Sadly, the threat of terrorism has surfaced in Canada again.
Three Muslim Canadian men, now possibly a fourth, with alleged links to Al Qaeda now face grave federal charges. Four years after the arrests of the infamous Toronto 18, questions still remain as to why some Canadians of Muslim origin would wish their fellow citizens such enormous harm.
Many speculate poverty and socioeconomic marginalization as possible reasons for Islamist anger. Clearly, however, the accused men did not suffer economic or job-related discrimination. The three men are professionals: One is a doctor, one is an X-ray technologist, and the third trained to be an electrical engineer. One can therefore only draw the grim conclusion that extremism, religious violence and terrorism are ideologically based.
Instead of being thankful to their country for providing them such tremendous opportunity and privilege, these miscreants wish to repay Canada’s innocent citizens with mayhem and bloodshed. They prefer in stead to be governed by hate-filled worldviews elaborated by the votaries of radical ideologies centered on the notion of armed jihad.
To dismantle the ideology of jihadi terror is therefore the massive challenge facing ordinary Canadians, but particularly moderate Muslim Canadians.
Thus far, only the secular Muslim Canadian Congress has risen up to this challenge. It has done so valiantly, and with great risk to its chief spokespersons. And although the organization has lent a powerful voice to the struggle against extremist ideologies, its message needs to be embraced by the grassroots among Muslims. The jihadi ideology must be combated during every single living-room discussion on jihad and from each and every mosque pulpit in the country.
This calls for an acknowledgment by ordinary Muslim Canadians that poverty and socioeconomic marginalization cannot be offered as excuses for the heinous acts of some of their coreligionists. Furthermore, the radical writings of Abu Ala Maududi, Syed Qutb and Hasan Al Banna must be expunged from the religious literature of Islam.
These ideologues, who gained currency in the latter half of the twentieth century viewed the entire world as a combat zone between Muslims and non-Muslims. Canada must consider banning their hate-filled treatise. If Bangladesh as an Islamic country can take the bold step of banning such literature, surely Canada need not be influenced by political correctness in allowing such materials to be freely distributed and read within its borders.
Moderates among Muslim assert that verses of the Quran are read out of context by jihadi terrorists, however, they fall short of taking the matter beyond this acknowledgement. The time has hence long passed for such verses to be placed in the proper context of a bygone era. Such edicts ought to be declared inapplicable in modern times. Regrettably, jihadis believe the contexts warranting jihad have been recreated in our contemporary world and that Islam is somehow under attack now, as it was in its formative years. They fail to understand that social, historical and political contexts can never be recreated in full. No two contexts are identical, therefore, no doctrine can have identical applicability.
Militant jihad must be declared an archaic religio-political philosophy. Rather than ancient dicta on religious militarism being eschewed, jihadism appears to be gaining traction both in Canada as well as much of the Islamic world. Canadians young and old have the right to live in peace and security. Jihadi terror sadly, poses a threat to that right.
It must be countered by any and every means possible.
Farzana Hassan is an author and former president of the Muslim Canadian Congress