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Why We Need To Emphasize Diversity In Muslim Voices

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MUSLIM DIVERSE
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Jo Tumhe Mehroom Karey Tum Usay Ata Karo (Shower grace on the one who bereaves you)

The Quebec mosque shooting galvanized Canadian communities who came out in droves for vigils all across Canada. In Edmonton, despite freezing temperatures, hundreds flocked to the Alberta Legislature to comfort the Muslim community. Many have also formed human chains outside mosques in solidarity.

My friend Gary Simpson from McDougall United carried the sign "Christian against Islamophobia. My friend the good Reverend Mark Chiang had the sign outside his Church, St. Andrews Presbyterian, to read, "Loving Jesus means loving our Muslim neighbours."

This reaction is not unexpected. In Cold Lake, many Canadians gathered to wash the racist graffiti off the mosque wall. In Flemingdon Park, Toronto, many marched in solidarity with a Muslim woman who was physically assaulted. Canadians also donated generously for 15-year-old Noah Rabbani whose skull was brutally cracked in Hamilton, Ontario.

The prime minister has termed the Quebec shooting as a terrorist attack. Canadian writers have also emphasized the need to address the problem posed by homegrown right wing white supremacists.

While racism and Islamophobia remain problems, as is evident through online comments, Canadians of goodwill show through their actions, time and again, that there is no place for hate in Canada.

Many in the LGBTQ community have also expressed their unconditional solidarity with Muslims despite the fact that mainstream Muslim groups continue to ignore inter-sectional work with the LGBTQ community.

Both Ahmadis and LGBTQ Muslims are awestruck by such solidarity of Canadians with their Muslim neighbours. After all, the persecution of Ahmadi Muslims is often sidelined and any solidarity is peppered with ifs and buts. Social ostracism of both Ahmadis and LGBTQ Muslims remains the norm in Canada.

This necessitates merciless introspection. We cannot combat racism and Islamophobia but casually ignore supremacism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and apostasy charges (takfir) stoked by popular Shaykhs and speakers. Indeed, all oppression (zulm) is connected.

Jamal Badawi, who upholds Islamic law over secular governance and Abdullah Andalusi who clamours for a "benign" Caliphate, continue to be paraded as Muslim leaders for Islam Awareness Week in Alberta.

Likewise, Farhat Hashmi continues to operate in Canada. Four girls who joined ISIS from Canada and the San Bernardino shooter had attended the al-Huda institutes run by her.

Sadaf Ahmed, a professor in Pakistan, found al-Huda graduates to be "very intolerant and judgmental toward people who were different from them."

A Muslim lady offered the following testimony on Hashmi:

"She came to Edmonton, I challenged her on views and I am no longer invited to such events. There was a lady who used to play her cassettes ... in which she suggested that women should not go out to work or go shopping because they will miss prayer. Women should refrain from wearing pants ... I think that she is a danger to society. You can be easily brainwashed by this woman. ... A definite Sharia propaganda machine ..."

When Muslims invite such speakers and pray for our prime minister to be shown the right path of Islam as if he were astray, they do a great disservice to Islam by reducing it to a supremacist puritanical cult.

Puritanical speakers may not necessarily endorse violence, but they certainly create divisiveness amongst people by demarcating between proper Muslims and others. Through carefully worded apostasy charges (takfir) they marginalize Muslims who support religious pluralism, gender equality and LGBTQ affirmation.

By basing their teachings on mindless submission and by stoking victimhood and fear, they control masses that seek to address their existentialist problems. The problem, however, is less about these speakers and more about Muslims who forgo their Allah given potential and become intellectual slaves of these zealous Shaykhs and medieval legal manuals.

Such indoctrination should not be taken lightly in Canada as it has raised generations on hate in Pakistan and even in the U.K. Religious minorities in Pakistan have suffered directly as a consequence of such indoctrination.

Banning such speakers would go against freedom of religious expression and will be resisted by libertarians and Muslims alike. Libertarians, however, are not necessarily affected by Islamophobia that arises due to such speakers.

Regardless, exclusivist, sexist and homophobic viewpoints sold in the name of religion must be fully challenged and resisted. One way to achieve this is by insistence on diversity, as emphasized by the prime minister.

Diversity allows for the drowning out of extreme voices. This means Muslim students on campus and Muslims in the community must strive for plurality of religious spaces. This includes inviting Shia Ithna Ashari and Shia Ismaili, Bohra and Ahmadi, progressive and LGBTQ Muslim voices for Islam Awareness Week on campus.

This also means supporting the incredible work done by groups like the Canadian Council of Muslim Women on engaging men to end domestic violence and el-Tawhid Juma Circle that upholds religiously plural, gender equal and LGBTQ affirming safe spaces.

People who raise concerns about Islam and Muslims should also realize that making issues out of personal practices like the headscarf or halal meat only stokes Islamophobia. They can instead contribute to positive change by emphasizing diversity of Muslim voices to drown out exclusivism, sexism and homophobia preached in the name of Islam.

On their part Muslims owe it to their youth to not reduce a great religion to the antithesis of the West, the wet dreams about Caliphates or to an arrested development of sexuality.

They should reject puritanism by emphasizing repeatedly that Islam is about serving humanity, doing what is right without expecting the same in return and offering unconditional sanctuary to any and all.

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