Keep politics out of our mosques

Muslims cannot sit still while a fascist cult of Islamic supremacy takes over places of worship, says Tarek Fatah

Three years ago when Kuwaiti Islamist scholar Tareq Al Suwaidian told a Toronto crowd that “Western civilization is rotten from within and nearing collapse … it (the West) will continue to grow until an outside force hits it and you will be surprised at how quickly it falls,” he was lustily cheered by the nearly 2,000 young Muslim men and women.

I was deeply offended by the hostile remark, but the thunderous approving applause of the young audience simply stunned me. All I could do was muster the courage and stage a polite walkout.

That day I resolved to fight this hostility toward the modern nation-state and Western civilization that was engulfing a section of Canadian Muslim youth; one that was being fanned by the leadership of the traditional Muslim organizations and Islamic radicals who took inspiration from the ruling elites of Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Last weekend’s arrests and the alleged role of young Muslim men in a terror cell may not have been inspired by the fiery rhetoric of the visiting Kuwaiti scholar. But if the RCMP allegations are true, the actions of this group definitely have roots in the cult of hate and death that is glorified by a tiny segment of Muslim clerics.

While the overwhelming majority of Canada’s Muslims have been stunned by this development, few can honestly deny that they had seen this coming.

For years, some of us have been incessantly talking and writing about the growth of this extremist phenomenon, this contempt for secular parliamentary democracy and non-stop berating of Muslim youth who become “Canadian” and warnings to them that they will be punished in the hereafter if they do not adhere to the barren version of Islam where joy itself is a sin.

In the last five years, we Muslims have had more than our share of terrorism done in the name of our faith. Whether it is terrorist attacks in India or the hundreds of simultaneous bombings in 300 cities of Bangladesh; whether it is massacres of Muslims by Muslims in Iraq or the genocide of Muslims by Muslims in Darfur, the traditional leadership of the Muslim community responds repeatedly in a similar manner: abject denial.

Every tragedy that has befallen the Muslim world has been labelled as an American or a Zionist conspiracy. The conspiracy stories have gone from the ridiculous to the absurd.

During my recent visit to Karachi to attend the World Social Forum, I was stunned to see banners strung across streets proclaiming boldly that the “Bird flu was a Jewish drama.”

First I thought this was some dark Pakistani humour that I had forgotten to appreciate because I had left my birthplace 28 years ago. Upon asking around, I was told this was a widespread view: Israel was to blame for the bird flu because it was against the poultry industry of Indonesia.

What troubled me even more is the fact that the banner proclaiming this latest conspiracy was not displayed in some poor suburb of the city or outside a madrassah, but was hung in the posh, upper-class neighbourhood of Clifton.

I found another such banner draping the entrance to a grocery store, where the owner lectured me about how the tsunami of December 2004 was a result of a joint effort by the U.S. and Israel to drown and destroy Muslim nations.

Back in Canada, the conspiracy stories continue to fester and the latest crisis that confronts all of us has again provided fertile soil for conspiracy theorists.

On a live TVO Studio 2 debate on Monday, Toronto imam Ali Hindy clearly insinuated that the entire RCMP operation was being conducted to justify the continuing war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He referred to the arrests as “show business” and stated the “show must go on.”

During the discussion, Hindy claimed he knew eight of the accused. According to his analysis, the suspects may have been involved in military training to fight a jihad overseas. He went on to say that when young Muslim men come to him asking to go overseas to fight, he discourages them and tells them to fight their jihad “here.”

Flabbergasted, host Paula Todd asked him, “Why? What do you mean?” Cornered, he took refuge — like so many Muslim clerics who encourage jihad, take when trapped — in philosophy: “By jihad I mean the inner jihad …”

Monday night’s discussion on TVO was also significant because it is only in non-Muslim institutions that Muslims can debate from adversarial positions.

There is not a single mosque in Canada where Muslims with opposing views can debate anything political, social or theological. The doors of debate are shut by the cement of orthodoxy. Only doublespeak and hypocrisy are allowed to flourish. As long as Muslims can find someone else to blame for our ills, the problem is seen as resolved.

I say, enough is enough. Muslims cannot go on behaving as if everything is normal. We cannot sit still while a fascist cult of Islamic supremacy takes over our mosques.

We cannot afford it any more because we risk losing a generation to the temptation of simple answers to life’s challenges; a solution that states that life on Earth is meaningless because it is temporary and therefore not worthy of sustaining, not worthy of enjoying.

I urge Muslims to recognize that a mosque is not the places for politics, it is a place of worship. Imams who peddle politics need to be told to take their politics to the electorate and not to the pulpit.

Religion and politics is an incendiary mixture and invoking God on one’s side in a political dispute is dishonest, callous and dangerous. Let us tell our imams to keep their politics to themselves and not to stain our religion by using the divine texts to score political points and promote terror.

It is ironic that Muslim extremists are portraying themselves as anti-imperialist when, in fact, Al Qaeda and the Taliban are nothing more than a creation of the CIA. Muslims need to recognize that the agenda of these extremists is a cult of hate and fascism, not one of advocacy for their community.

Tarek Fatah is host of the weekly TV show, The Muslim Chronicle.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Saturday June 17, 2006.
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