Canada is fortunate. It remains the only country that has been subjected to extremist rhetoric, yet spared an attack. The question is, for how long?
The bombs may not have exploded, but the ideology of Jihad that justifies this terrorism is certainly around us. It lurks in mosques, high schools, universities-- now even in offices of professionals, where one would expect a more critical appraisal of the weltanschauung that feeds it.
But so what? Must we worry if that's all there is to this phenomenon? Indeed we must. For often ignored in this debate is the ease with which lines are often crossed between mere sympathy for terror and actual involvement in its hideously destructive and lethal manifestations. There is a difference of a mere notch in religious fervour between the two. One need only believe that a far more delightful existence awaits the one who has paid a debt to his religion with his life.
And here lies the all encompassing challenge for Canadian Muslims. They must do everything in their power to ensure that such treacherous indoctrination is not only countered in its germinal stages, but that Canadian identity is reaffirmed over and above other affiliations, with an added commitment to uphold the honor, safety and security of this great country of ours.
Too often young Muslims have been taught to believe that their foremost allegiance must be to Islam. This should never be a matter of choosing ones religious identity over other identities. Identities are never as static or linear as some might think. No conflict for example, need exist between our identities as Canadians and our identities as Muslims.
But it will take much more than a mere acknowledgment of these priorities. It will require effort from each and every one of us to counter the spread of violent ideologies in our midst. No longer is it enough to issue statements of denunciation after a terror attack has already wreaked misery on unsuspecting populations. Much more needs to be done now.
Canadian Muslims must begin a grassroots movement to confront the growing threat of terrorism wherever they find the slightest hint of its occurrence. Our silence in not denouncing the doctrine of Jihad has only resulted in the wrong message being sent to extremists that their violent acts are quietly endorsed by the majority. This perception must be dispelled through mass demonstrations and rallies against the violence perpetrated by these extremists.
It is also imperative now to make a solemn commitment to the security of this country and its citizens. We therefore need to look inward and decide whether some of the rhetoric uttered in mosques and religious gatherings has a bearing on the impressionable minds of our youth. We need to confront the preachers of hate ideology through better religious arguments, by challenging their warped interpretations that sanction violence in the name of religion. It is only by being proactive in fighting the curse of extremism that we can ever hope to win this battle for the soul of Islam.
Above all, we need to ensure that Canadian society as a whole fosters cohesion and camaraderie among its diverse citizenry as a potent force overcoming the divisions and resentments that have already begun to take root in it.
Farzana Hassan is the president of the Muslim Canadian Congress and author of Islam, Women and the Challenges of Today.
[Farzana Hassan-Shahid is President of the Muslim Canadian Congress, Freelance writer, public speaker and author of "Prophecy and the Fundamentalist Quest" and host of the radio program Islam: Faith and Culture.]