Confronting Islamic Extremism Is Not ‘Islamophobia’

Freedom of speech, and the freedom to confront dangerous ideas must be protected

‘Islamophobia’ is a term that gets thrown a lot these days – particularly by political elites.

It’s a handy way to avoid any uncomfortable discussions about the issue of Islamic extremism. It’s a way to just bury our heads in the sand, living in a make-believe world where all is well. It can be comforting, and I’ve probably even said it myself.

Unfortunately, when the term ‘Islamophobia’ is used to silence debate and discussion, it puts us further at risk.

Here’s why:

First of all, to confront any problem you first have to acknowledge it.

We need to look at the facts and have a common-sense discussion about Islamic extremism.

  • It is simply a fact that there is a strain within Islam that has become incredibly violent and extreme, and has motivated attacks throughout the world.
  • It is simply a fact that Islamic extremism is a danger around the world – a danger we have seen here in Canada, in the United States, in Europe, and the Middle East.
  • It is also a fact that many Muslims do not hold any extremist beliefs, and are peaceful members of society.

Here’s the big problem.

There are many people – those obsessed with political correctness – who would call those first two facts Islamophobic. They only let people talk about the third fact.

But that means we are blinded to a very real danger.

We have to be able to talk about the issue of Islamic extremists being radicalized. We need to talk about the hateful views some Islamic extremists hold. We need to talk about the fact that in much of the Muslim world there are many people who hold views towards Women, Christians, LGBT people, religious minorities, and other minority groups, that are completely opposed to what we believe in the West.

Consider this from Nicolas Kristof – a liberal writer for the New York Times – which I will quote at length.

“Second, today the Islamic world includes a strain that truly is disproportionately intolerant and oppressive. Barbarians in the Islamic State cite their faith as the reason for their monstrous behavior — most recently beheading a British aid worker devoted to saving Muslim lives — and give all Islam a bad name. Moreover, of the 10 bottom-ranking countries in the World Economic Forum’s report on women’s rights, nine are majority Muslim. In Afghanistan, Jordan and Egypt, more than three-quarters of Muslims favor the death penalty for Muslims who renounce their faith, according to a Pew survey.

The persecution of Christians, Ahmadis, Yazidis, Bahai — and Shiites — is far too common in the Islamic world. We should speak up about it.”

That is deeply concerning, and we need to be aware of it.

We also need to talk about the fact that there are people in the Muslim world fighting against hateful beliefs – often at great personal risk.

But if we never let people talk about the issue of Islamic extremism and the viewpoints that exist in much of the Muslim world, we will never have a discussion that includes the truth.

Islamic extremism in Canada

For example, we know that there is extremist material in Mosques right here in Canada. In fact, that was reported by the Toronto Star – not generally considered a right-wing newspaper. Here are a few quotes from that article:

“Many mosques and Islamic schools in Canada are placing young people at risk by espousing — or at least not condemning — extremist teachings, a new study says.”

“The study, titled “Lovers of the Death”? — Islamist Extremism in Mosques and Schools, says what worried them was not the presence of extremist literature, but that they found nothing but such writings in several libraries.”

“The authors say openly available material and analysis of social media postings helped confirm their views that many Canadians, including leading politicians, are turning a blind eye to the dangers.”

“They argue the issue is too important to ignore, given that a number of young Canadians have become radicalized to violence.”

“Canadian Muslims with humanist and modernist outlooks are being drowned out by those with extreme views, the study says. “The struggle for the soul of Islam between Islamists and humanists goes on in Canada and the U.S.A., not just in the Middle East, Europe and South Asia.”

The article was co-authored by Thomas Quiggin – a former intelligence analyst from the Privy Council Office and RCMP, and Saied Shoaaib – a journalist who came to Canada from Egypt.

The report details a serious problem that needs to be acknowledged and addressed.

Does it mean that Muslim people in Canada should be punished or discriminated against? Of course not. As Canadians, we condemn violence against innocent law-abiding people – such as the terrible recent attack in Quebec City.

Our laws protect the rights of all citizens equally, and nothing should change that.

It does mean that we need to confront the fact that Islamic extremism exists in Canada. We can’t be blinded by political correctness, or hide behind the phrase ‘Islamophobia.’

Our political leaders need to get beyond political correctness, and call out problems when they exist. We can walk and chew gum at the same time. We can confront Islamic extremism in Canada, and uphold the rights of all Canadians – including Muslim citizens – at the same time.

The right to freely criticize all viewpoints – including religious perspectives – is a core part of the western world’s strength, and is freedom that we as Canadians and members of Western Civilization cherish and must fight to defend. We have to be able to confront bad or dangerous ideas – even when we disagree on what that means.

Unfortunately, the government is trying to pass M-103 – a motion against ‘Islamophobia.’ While it sounds nice, it could lead us down the road of criminalizing criticism of Islamic extremism – which would go completely against free speech.

Keep in mind that inciting violence against any group is already illegal. So anyone calling for attacks on any group – including Muslim people – would face charges under existing law. Passing a motion against criticism of a specific religion is very concerning, and could lead to a dangerous stifling of free speech and free thought.

That must not happen.

Canadians must be free to criticize each others ideas, perspectives, and even religious views. We need to be free to call out dangerous extremism, and also empower those who would confront that extremism. We can do all of those things while respecting and defending the rights of Muslim citizens, and empowering those within Islam who push back against extremism.

But we must never lose our ability to share our thoughts and speak our minds.

And we must say this very clearly: Confronting Islamic extremism is not Islamophobia.

Spencer Fernando

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