Fundamentalism and terrorism – food for thought

I recently had to shift my attitude to fundamentalist Muslims a little.

I heard an interview of Canadian Muslim Mubin Shaikh on the radio. He is undeniably a conservative – I would even say extremist – Muslim. He has campaigned for Sharia law to be given a place in the resolution of family disputes such as divorce in Ontario. Apparently trying to defend his position, Shaikh says “I think the main issue is that the Western, secular version of equality is not what you will find with Islam.” His campaign, I’m happy to say, failed. A community can follow any customs its members wish (short of actually violating the laws of the land), but religious laws have no place in the legal framework of a secular society. Period.

(Shaikh and his fellows point out that similar arbitration boards exist in Ontario for the Catholic and Jewish communities to settle family law matters. I would say these are equally problematic, and should be got rid of for the same reasons. If people wish to sort out problems in a religiously-mandated way, they can do it without involving the secular law. If they wish to access the authority of the secular government in settling disputes, they can accept the lack of religious authority in that context. It’s a clear, fair choice.)

But that’s not the only way he has been active in the Muslim community in Ontario. You see, he became a member of a jihadi organization planning terrorist attacks in Toronto, acting as an informant for CSIS (the Canadian Security Intelligence Service), helping to foil the plot and put several would-be terrorists in jail.

He didn’t just speak out against terrorism – though even that is an important part of keeping marginal nuts marginal in one’s community. He acted against criminals whose deeds would have rendered his home less safe, and brought condemnation, fear, and hatred down on his family, friends, and neighbours. “People are doing this in the name of Islam, and it’s hurting me more than anybody else. It’s hurting the Muslim more than anybody else. I mean, you know, apart from those who actually lose their life, it’s people like us who suffer more than anybody else, and that’s what people have to understand, because now a guy like me who’s an agent of the state, responsible for bringing these guys down, I’m still called a terrorist in the street.”

Well, I still disagree with his position on Sharia law, and I completely deny the truth-claims of his religion. In fact, he doesn’t sound to me like a very pleasant person in general. But he’s no terrorist. So in the future, I’ll have to avoid making the automatic leap from conservative Muslim (or even self-described fundamentalist) to terrorist. Shaikh demonstrates that they’re not the same thing.


One Response to “Fundamentalism and terrorism – food for thought”

  1. On dialogue, genocide, and plague « Friendly Humanist Says:

    […] while disagreeing with the content of that message on almost every level. (I’ve done so before.) So I contacted them and spent a pleasant hour over lunch chatting with member Matthew Wilson, a […]

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