The massacre of Muslims at prayer in New Zealand on March 15 is yet another appalling example of the horrors of extreme hatred.
In this case, the mass murderer was a deluded white supremacist. Other recently targeted victims have been Jews at worship in Pittsburgh, or just anyone who chose to come to the wrong music festival in Las Vegas.
There have been too many incidents to remember – they go by in a blur.
The victims and perpetrators of these massacres can come from any group or any religion.
There are simply people in this world who hate so deeply that almost any ideology or religion – or, in the case of the Las Vegas mass murderer, just a general hatred of humanity – will set them off on a rampage.
Social media has made this human failing exponentially worse.
Although every ideology and religion is represented in these acts of hatred and terrorism, the overwhelming number of terrorist-type murders are inspired by Islam. The Easter Sunday suicide bombings in Sri Lanka that killed hundreds emphasizes this grim reality.
As Canadian journalist and founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress’s Tarek Fatah wrote on March 20, “a 2017 report tracking violent Islamist extremism found Jihadi terrorism has resulted in the deaths of 84,000 people. There were a total of 7,841 attacks – an average of 21 per day – in 48 countries. These numbers simply dwarf the relatively small numbers of deaths from white supremacist and far right incidents. This doesn’t minimize those deaths, but the comparison must be made. Jihadi attacks kill far more people than all other kinds of terrorism combined.”
This is a fact that needs discussion – especially within the Muslim community. But such a discussion is very difficult to undertake because those who try to talk about this very serious problem are quickly labelled ‘Islamophobes.’
This is irrational.
People who kill or persecute Muslims are guilty of crimes and should be punished. Anti-Muslim bigotry of all kinds should be roundly condemned. People should be free to worship as they please and be free of persecution.
However, discussing the deep-rooted issues of some of the tenets of Islam that have no place in the 21st century must not be conflated with anti-Muslim bigotry. Discussion is absolutely necessary and must be undertaken if Islamic-inspired terrorism is ever to be shown the door. It’s exactly those dangerous tenets that inspire the jihadi violence in the first place.
In fact, brave Muslim and ex-Muslim advocates have been trying to raise awareness of the need for the Muslim community – and indeed all communities – to discuss some of these backward and dangerous doctrines.
Fatah (author of The Jew Is Not My Enemy), and Ali Rizvi (author of The Atheist Muslim) have been trying to convince fellow Muslims to disavow outdated Islamic tenets and promote Canadian freedoms instead.
They’re having limited success. In fact – and astoundingly – Muslims like Fatah who call for reform are themselves called Islamophobes.
And, as the news coverage of the Christchurch massacres indicate, there is an unfortunate tendency for mainstream Muslim organizations – aided by a liberal media – to try to label any criticism of these dangerous tenets as Islamaphobic.
This is wrong, and the recent examples of two brave women clearly demonstrate the backwardness – and unacceptability – of certain Islamic tenets.
Asia Bibi was convicted of blasphemy in Pakistan for allegedly insulting Mohammed. She was sentenced to death. When an appeal court bravely set her free, howling mobs demanded she be killed because she had “insulted the prophet.”
The crime of blasphemy shouldn’t exist in the modern world. It was consigned to the dustbin long ago in civilized countries. It only exists as a crime in countries like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia because Muslims allow such a primitive law to stay in place.
Bibi is certainly entitled to be Islamophobic – if that word actually means someone who is afraid of Islam. She quite rightly fears an interpretation of Islam that’s trying to kill her.
Similarly, Saudi girl Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun was recently granted asylum in Canada. She feared her parents would kill her because she renounced Islam. It’s a sad fact that every year people are tortured and killed for the crime of apostasy – deciding to stop being a Muslim.
But people should have the right to join or leave a religion, or to renounce all religion. The fact that there are countries that actually punish or kill people over matters of personal belief should be completely unacceptable. People everywhere should be able to worship as they please or not worship at all. They should have the right to change their minds about these matters of personal belief.
Reformers like Fatah and Rizvi are certainly standing up for these freedoms.
But where are the mainstream Muslim organizations on such issues? For that matter, where are the other religions?
Christians and Muslims are being persecuted and killed in countries like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia for ‘crimes’ like apostasy and blasphemy, which should not be crimes at all. But the brave Muslims, ex-Muslims and others who try to raise awareness of these issues are labelled Islamophobes and ignored.
And that brings us back to the overwhelming majority of terrorist incidents inspired by those thoroughly outdated and violent tenets still left within Islam. And still undiscussed.
White supremacy and other such despicable doctrines must be thoroughly discussed so they can be combated.
But so too must Islamic doctrines like blasphemy, apostasy and jihad be discussed, or terrorist incidents will continue.
Brian Giesbrecht is a retired judge and senior fellow with Frontier Centre for Public Policy.