Islam not violent, Toronto Muslims sayNot violent? Not about religion or faith... but about political and social situations? One might wonder then, how, when cruising the web, one can come across this page from the Muslim Students Association at the University of Southern California. The page is devoted to clearing up misconceptions about Islam.
Muslim leaders and police took pains Sunday to distinguish between the religion of Islam and the 17 people accused of plotting bomb attacks in Ontario.
"Canadian Muslims absolutely condemn an act of violence or threat of violence," Muhammad Alam, president of the Islamic Foundation of Toronto, told a crowded hall where many Muslims expressed concern about the arrests.
"This is not about religion or faith," but about political and social situations around the world, he said.
Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair agreed, saying the accused were motivated by an ideology based on politics and violence, not by faith. "This is not the action of the Muslim community."
The Muslim leaders thanked Blair for his assurances that the police would try to protect Muslims from angry responses to the arrests. Vandals who damaged a Toronto mosque overnight may have been motivated by hatred after the arrests earlier in the weekend, Blair said.
Misconception 1This page also tells us that:
Islam is `the religion of peace' because:
the Arabic word Islam is derived from the Arabic word "Al-Salaam" which means peace.
It might seem strange to think of this as a misconception, but in fact it is. The root word of Islam is "al-silm" which means "submission" or "surrender." It is understood to mean "submission to Allah." In spite of whatever noble intention has caused many a Muslim to claim that Islam is derived primarily from peace, this is not true. Allah says in the Qur'an (translated):
[2:136] Say (O Muslims): We believe in Allah and that which is revealed to us and that which was revealed to Abraham, and Ishmael, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the tribes, and that which Moses and Jesus received, and that which the prophets received from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and to Him we have surrendered. [Arabic "Muslimoon"]
A secondary root of Islam may be "Al-Salaam" (peace), however the text of the Qur'an makes it clear that Allah has clearly intended the focus of this way of life to be submission to Him. This entails submission to Him at all times, in times of peace, war, ease, or difficulty.
Islam is the name of a way of life which the Creator wants us to follow. We avoid the word religion because in many non-Islamic societies, there is a separation of "religion and state." This separation is not recognized at all in Islam: the Creator is very much concerned with all that we do, including the political, social, economic, and other aspects of our society. Hence, Islam is a complete way of life.But if the idea of separating church and state is specifically western, how do Islamic groups in say, Canada, adapt? Well, let's look at one organization, the Muslim Canadian Congress, that claims to be leading the integration of Muslims and Canadian society (though I see no evidence that many Canadian Muslims follow the MCC). After all, this is an organization that the Canadian media have recently shown themselves keen to call on to explain Islam. The MCC mission statement claims:
As Muslim Canadians we believe in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the Canadian constitution as our guiding principles.I wonder, then, how the MCC explains its obvious desire to address both questions of religion and state. In fact, the greater part of its website is devoted to the typical leftist post-colonial issues. For example, MCC Communications Director, Tarek Fatah, recently wrote a letter lauding the Canadian Union of Public Employees for joining the movement to boycott and divest from Israel, the only highly democratic state in the Middle East, the only state in that part of the world where Muslims and others have anything like the kind of human rights the MCC website so boastfully claims to defend. Of course, the MCC doesn't see things this way. To them, Israel is an "apartheid" state, a statement made with no apparent consideration for the continuous Arab attempts to eliminate the state of Israel, attempts that preceded the founding of modern Israel and that have never stopped since.
We define a Muslim as any person who identifies himself or herself as a Muslim.
We believe in the separation of religion and state in all matters of public policy. We feel such a separation is a necessary pre-requisite to building democratic societies, where religious, ethnic, and racial minorities are accepted as equal citizens enjoying full dignity and human rights enunciated in the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Fatah is the kind of antisemitic (or is it anti-Zionist? I'm never sure) loser who is now a Canadian media "go to guy". But what gives his organization which, as best I can tell, represents no more than a handful of anti-American, "anti-Zionist" leftist "Muslims", the right to speak for Islam? There is perhaps a clue in their mission statement, already quoted: "We define a Muslim as any person who identifies himself or herself as a Muslim."
