How to minimize #IslamicState lure for #Canadian youth: Siddiqui | Toronto Star

Panicky headlines pronounce the lure of the Islamic State to disaffected Canadian Muslims, both converts and those born into the faith. Six Montreal teenagers, including two girls, are the latest to go over to the dark side. That brings the total of the disappeared to an estimated 145 — about 40 to the Islamic State and the rest to other terrorists groups.

That’s about the same number of Canadians who reportedly joined Israel in its attack on Gaza last year. There’s no reliable figure on how many Canadians have joined Ukraine’s battle with Russia. But unlike them, the clear danger with those going over to, or sympathizing with, Muslim militant groups is that they can turn their guns on fellow-Canadians or hatch plots to blow up people and infrastructure. They cite about the same reasons: Western wars on and occupation of Muslim nations and peoples. Many also mention the escalating cultural warfare on Muslims in the West, as did one Montreal girl who left recently.

Canada has joined the war on Islamic State and is also seeing palpable hostility to Muslims and Islam.

The xenophobic Charter of Quebec Values was at its core Islamophobic. Having lost the battle of the ballot on that issue in last year’s election, the Parti Quebecois resurrected it in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo murders in France. In recent days, three mosques or Muslim institutions have been denied permits. Meanwhile, a Montreal court has refused to hear the case of a woman, a Canadian citizen, because she was wearing a hijab.

Two-thirds of Quebeckers support the Shawinigan city council’s decision to bar a mosque from opening, according to a poll by Cogeco Nouvelles.

Quebeckers, indeed all Canadians, are cheering on Stephen Harper’s war on the “jihadists” in Iraq/Syria, and also his refusal to let a Toronto woman wear her niqab to a citizenship ceremony. She has qualified to be a Canadian citizen, she’s keen to become a citizen, her identity is not in any doubt and the Federal Court has ruled in her favour, saying Ottawa’s decision to bar her is “unlawful.” No matter. Harper is bent on his jihad on her.

As NDP leader Thomas Mulcair noted Wednesday: “For years, I’ve seen that Muslims are often scapegoats in political debates. I find that upsetting.” Liberal leader Justin Trudeau: “Any time a government or a leader is in a position to choose to limit minority rights of any type, there has to be a clear and compelling reason to do so,” which Harper has not provided. What he has proffered is the demagogic assertion that the veil violates Canadian values. The reverse is, arguably, truer: what’s egregiously un-Canadian is to have the most powerful man in the country misuse the vast resources at his command to stomp over a single woman’s strongly-held religious belief.

Contrast this with Barack Obama’s approach, even as he leads the war on the Islamic State. He avoids linking Islam/jihad with the war on terrorists, for good reasons: 1). He does not want to legitimize the terrorists who proclaim themselves jihadists fighting for Islam, when, in fact, they are murderers and have been condemned as such by an overwhelming majority of Muslims. 2). He does not want to give credence to Islamophobes here who see the war on terror as a war on Muslims/Islam. 3). He’s keen to keep the peace in the pluralistic societies of the West (“we can not allow cycles of suspicions to tear at the fabric of our countries”).

Similar points were made Monday in Ottawa during a hearing of the Senate committee on security and defence by the president of the Manitoba-based Islamic Social Services Association, Shahina Siddiqui (no relation). She is a member of the RCMP Commissioner’s Advisory Committee on Diversity and works closely with Winnipeg police.

She said the steady stream of propaganda by the Islamic State tells young Canadians that “you cannot be a Canadian and cannot be a Muslim. ‘Look at how they attack and demonize your faith and stigmatize the Muslim community and how they won’t allow Muslim women to wear the hijab.’

“Then they turn on the Muslim community and say, ‘Look, they are not doing anything for you; they’re not doing anything for the brothers and sisters in Syria or Afghanistan or Iraq.’

“Those are the ways in which they are trying to reach some of the vulnerable youth.”

To counter that, “we have to show our youth that they are part of Canada; that Canada is their country; and that they can be both loyal Canadians and devout Muslims. There is no dichotomy. Terrorism is not jihad. It is terrorism, it’s evil and we need to purge it. At the same time, we need to tell our youth and our community that the majority of Canadians are not Islamophobic and are not racist. They may not be well-informed, so our job is to inform, educate and reach out.”

Yet “when I am called a terrorist supporter or somebody who caters to that, you are attacking me. I have two Canadian grandkids. How do I tell them that your own country, your own people are turning on you? I don’t have the heart to tell them that the Canada I chose to be my home, and I will defend to my last breath, is attacking my community.”
How to minimize Islamic State lure for Canadian youth: Siddiqui | Toronto Star.

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About angelajoya

Assistant Professor, Middle East Political Economy, at the University of Oregon. Currently writing on the Egyptian revolution and the Syrian crisis.
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