Terrorism on Easter Sunday

Commentary, Culture Wars, Brian Giesbrecht

The massacre of Muslims at prayer in New Zealand On March 15, 2019 is yet another appalling example of the horrors of extreme hatred. In this case the mass murderer was a deluded white supremacist. Other recently targeted victims have been Jews at worship in Pittsburgh, or just anyone who chose to come to the wrong music festival in Las Vegas. There have been too many incidents to remember – they go by in a blur. The victims and perpetrators of these massacres can come from any group, or any religion. There are simply people in this world who hate so deeply, that almost any ideology or religion – or, in the case of the Las Vegas mass murderer – just a general hatred of humanity – will set them off on a murderous rampage. Social media has made this human failing exponentially worse.

Although every ideology and religion is represented in these acts of hatred and terrorism, the overwhelming number of terrorist type murders are inspired by Islam. The Easter Sunday suicide bombings in Sri Lanka that killed hundreds emphasizes this grim reality. As Tarek Fatah noted in his March 20, 2019 column “a 2017 report tracking violent Islamist extremism found, Jihadi terrorism has resulted in the deaths of 84,000 people. There were a total of 7,841 attacks – an average of 21 per day – in 48 countries. These numbers simply dwarf the relatively small numbers of deaths from white supremacist and far right incidents. This doesn’t minimize those deaths, but the comparison must be made. Jihadi attacks kill far more people than all other kinds of terrorism combined.

This is a fact that needs discussion – especially within the Muslim community. But, such a discussion is very difficult to undertake because those who try to talk about this very serious problem are quickly labelled “Islamophobes”.

But this is irrational. People who kill or persecute Muslims are guilty of crimes and should be punished. Anti-Muslim bigotry of all kinds should be roundly condemned. People should be free to worship as they please, and be free of persecution.

Be that as it may, discussing the deep-rooted issues of some of the tenets of Islam that have no place in the 21st century must not be conflated with anti-Muslim bigotry. Discussion is absolutely necessary, and must be undertaken if Islamic inspired terrorism is ever to be shown the door. It is exactly those dangerous tenets that inspire the jihadi violence in the first place.

In fact, brave Muslim and ex-Muslim advocates have been trying to raise awareness of the need for the Muslim community – and indeed all communities – to discuss some of these backward and dangerous doctrines. Tarek Fatah (author of “The Jew Is My Friend”), and Ali Rizvi (author of “The Atheist Muslim”) are two men who have been trying to convince fellow Muslims to disavow outdated Islamic tenets and promote Canadian freedoms instead. However, they are having limited success. In fact – and astoundingly – Muslims like Tarek Fatah who are calling for reform – are themselves called “Islamophobes”. And, as the news coverage of the Christchurch massacres indicate, there is an unfortunate tendency for mainstream Muslim organizations – aided by a liberal media – to try and label any criticism of these dangerous tenets as “Islamaphobic”.

This is wrong, and the recent examples of two brave women clearly demonstrate the backwardness – and indeed unacceptability – of certain Islamic tenets.

First is the case of Asia Bibi. She had been convicted of blasphemy in Pakistan for allegedly insulting Mohammed. For that she was sentenced to death. When an appeal court bravely set her free, howling mobs demanded that she be killed because she had “insulted the prophet”. All this over an alleged slight to a religious figure who had been dead for more than a thousand years.

The fact is the crime of “blasphemy” should not exist in this modern world. It was consigned to the dustbin – where it belongs – long ago in civilized countries. It only continues to exist as a crime in countries like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia because Muslims allow such a primitive law to stay in place. Asia Bibi is certainly entitled to be “Islamophobic” – if that word actually means someone who is afraid of Islam. She quite rightly fears an interpretation of Islam that is trying to kill her.

Similarly, we recently had the case of the Saudi girl, Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, who was granted asylum in Canada. She feared that her parents would kill her because she had renounced Islam. It is a sad fact that every year people are tortured and killed for the crime of “apostasy” – that is, deciding to stop being a Muslim.

But there should be no crime of apostasy anywhere. People should have the right to join or leave a religion – or to renounce all religion. The fact that there are countries that actually punish or kill people over matters of personal belief should be completely unacceptable. People everywhere should be able to worship as they please – or not worship at all. They should have the right to change their minds about these matters of personal belief.

Reformers like Tarek Fatah and Ali Rizvi are certainly standing up for these freedoms.

But where are the mainstream Muslim organizations on such issues? For that matter, where are the other religions? Christians and Muslims are being persecuted and killed in primitive countries like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia for “crimes” like apostasy and blasphemy – which should not be crimes at all – but the brave Muslims, ex-Muslims and others who try to raise awareness of these issues are labelled “Islamophobes” and ignored.

Which brings us back to the overwhelming majority of terrorist incidents that are inspired by those thoroughly outdated and violent tenets still left within Islam. And still undiscussed.

“White supremacy”, and other such thoroughly despicable doctrines must be thoroughly discussed, so they can be combated. But so, too, must Islamic doctrines like blasphemy, apostasy and jihad. Until such Islamic laws can be openly discussed, those terrorist incidents will continue.