Time to Challenge Muslim Extremists.
There is no section of Canada's multicultural mosaic under more stress today than this country's 750,000 Muslims. Many in this community are reeling, struggling to absorb the shocking news that 17 of their members have been arrested in connection with a bomb plot allegedly targeting public buildings in Toronto and southern Ontario.
Adding to the horror conveyed by such charges is growing fear of a backlash against the entire community. Vandals have already struck, shattering the windows of a Rexdale mosque.
But with 12 men and five youths now charged with committing terror-related offences, there is a new urgency to understand why some individuals opt to attack the very country in which they were raised and educated. It is a question that has been asked in England, where native-born Muslims bombed London subways, and in Madrid, where homegrown Muslim terrorists attacked public transit with deadly results.
Regrettably, it is now a question that may need answering here.
The vast majority of Canada's Muslims are strictly law-abiding. And, to their credit, many Muslim leaders have denounced violence unequivocally, noting that it is the responsibility of the Muslim community itself to act to stop the incitement of hatred by some members of its own families, educational and religious institutions.
As Tarek Fatah, of the Muslim Canadian Congress, says: "We can't just go on behaving as if everything is normal," adding there are "fascist cult believers and they need to be combatted within the Muslim community."
Clearly, there are simple truths arising from the weekend events, most notably that all 17 of the people arrested are Muslims. Our important efforts at cultural understanding cannot disguise that fact.
Around the world, Muslim extremists have launched numerous terror acts. Many invoke Islam as a justification for their violence. And they have often hit Western targets on the grounds that our society and our way of life are an affront to Islam as they perceive it. In England, a few radical Islamic religious leaders have even openly called for acts of violence.
But there are fundamental values expressed in our Charter of Rights that are not negotiable, that represent who we are as a society. As Harper rightly said yesterday in the House of Commons, "terrorists and the people they represent stand for nothing but hatred."
In the coming days, Canadians must strive to avoid a possible backlash to the arrests. To do that, the onus will be on all of us. But the key will be the Muslim community itself. Individuals must accept responsibility for developments and alienation in parts of the diverse Muslim community.
To prevent a backlash on a scale that has occurred in parts of Europe, parents and friends, and community and educational and religious leaders within the Muslim community — as well as the greater Canadian society — must be ready to challenge the extremists in their midst.
If we are to move forward as a nation against terror attacks, all Canadians — Muslim and non-Muslim — must realize we are in this together.