6 Convincing Reasons Debunking the Myth of Islam Promoting Hatred of Jews and Christians" are essential readings to challenge the hateful narrative of the Imams mentioned by CIJ News.
The problems highlighted by CIJ News forces Muslims to confront hateful Muslim speakers in the age of increasing Islamophobia. The coming together of Muslims and Jews in the wake of Islamophobic and anti-Semitic events allows us a golden opportunity to isolate hateful speakers and render horrid texts obsolete.
Muslim youth deserve better religious leaders.
While we make the definition of "Islamophobia" precise for legal purposes, we can send out a strong message that hateful Imams do not speak for the Muslim community.
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