Muslim Community: Showing Strength While Asking for Our Rights
As Muslims gathered for the Eid al Adha salah in Hamilton’s largest masjid, they were greeted with a surprise. The Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, was present to tell the Muslims that he was taking the so-called “Islamophobia” issue seriously.
His remarks entailed a clear rebuke of the murder of the Afzaal family, and of the hate crime suffered by the family of a local imam in Hamilton. He went on to speak out against hatred leveled against others as well, and concluded that people should not rely solely on the government to combat hatred, but rather: “We need all of us — Muslim, non-Muslim — to recognize that the intolerance and hatred that exists around the world also exists in Canada”
His arrival was met with much applause, both from the local Imams, who applauded him for his concern and ability to protect Muslims in Canada, but also from the general public, who violated all social distancing norms imposed upon the masjid to crowd around the Prime Minister.
Trudeau’s visit was not the only visit Muslims received. A week prior to that, the NDP leader, Jagmeet Singh, visited another masjid in Hamilton, and got a photo op with the Imam whose family had been terrorized days prior to his visit. On the day of Eid, both Toronto Mayor John Tory and Ontario Premier Doug Ford went to a masjid in Toronto. Some people in the masjid congregation were so enamored to receive these politicians that a man spontaneously started singing in praise of Ford, both in Arabic and English.
In the wake of escalating attacks against Muslims all across Canada, from London to Hamilton to Edmonton, it is understandable that the leadership of the Muslim community seeks to address the threat against our community.
However, it is essential for us to ask our leadership, what are our standards for a response from the elite? And what cost are we willing to pay for this protection?
Our diverging interests
At the outset, it should be clear that the interests of the Muslim community diverge sharply from those of the Canadian political elite. We are a community united by our commitment to unique and eternal social and political values revealed by Allah (swt), while the political elite are opportunists who will just tailor their message to pick up a political advantage.
This explains why Justin Trudeau, who is now declaring his commitment to combatting “Islamophobia”, previously was willing to support Bill C51, a bill specifically designed by the Harper government to monitor the Muslims.
This explains why the NDP, who champions anti-racism as part of their message, was unwilling to criticize Quebec’s hijab ban for government employees in the last election. Of course, none of the political parties stood up to the discriminatory laws enacted in Quebec or even denounced it.
More significant than this rank opportunism is the divergence in our political goals. All major political parties and virtually every elected official or government agency in Canada is dedicated to the maintenance of the existing socio-economic and political system – Capitalism. This system, which is built on secularism, promotes individualism, self-interest, and the exploitation of the many by the privileged few who possess wealth, ability and influence.
The Islamic system, built on the Quran and the example of our beloved Messenger (saw) is at direct odds with such a system.
For example, the political elite call us to an economic system built on the exclusion of Allah (swt) from regulating all economic transactions, and is concerned only with materialism, wealth accumulation and unchecked greed. On the other hand, Islam anchors our economic activity to the fair distribution of wealth and the easy accessibility of life necessities to the people.
While the political elite call us to a social system that teaches our children to be irresponsible and pursue their own unbridled desires, Islam teaches us that we are responsible for our family and community and have to regulate our desires accordingly.
And this means that none of the politicians in power would ever challenge the global campaign of cruelty and oppression waged against our Ummah in the Muslim lands. After all, colonialism is the foreign policy of Capitalism. All the brutality of the global War on Terror, from the support of brutal tyrants like the children-abusing Afghan national army, to the torture sites designed to agonize Muslims in Bagram, Abu Ghuraib, Amman, or Guantanamo Bay, are supported and facilitated by the Capitalist governments.
No political party has ever asked the Canadian government to leave NATO, and the same Trudeau, who is talking about respecting Muslims, is willing to use anti-hate laws to label Muslims who support boycotting Israel as anti-Semites.
It should be abundantly clear that the interests of these politicians come into direct conflict with our interests as Muslims, who have been commanded by our Creator to live by and seek to convey His vision for society.
“[Believers], you are the best community singled out for people: you order what is right, forbid what is wrong, and believe in God.” [TMQ 3:110]
What is to be done?
The salient question is, how should this conflict between our interests and those of the political elite impact our engagement with them?
Primarily, it should be clear that demanding our just rights to worship, work, and live safely is obligatory upon us as a community, even if we disagree with those whom we are demanding these rights from. Our beloved Messenger (saw), while living amongst the Quraish, sought the protection of his tribe, even though its leadership were not Muslims. After the death of his uncle Abu Talib, the Prophet (saw) sought jiwar or tribal protection from Mut’im bin ‘Adi, who was not Muslim, and was not dedicated to the Prophetic mission.
