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November 18, 2014
Richard Handler

In the latest episode of Context, Lorna lays it out politely but clearly, in the form of a statement which demands a response. She was speaking with the writer Sheema Khan: 

“We’ve been very politically correct as neighbours in this country — and have gone along with that. Islam is religion of peace. But ISIS makes it absolutely impossible to say that anymore.”

Lorna’s tone is full of polite regret. She is referring to the violence, the savagery of ISIS, the Islamic State -- but also the recent killing of a Canadian soldier and reservist  by two young Muslim men.

All Sheema Khan could do, as a proud but ashamed Canadian Muslim is to shake her head, smile and agree.

It’s was very civil confrontation, done more in sorrow than anger. But the murder of Canadian soldiers, along with thesheer brutality of ISIS makes the connection between Islam and violence an issue that can no longer simply be turned away with the mantra “Islam is a religion of peace.” 

How many times, while watching a news story on TV, has the reporter gone to a mosque to hear this response?   How many times you heard Muslims shake their heads and say, it has nothing to do with “us”? 

Or spokespeople declare we’re actually the victims:  Victims of Western imperialism, invasion, victims of history.

But the question Lorna asks is beginning to require another answer. One that — to her credit — Sheema Khan is beginning to pose, with a certain embarrassment and humility.  

As she discusses with Lorna, the violence can be blamed on radical “interpretations” of Islam, mainly Wahhabism, the fundamentalist strain from Saudi Arabia which has been exported around the world.  There’s plenty of money to spread the message, paid for by oil hungry Westerners who now (along with even more Muslims) are the sad beneficiaries of Islamic terror.

Sheema Khan acknowledges now that she and her community need help in combating the perverse attractions of radicalism. Thirty men from Calgary have gone to fight with the Islamic State, along with another hundred from the rest of Canada.

You can do all the psychologizing you want: the secular West is empty. Young people need excitement and meaning. To be a soldier in a great cosmic battle against the infidels of the West sure beats World of Warcraft or any other violent video game.  ISIS is now being called “a cult.” Recently I wrote about it as a motorcycle gang.  Gangs in inner cities, in prisons can be brutal and tyrannical too -- providing meaning, purpose and a surrogate family for their gang members.  But the stick it to ya ISIS provocation?  Is this a new conjunction of historic and adolescent rage gone viral because of social media?

If Lorna, with all her Christian care, caution and reluctance to incite and inflame, can begin to ask politically incorrect questions, so can the rest of us. If Obama and others can say that the terror and beheadings are unIslamic, while those doing the beheading proclaim they are doing it in the name of Islam, we have a real problem of “interpretation.”

So start with this: Is there something at the heart not just of fundamental strains of Islam, like Wahhabism, but the central doctrines of Islam that contributes to radicalization?

A previous guest on Context, Raheel Raza, as well as Tariq Fatah and other Muslims are always beseeching us about violent jihad. Jihad, which means struggle or striving, can have two meanings. the first being inner struggle. The second is physical jihad: war.  Jihad is not one of the pillars of Islam but it is a central doctrine which is demanded of all Muslims.  

There are other disturbing doctrines and interpretations which must be viewed within the context of Canadian and Western values.  Does one religion have a right to declare other faiths second class citizens?  In which ways do Islamic and Canadian values clash?  These are urgent questions that beg urgent answers.


Richard Handler - the Stubborn Agnostic - is a former CBC Radio Producer and former producer for CBC's Ideas. He lives in Toronto.

 

 



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