Perhaps Islam, the religion with no central authority, is up for grabs. It can be whatever "Muslims" say it can be. Perhaps all I need to do, to save Israel, is to become a "Muslim" and get enough of my friends to do the same. Then we can go on the CBC and assure Canadians that they should be fighting to defend Israel, because that is what "Muslims" want.
By the way, in Dec. 2001, the Court of Appeal for Ontario affirmed the conviction of Mark Harding for
communicating statements, other than in private conversation, [wilfully promoting] hatred against an identifiable group, namely Muslims in Canada.So, be aware, that Muslims in Canada are an identifiable group, at least for purposes of our hate speech law.
While this legal fact may or may not seem hard to square with the claim of the MCC (which wasn't yet on scene in 2001) that anyone who says he is a Muslim is a Muslim, perhaps we are now getting lost in Gnostic territory where we can change reality, if only we know the right word, say, abracadabra, and Islam is the Religion of Peace!
A clue to how the mystical power of the word works to transform reality comes to us from the recent post of my colleague, Charles. It discusses the radical Scarborough imam, Aly Hindy, who has been in the media defending the "honor" of the recently-arrested, alleged terrorists in Toronto, and who has previously refused to condemn the London 7/7 bombings (because, he claims, "Muslims" did not carry out those attacks). We learn that Hindy "[devoted] the better part of his professional life [to] designing safety measures to protect vulnerable nuclear facilities in Ontario as well as the U.S." So it is not surprising to also learn - and this is the point that concerns us now - that:
Mr. Hindy's lack of formal training is no impediment to being an imam. Islam has no formal process of ordaining imams and there are many examples of people who studied outside the formal structures, but became respected scholars.So you see, Islam is really a free marketplace of ideas. No doubt there are some Muslims who believe that a Muslim must obey the Koran, Sharia law, and what have you, to the letter. Islam, after all, means submission to Allah. But then there are some today who believe a "Muslim" is anyone who says he is a "Muslim", and this is the angle to take if you want to get on the CBC, defend "gay marriage", protest colonialism and that sort of thing.
Obviously, the imam has to possess some knowledge of Islamic jurisprudence in order to answer questions properly and adjudicate matters correctly. But in the end, it all comes down to community acceptance.
"If he gains recognition from the people he is serving as learned and religious-oriented, he can be imam," says the Ottawa Mosque's imam Gamal Solaiman.
So who ya gonna believe? At the end of the day, I think it best to listen to all of the experts and then to forget them all and just look at your world and see it in all its variety for what it really is. Islam is what it is, in historical reality, and not what ideologues want it to be, or Imams say it is. And if we look at historical reality today, we can see that Islam is both a great religion of peace, and perhaps the greatest danger to civilized mankind on this planet. Confused?
Well, confusion is the starting point of all wisdom, and a natural reaction to all that is sacred. The sacred, or the Being - i.e. God - which guarantees worldly incarnations of the sacred (which, since they are worldly, can be profaned and rendered no longer sacred, requiring, if humanity is to go on, a renewal of the sacred in another form, a renewal that can only be guaranteed by our faith in God, or his secular, anthropological equivalent), is inherently paradoxical. Humans are the beings that worship paradox, which is why they need faith. So it might seem that a faith that would deny paradox, in as much as it has all the right answers, is not much of a faith at all, but rather a falsification of faith.
However, since none of us can unfold the paradox of the sacred to anywhere near its full extent (because it has no limit), we all live in some degree of falsification, and some degree of truth in our apprehension of the paradox of the love that is God (at least God is love in my faith). Nonetheless, history promises us the possibility of living with relatively more truth than those who have come before. A "religion" that offers us a uniquely correct ritual order, to which we may submit and thereby always know the right answer, may not be without its truths. But then, it would logically seem to me, it would have less potential for truth than those who live with a more open-ended faith, and a greater respect for paradox.