Dozens of Canadian Muslims gathered on the steps of the Manitoba Legislative Building on Sunday afternoon to speak out against the recent deaths of two Canadian soldiers.
Canadians across the country have been mourning the recent killings of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Cpl. Nathan Cirillo. Both soldiers were murdered in separate attacks last month by apparent jihadist sympathizers.
The deaths may have led to a spike of anti-Muslim attacks, and Sunday’s rally was aimed at showing that the vast majority of Canadian Muslims do not share the beliefs of the killers.
“What they have done is terrorism — political assassination. Prophet Muhammad has this great saying ‘Be loyal to the country in which you live’ so, theologically, we believe if you can’t be loyal to the country in which you live, you can’t remain there. You have no right to call yourself a Muslim,” Bashir Khan, a spokesperson for Winnipeg’s Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at branch, said during the rally.
Khan and the others attending Sunday’s rally are members of a sect of Islam founded in 1889 that believes in balancing “tradition with modernity.” They believe many problems in the Muslim world today are caused by the lack of balance.
“The time for the jihad, the struggle with the sword, is over … Now is time for jihad with a pen and that is where we pride ourselves,” Khan said.
Khan said the individuals responsible for the deaths are representative of a segment in Islam that “has not been able to balance tradition with modernity and be able to live in the 21st century.” He added that the true teachings of Islam seem to have been lost to a few people.
The group wanted to hold the rally in the days leading up to Remembrance Day in order to honour the two soldiers who were killed in the past two weeks.
Vincent was killed on Oct. 20 when he was struck by in a hit-and-run attack in a Quebec parking lot. Two days later, Cirillo was shot and killed by a lone gunman while standing on guard at Ottawa’s National War Memorial.
Participants also said Sunday they wanted to remember all of the members of the armed forces who gave their lives for the freedom enjoyed by all Canadians.
For Khan, the poppy he was wearing during the rally represents liberty. “The freedom I enjoy in this country is because a soldier lay down his life or her life … be it in the last two weeks or 50 years ago,” he said. “We have to remember those fallen soldiers.”
Khan is part of a narrative showing the beliefs of the majority of Muslims are different than the apparent beliefs of those who committed the attacks. He is also one of many Muslims speaking out after a spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes.
Two days after Cirillo’s death, Muslims in Cold Lake, Alta., woke up to see their mosque vandalized with messages indicating the members should “go home.” On Friday, windows were smashed at a mosque in Ottawa.
Muslim groups across the country have condemned the killings and the beliefs that apparently motivated them. Muslim leaders are now calling on all politicians to denounce acts of hate against Canadian Muslims.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper hasn’t yet spoken out against the spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes, leading some in the Muslim community to suggest that Canada’s political leaders have a larger role to play.