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De-link Islam from Terror: Canadian Muslims

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

CAIRO – A semantic battle over the use of language linking Islam to terrorism has been raging recently in Canada, as the country Muslim community called on federal government to stop using these terms which demonize the whole community.

“Lead by example, change the rhetoric, and stop saying these words. They hurt,” said Dr Hamid Slimi, former chairman of the Canadian Council of Imams and current chairman of the Muslim seminary, the Canadian Centre for Deen Studies, the National Post reported.

Dr Slimi was speaking at a conference to combat radicalization held last week in Toronto.

He was referring to remarks made by Prime Minister Stephen Harper weeks before that characterized mosques as potential spaces of radicalization.

Clothing terror in Islamic terms “has skewed the public’s perceptions of Canadian Muslims as some kind of dangerous and ‘un-Canadian’ group and reinforces stereotypes of the Muslims as some kind of fifth column and whose loyalty is suspect,” said Ihsaan Gardee, executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims.

Other Canadian Muslims have rejected the government’s use of the language of Islam to describe terror as stigmatizing.

Sheik Aarij Anwer of Khalid Bin Al-Walid Mosque in the Toronto suburb of Etobicoke tried to correct the meaning of the term “jihad” based on the Qur’an.

He added that the use jihadism to describe terror is “careless”, saying it draws an inaccurate link from “irrational violence” to theology and implicates all Muslims in violent extremism.

Muslims make around 2.8 percent of Canada's 32.8 million population, and Islam is the number one non-Christian faith in the country.

A recent survey showed that the overwhelming majority of Muslims are proud to be Canadian, and that they are more educated than the general population.

The dual terror attacks in Ottawa and Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, a few months ago, coupled with Paris shooting spree have led to unprecedented levels of anti-Muslim attacks in Canada where several mosques were vandalized.


Reacting to the Muslims call, some analysts said that politicians can not overlook the religious roots of groups such as ISIL.

“By trying to de-link Islam from Islamic terrorism, [Mr. Obama] is engaging in an act of deception and self-deception,” said Peter Wehner, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Ethics & Public Policy Center and a member of three past Republican administrations.

“In order to defeat an enemy you need to understand the nature of the enemy you face.”

 Wehner was referring to Obama speech in which he defended his government’s position this week at a White House summit on combating extremism.

“We are not at war with Islam,” Obama said. “We are at war with people who have perverted Islam.”

Michael Jackson Bonner, a historian of Iran at the Paris-based research group Project CTESIPHON, shared a similar opinion.

“Disguising the threat of militant Islam under the cover of ‘violent extremism’ makes Obama seem soft on [ISIS] and its allies,” he said, using another acronym for the so-called Islamic State.

“[ISIS] calls itself Islamic; its territory is called a ‘caliphate;’ its leader is a ‘caliph.’ ”

As Canadian government officials still use terms like “jihad”, a 2012 report by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police questioned its use.

“Terms like ‘Islamic terrorism,’ ‘Islamist terrorism,’ ‘Jihadism’ and ‘Islamo-fascism’ succeed only in conflating terrorism with mainstream Islam, thereby casting all Muslims as terrorists or potential terrorists,” said the report, Words make Worlds.

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