The VIA Bombers, the Imam and Islam in Canada

I’ve already discussed the Iranian connection with the alleged terror plot against a VIA rail train.  The other interesting angle is that the alleged plotters apparently came to the attention of the RCMP thanks to a tip from a Toronto-area Imam concerns about the apparent radicalization of one of the suspects. 

The Canadian Muslim community takes a fair bit of grief for the murderous antics of some of their co-religionists.  Every time Pakistani Muslims call for the death of a teenage girl, or Egyptian Muslims start rioting in the street, or Iranian Muslims execute alleged adulterers or homosexuals, Canada’s Muslim communities must cringe. It’s easy to focus on the very real problems with Islam, at least as it is practiced in large swathes of the world, and assume that those problems exist equally in Canada’s Muslim community (although, let’s be fair, some of them do).

But it’s also easy to forget that, as with Christianity, Islam is a “big tent” religion.  While the Islamic “big tent” seems to include more than its fair share of crazies globally, that doesn’t say much about the Islam as practiced in Canada, or about the Muslims who practice their faith in Canada, any more than the murderous homophobia of Christians in Uganda is representative of the practice of Christianity in Canada.  Just because Islam has more than its share of nut-jobs, doesn’t mean that Canadian Muslims are nut-jobs.  Indeed, many Canadian Muslims ended up in this country precisely because they want to get away from the crazies in their homelands (in many respects Canada is a haven for dissident Islamic sects) and because they want a better life for themselves and their children. 

For the most part, Canadian Muslims want to live their lives in peace, just like everyone else.  Terrorists and religious fanatics interfere with that goal just as much for Muslim Canadians as for other Canadians (if not more – since young Muslims are often the targets of religious fanatics).

All of which is to say that it shouldn’t be the least bit surprising that a prominent member of the local Muslim community would call the police to express concern about a fellow-member of his community.  This should go without saying, but bears repeating, Muslim Canadians ARE Canadians, first and foremost.  To express surprise that they would stand-up for the security of their country and their fellow Canadians is to – unintentionally, I’m sure – question their loyalty to Canada and to their fellow Canadians (to say nothing of their fundamental decency).  Of course, the Imam called the police, because it was the right thing to do.

That isn’t to say that the Imam in question isn’t a hero for raising his suspicions – it takes a lot of courage to call the police about someone you know, especially if you aren’t sure that they’ve done something wrong.  But it is a reminder that the vast majority of Muslims in Canada want nothing to do with the radical forms of Islam promoted by would-be terrorists (and, unfortunately, practiced in large swathes of the world outside of Canada) and that they are often our first line of defense against such terrorists (if only because, as recent cases have shown, the radicalization of young men will often be seen by fellow members of the Muslim community – parents, Imams, relatives, etc. – before it becomes clear to society at large).  While I’m often critical of Islam as it is practiced in countries like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia or Iran, this story serves as an important reminder that Islam as practiced in those countries bears little resemblance to Islam as practiced in Canada – a point that other critics of Islam should keep in mind.

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