10/16/2015 08:00 EDT | Updated 10/16/2016 05:12 EDT

Engaged Muslim Voters Are the 'Radicals' Harper's Most Afraid Of

COLE BURSTON via Getty Images
Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper takes part in a joint press conference alongside India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada on April 15, 2015. Prime Minister Modi will continue his official visit to Canada in Toronto and Vancouver. AFP PHOTO/ COLE BURSTON (Photo credit should read Cole Burston/AFP/Getty Images)

Dear fellow Canadian Muslims,

An election is upon us and one party has targeted our community to unite some of our fellow citizens against us in hatred and bigotry.

It has made the niqab a central election issue.

In doing so and for that purpose, it has painted a picture of us Muslims as a monolith, stereotypical of popular European cartoons in which we are commonly portrayed as warmongering and blood thirsty, our bearded husbands and fathers holding swords over our heads, while we women walk two steps behind them, fully veiled and submissive.

It is a picture that Canadians hate. And it makes a few stand united in their hatred against us behind our current Prime Minister, who has declared, "I will never tell my young daughter she should cover her face because she is a woman."

Well, neither would the vast majority of us.

We know that wearing the niqab is most often the woman's choice. We know that when young Muslim women don the niqab, most often their parents do not approve of it.

And we know that to demand a niqabi woman remove her niqab is no different from telling her bikini-clad Muslim sister on the beach to cover up. Even if she is polite (perhaps because she is Canadian) the same choice foul words would be reserved in her mind for either request, notwithstanding that the outward response may simply be a polite "No thank you -- I'm fine."

Regardless of what we wear, we Muslims know we are not all a bunch of terrorists ready to impose destruction upon Canadian society. We know that the few women who wear the niqab are not packing bombs underneath their jackets either.

We know the vast majority of us love Canada and our fellow citizens -- Muslim or not.

That is not to say our community agrees on everything.

I know some of you read my blogs, roll your eyes and mutter, "astaghfirullah!".

Sex-ed, gay rights, interfaith marriage, mixed-gender prayers, female imams -- this is not Islam according to some of you. These are hot topics, but let's face it -- we Muslims can't even agree on a date for Eid.

But there has always been room for disagreement among Muslims. We have never been a monolith. Though some of us may demand consensus or ijma on all issues, in fact peaceful debate or ikhtilaf is an Islamic tradition that goes back to the days of Muhammad.

And here in Canada, most of us know that debate is a privilege that is only allowed in a free society.

We are fortunate, at the moment, to live in one.

After all, it is here and now that we have the freedom to express ourselves, practice our faith and not worry about being jailed for doing so.

It is a privilege which a few of us have said actually makes Western nations more "Islamic" than the so-called Islamic states of our era.

After all, we are not free anywhere in the Muslim world, where we may be jailed if we speak out against the government. Nor are we free in any country where women may be persecuted if they don't conform to a dress code.

Does Canada jail us for speaking out? Does Canada punish us for our faith? Does Canada ask our neighbours to call a hotline if they suspect we may not be loyal?

The question is -- in light of promises being made this election, are we Muslims on the brink of losing our fundamental freedoms?

Well, the story doesn't have to end with the disappearance of our basic human rights and dignity.

After all, we Canadian Muslims are more than a million strong.

We have views about gender equity that far surpass the obsession with the niqab.

There are 1,200 missing and/or murdered Aboriginal women. Some of their First Nations sisters, led by activists such as Karen Kabloona and Lena Aittauq, have determined they must don the niqab to get the government's attention.


Photo of activist, Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, from the #doimatternow campaign.

As well, Canada ranks far lower in gender equity in comparison to some other nations from 20 years ago. The wage gap caused by gender disparity has not closed. Childcare remains costly. Canadian streets remain unsafe at night. Women's shelters have long waiting lists and some have closed.

We watch as Syrians and Iraqis struggle to escape the cancer of ISIS. This is not Islam. Will Canada give them refuge as promised?

We watch as more prisons are constructed while social programs disintegrate. What kind of society are we creating?

We watch the rape and pillage of the land (including much indigenous land) as large corporations become rich at the expense of communities, wildlife and the next generation.

And in light of laws like C-51 will we Muslims still have our Charter rights?

We don't need bombs or swords to fight for a better world.

All we need is our vote.

We are 3.2 per cent of the population.

In solidarity, we Muslim "radicals" may be the most dangerous force that the current government has ever witnessed.

So on October 19th commit the most subversive act you can -- vote.

Jazakallah khair. Salaamualaikum.


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