THE BLOG
09/17/2014 04:08 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2014

Fighting ISIS, Visible Minorities Are Essential: Why Any Muslim You See Here Is a 'Good One'

Last week, when I heard Vice President Joe Biden's promise to "follow ISIS to the gates of hell." I couldn't help cheering the image of "Bull Balls" Biden stripping down to his tighty whitey's and unleashing his old-man strength on the scourge of extremist Islam... except that's exactly what ISIS wants: Muhammad foretold the day that demons masquerading as Arab Muslims would come, bent on violently luring believers of every faith to and through the gates of hell. And they're succeeding in North America.

Last week someone tried to run one of my favorite imams down, the founder of Muslims Against Terrorism no less, while accusing him of being a terrorist -- because of his hat and his beard I suppose. That's profoundly unproductive behavior for someone apparently concerned about fighting terrorism.

Because Muslims here are on the front-lines of the war to keep our countries safe, and in the words of George W. Bush, "If you're not with us, you're against us."

So ask yourself, which side are you really on?

Visible minorities aren't criminals, in fact they're the opposite. Criminals hide themselves, their criminal plans and their criminal acts from those around them no matter who they are or what they do: that's just as true of ideological crime as it is of any other one.

And on the other hand, a strong and integrated community is protective against crime regardless of their religious or cultural background: that was probably the most important thing we all learned during the Muslim Summit "Preventing Radicalization Through Youth Empowerment" last week in Calgary, an event that included the welcome participation of the US State Department, in the person of Consul-General Peter Kujawinski, a strong ally in our fight against terrorism.

Crazy as it might seem, up in Canada our relationship with the US government often seems much better than our relationship with our own, likely because up here -- just as it is down there -- elected officials seeming too comfy with their Muslim constituents might just lessen someone's chances of being re-elected.

However, the opposite should be true and here's why.

To North America's Muslims, the horrific evil of groups like al Qaeda and ISIS make protecting our countries a double imperative for two reasons.

  • because so many incorrectly associate it with our religion instead of world politics
  • because we are even more at risk than the rest of you, as victims rather than perpetrators.
ISIS and those like them kill far more Muslims than non-Muslims -- our sort of Muslim, those dedicated to following Muhammad's example towards egalitarian shared peace. So, rest assured we're vigilant regarding the political manipulation of Islam and our fellow Muslims within our own communities. However, that makes it harder, not easier, to identify potential perpetrators: since criminal radicalization is Haram -- anathema -- when the process of radicalization begins, those at risk become secretive, and go underground.

That's why a new "McCarthyism" as some propose, with Muslims made responsible to accuse others among us, would only compound the problem by driving it even further away from our mainstream communities, even further underground. Our law enforcement agencies -- by dealing with it as the crime that it is -- remain the best defense against the danger it poses, and our Muslim communities will serve us all best by becoming more active as part of the solution.

Because although more research into radicalization needs to be done, investigations already confirm that the "average" jihadi-extremist is relatively ignorant of Islam, poorly connected to their home community, and motivated more by adventure-seeking than by ideology.

And to correct them, rather than less religion and less community involvement radicalized Muslims need more of both: Muslim practice and community participation are both protective against radicalization and effective at a criminal radical's correction and re-integration.

Not surprisingly, it seems likely that in some ways North American youth-at-risk are different from those arising from other nationalities, seeming somewhat more motivated by a debauched drive to justice. In our anti-criminal radicalization event, we heard from the mother of one young convert-jihadi who grew up a champion for the underdog, the bullied and the abused, who became profoundly troubled by the plight of Muslims in Palestine, Chechnya and Syria. It was likely that manipulated sensitivity -- a criminally abused sense of justice -- that drew him to his death with ISIS.

But Muslim solutions to world injustice are in complete agreement with Canada's and America's historic and progressive role on the world stage, something for which our communities remain extremely proud. Since the close of the imperial age, up until very recently, both our countries have been peacemaking nations, using force as a focused last resort against truly evil ideologies like the Nazis and ISIS, working for a world where peace is primarily promoted through shared justice, security and economic development.

Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson both won two of America's Nobel Peace Prizes for helping set up the Hague's International Arbitration Court and the League of Nation's respectively, George Marshall got one for rebuilding Europe and Japan and actually "winning" WWII instead of just ending it, and just before Al Gore's climate change initiative Jimmy Carter won America's second-most-recent for his commitment to peaceful social and economic development. Canada's first Nobel Peace Prize came to Lester Pearson in 1957 for inventing the peacekeeping force (when Britain, France and Israel invaded Egypt, and Russia threatened nuclear retaliation), and our last went in 1995 to the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, dedicated to diminishing the dangers of armed conflict: historically both our nations have defended force as a last resort, recognizing that it often prevents justice and reverses social progress.

Those inspiring examples are important to remember not just because we're proud of them, but because those people's initiatives actually worked when it came to actually making peace. Today's initiatives? Not so much, if we're being honest about it. Maintaining our own peace with foreign invasions, weapons and walls in the face of injustice, inequity and oppression isn't peacemaking. Instead it is "peace-taking": providing nothing more than a false sort of peace where one person's safety, happiness and security proceeds primarily from the lost safety, happiness and security of another.

And here's the important part: when it comes to actually making peace, Muhammad and his Islam is on the same side as America and Canada. The world he died for, the world he and his first and best followers finally won, was a world with religious freedom and egalitarian justice for all.

He didn't impose Islam. In fact, he even welcomed diverse worship into his Mosque, and discussed faith and religion respectfully with everyone.

Because the Qur'an declared God made us different to make us celebrate diversity Muhammad's Charter made a place for everyone -- believer and non-believer alike -- and he promised that his true followers would protect the freedoms of everyone, because he knew he was right, so he didn't fret about proving it.

Islamists say otherwise -- for political reasons rather than religious -- and Islamophobes say otherwise, too, for exactly the same reasons. I often wonder just whose side they are on too.

ISIS are Islam's Nazis, and like the Nazis they must be defeated. But we can't allow them to make us become like them, not if we want to win. In Canada, our Muslim leaders have declared en-masse that ISIS and those like them are a deviant group that must be opposed, but what unites us as Canadians is our drive to empower our communities and our youth to make a positive difference in the world, by promoting Canadian multiculturalism as an Islamic ideal first seen in Muhammad's Medina, and by seeking God's distributive justice, for all.

And in America, I know there are many similar Muslim groups, including the Council on American Islamic Relations, who feel the same.

So how can you assist North America's Muslims as we oppose ISIS and other vile groups promoting violent, fascist agendas? Don't try to push us out. Help us marginalize criminal ideas and behavior, but don't try to marginalize our communities. Allow us to be part of the conversation, "Nothing about us without us!" and encourage our public servants -- from the highest offices on down -- to remember that our highest values, including freedom, egalitarian liberty, and multiculturalism, are our greatest strengths, not a source of weakness.

Remember that Muslims have been participating members of our societies since before our nations were named, and with us acknowledge that our shared experience is made better by the broad range of heritages from which we arise.

Who knows? Instead of just help keep ourselves safe, we might even be able to help the rest of our world be better and safer too.