However, there is a difference in demanding our rights, and in Muslim leaders enthusiastically providing secular politicians unfettered access to our religious spaces where they are free to fulfill their political agendas, without even providing a platform for the Muslims to challenge or question them.
The political elite, the RCMP, and the police do us no favours by visiting our spaces, and their mere presence should not be a cause of celebration or comfort. We need to have higher standards as a community. How can we celebrate the presence of politicians who boast about their support of the Zionist state which is ethnically cleansing our brothers and sisters in Palestine?
How can we feel safe around the same security agencies that have participated in spying on, imprisoning, and even assisting in the torture of other Muslims?
Rather, our relationship with these politicians and agencies should be guided by the rules of Islam and the izzah (pride) of being a Muslim. When we look at minority or marginalized communities that have secured a better status for themselves in capitalist countries, it has never been through flattery or ingratiation with the political elite, but it has always been through the demanding of rights in the legal courts or in the courts of public opinion.
Most importantly, the best of examples, RasulAllah (saw) was granted victory by Allah (swt) not by being friendly with the political elite of Mecca or their political structure, but by boldly, clearly and eloquently criticizing them and articulating a political vision that was accepted and championed by the Aws and the Khazraj in Madinah. What other example do we need?
We should also be clear in our demands to the different levels of government. First, we need an acknowledgement and apology from the government for stoking bigotry against Muslims over many years. Every level of government has contributed to this environment. The government of Ontario dismissed religious arbitration for Muslims in the name of defending women rights, implying that their rights are violated by Islam. Federal agencies — such as the Canada Revenue Agency, the RCMP and CSIS — created a climate of fear and suspicion of Muslim individuals, organizations, and charities.
These are simply a few of many examples. If the government does not acknowledge its role in creating this environment of bigotry against Muslims, what trust can we have in them seriously addressing it? Our demands must include an apology from all levels of government for fueling anti- Muslim bigotry, and a commitment to put an end to it.
Additionally, we should refrain from getting any government level more involved in the communal life of the Muslims.
Asking for the government to fund community activities at the masjid or create a fund to help Muslim be more represented in the media is always a trap, as increasing our dependency on these government funds will only hobble our ability to convey our message, especially when it is at odds with that of the political and economic elites.
More importantly, any dependence will provide leverage that the political elite can and will use to extract concessions from our community. The inability of the Catholic school boards to resist the new sexual education curriculum, or pride month, is a revealing example of this.
The purpose of integration
It should be obvious that when the Prime Minister of Canada, and other elected officials across all levels of government and political parties are making an effort to reach the Muslims, there is something deeper at work. They are not in our spaces out of the goodness of their hearts. They are obviously invested in our acceptance of their call to integration. And it is notable that whatever political differences they may have, they are all united in this message of integration.
This raises the obvious question: whom does integration really serve? Is it, as some Muslim activists will tell us, really for us? Or does it serve the interests of the Capitalist ideology that through its continued campaign of colonization, criminalization and vilification weakened any way of life that stands in opposition to its hollow and cruel political interests?
The Islamic value system is the only remaining way of life that is actively resisting this global ideology. Integration then is not empowerment, but surrender.
Instead of Muslims rushing towards secular politicians, would it not be more beneficial for us to work together to convey Islam’s prescriptive solutions to the problems facing Canadian society? Instead of tripping over ourselves in order to show subservience to the system, would it not be more prudent to demand justice for the many that have been left behind by the established social order from its inception, such as the poor, the indigenous nations, and the racial minorities?
Instead of ingraining ourselves in the secular political culture of the elite, should we not unite as one ummah to demand the rise of righteous Islamic leadership in the Muslim lands, who – through the complete implementation of Islam – will be a beacon and a voice for the oppressed all over the world?
Setting this as an agenda allows us to engage with society, not through the defeatist terms being imposed on us by the Capitalist elite, but by the terms given to us by the Lord of the Worlds.
“..God will protect you from them: He is the All Hearing, the All Knowing. And say [believers],‘[Our life] takes its colour from God, and who gives a better colour than God? It is Him we worship.’ Say, [O Muhammad], “Do you argue with us about Allah while He is our Lord and your Lord? For us are our deeds, and for you are your deeds. And we are sincere [in deed and intention] to Him.” [TMQ 2:137-139]