Daily Times – Muslim Canadian intellectuals denounce Islamophobia, Islamism
Daily Times – Site Edition
Muslim Canadian intellectuals denounce Islamophobia, Islamism
By Khalid Hasan
WASHINGTON: Eleven Muslim Canadian academics and community leaders have issued a joint statement expressing regret that a â€œcurtain of fear has descended on the intelligentsia of the West, including Canada (and) the fear of being misunderstood as Islamophobic has sealed their lips, dried their pens and locked their keyboards.â€
The joint statement, which is seen as unprecedented, said that with hundreds dead around the world in the aftermath of the infamous Danish cartoons, Canadaâ€™s writers, politicians and media have imposed a â€œfrightening censorship on themselves, refusing to speak their minds, thus ensuring that the only voices being heard are that of the Muslim extremists and the racist right.â€ The statement pointed out that emboldened by the free rein they have received, Canadaâ€™s Muslim extremists and their supporters held a meeting in a public park with speakers promising to drown the Danish people â€œin their own bloodâ€. Elsewhere, in Pakistan, a Muslim woman was pictured carrying a sign, â€œGod bless Hitler,â€ and a Muslim cleric placed a $1 million reward for the murder of a Danish cartoonist. Embassies were burned, churches ruined and hundreds died in different Muslim countries.
The statement is signed by Jehad Aliweiwi, Tarek Fatah, Taj Hashmi, Amir Hassanpour, Prof Tareq Y Ismael, Prof Jacqueline S Ismael, El Farouk Khaki, Prof Shahrzad Mojab, Prof Haideh Moghissi, Munir Pervaiz and Prof Saeed Rahnema.
The joint statement said, â€œUndoubtedly, Muslims were angered by the insulting cartoons. But the overblown reaction was partly due to their pent-up frustrations, and partly the result of orchestrated mischief by certain Islamist leaders. Islamic societies, run by variances of autocratic regimes, are in turmoil. Ravaged by rampant corruption, a widening gap between rich and poor, and suppression of dissent, the people in these societies have lost hope in their own futures. The US-led invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, the unending occupation of the Palestinian territories and the quagmire of the Kashmiri dispute, have led many Muslims and non-religious peoples of Islamic origin, to view the West as the source of their countriesâ€™ problems. The growing popularity of the extremists in Muslim societies, the electoral success of the likes of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran, Shia radicals in Iraq, and Hamas in the Palestinian territories, rather than signifying the growing religiosity of the peoples of the Middle East, reflect political despair in the region.â€
The academics and community leaders said that in the West, people of Muslim origin, whether religious or secular, are facing growing racism, Islamophobia and discrimination reflected in immigration policies and anti-terrorist legislation. â€œThe cartoon crisis was the straw that broke the camelâ€™s backâ€ and Muslim extremists seized the opportunity to add fuel to the fire. They criticised the â€œcalculated roleâ€ played by the two Danish Muslim extremists, backed by Islamic fundamentalist regimes, which not only aggravated an already inflammatory situation.
Imam Abu Laban and Ahmad Akkari of Denmark who ignited the fires of protest should be held accountable for their actions, the statement demanded. The academics and community leaders pointed out that for too long the media have created an image that portrays communities from the Muslim world as a monolith entity, best represented by extremists. The media have created a false dichotomy that pits these Muslim extremists against the West. The fact is that in all Muslim countries, progressive citizens are trying to break loose from the tyranny of the autocrats and clerics and wish to develop a civil society where citizenship is based not on inherited race or religion, but the equality of all, irrespective of faith, race, sexuality or gender. Only outrageous, violent expressions of faith by Muslim extremists are taken as the aspirations of people from Islamic societies.
The statement called upon Canadaâ€™s intelligentsia to stand shoulder to shoulder with Muslims and secular individuals from the region who reject both Islamophobia and Islamism. â€œIslamism is not the new revolutionary movement against global forces of oppression, as a section of the left in this country erroneously perceives. Today, the religious right and autocracies in the so-called Islamic world are united in their call for passing legislation to make any discussion on religion a criminal offence. We call on Canadian politicians and intellectuals to stand up for freedom of expression. Our democratic values, including free speech, should not be compromised under the garb of fighting hate. To fight Islamophobia and racism, we do not need to sacrifice free speech and debate,â€ the statement said.