National Post , Toronto, Sep 9, 2011
Like most Canadians, I’ll never forget where I was when the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 struck. I was on the subway, travelling below the surface of the earth, unaware of the horror taking place above in our neighbouring country. I was making my way to Ryerson University in downtown Toronto, where I had just started the journalism program.
I walked into the classroom. There was only one other student in the room. She asked: “Did you hear what happened?” I hadn’t.
Our professor entered the classroom and said that everyone was gathering in the student lounge to watch CNN’s coverage of events in New York City.
Our whole class was there. We gathered around the tiny screen and watched in disbelief. Two young male students were sitting on the floor. One leaned over to the other and said “Those f-cking Arabs.” My heart sank. I’m not an Arab but I am a Muslim, and I know that some people use the terms interchangeably. Someone said that we didn’t know who was responsible for the attack. But it didn’t matter: We were all thinking the same thing.
I remember thinking, later that night, that these horrible attacks might eventually provide an opportunity for both Muslims and non-Muslims to work together to root out Islamism – the militant, theocratic political movement that had been embraced by many Muslim extremists, including al-Qaeda.
Muslims living in Canada before 9/11 were regarded more as an obscurity (and occasional annoyance) than a threat. Most mainstream Canadians didn’t really understand our religion, and felt no need to. We seldom made an effort to educate our neighbours about our customs. But maybe, I thought, these events would change all of that.
They didn’t. We have all wasted the past decade.
Muslims in Canada, and around the world, could have used the last 10 years to root out Islamist extremism from our midst. Instead, for the most part, we’ve chosen the path of denial: We’ve declared that the countless acts of Islamist terrorism in the last decade have nothing to do with our religion. But that’s not really true.
The vast majority of Muslims are humane, law-abiding citizens, who want peace and stability like everyone else, and have no more in common with the 9/11 hijackers than non-Muslims. But since those madmen chose to claim Islam as the inspiration for their political ideology, we should have countered back by naming the problem, not denying it.
Non-Muslim Canadians also have wasted opportunities to educate themselves over the past decade. I don’t think the average citizen knows any more about Islam and its history than they did on September 10, 2001. Hardly anyone I know would be able to distinguish the faith of Islam from the fascist supremacist ideology of Islamism.
Canadians have been too politically correct. We hold “interfaith meetings” to make us feel better. But interfaith meeting between rabbis, imams, ministers and priests are about faith. And this isn’t a matter of faith; it’s a matter of politics.
For instance, read what the intellectual and spiritual head of the Muslim Brotherhood, Sheik Qaradawi has to say about interfaith dialogue. He cites Egyptian Islamic theologian Youssef Qaradawi to the effect that “We only carry out dialogue with [Christians] in order to find common grounds that serve as a basis for further action.” Qaradawi mentions four of these “further actions”:
1. Improving the image of Islam;
2. Converting Christians;
3. Rallying Christians against Israel;
4. Discouraging Christian leaders from supporting fellow Christians involved in conflict with Muslims. (Qaradawi specifically mentioned Sudan and the Philippines.)
This is from the Muslim Brotherhood, the organization that is poised to seize power in Egypt following the “Arab Spring.” Another wasted opportunity for democracy.
Back in Canada, our political leaders meet with “representatives” from the Islamist community who openly support Shariah law, and practise gender apartheid in their mosques (and now in our public schools).
Once the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks is forgotten, we will go back to ignoring its lessons. Meanwhile, in coming years, thousands of young Muslim men will die or disappear in Somalia, the Middle East and central Asia fighting their jihad. Many of them will be Canadians. What a waste.