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In an unusual plea for assistance from a group known for its fear of outsiders, Canadian Muslims reached out to mainstream Canada to help manage an impulse among younger Muslims towards fundamentalism and radical Islam, the Toronto Star reported last night. Part blameshift and part honest introspection, the request for a conference on better integration at least acknowledges that the problem exists:
Muslim leaders pleaded for help Thursday in their struggle against extremists in their midst, saying they can't fight a small minority of radicals alone.
"We're not here to say we don't have an issue," said social worker Shahina Siddiqui, president of the Islamic Social Services Association.
"Of course we have an issue," she told a news conference on Parliament Hill. "But we can't deal with it ourselves. We're part of the Canadian society and so we demand that the Canadian society come forward, help us root out this."
Her group joined the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Canadian Muslim Civil Liberties Association and several other agencies pushing for a related summit by the end of June.
They hope the meeting would bring together Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, Toronto Mayor David Miller and a host of community and youth groups.
The Ontario government and Miller's office were quick to say they would take part. There was no immediate response from Harper's office, but Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day has asked the Muslim groups for more details.
The blameshifting tradition for Muslims associated with these groups did not disappear. Siddiqui blames public scrutiny of Muslims after years of Islamist terror attacks around the world for radicalizing Western Muslims. Naturally, that extends to Western media, which she accuses of possessing an anti-Islam tilt. The pressure causes resentment, and Siddiqui says that Muslims lack venues for venting their frustration, leading to radicalization.
That seems a rather convenient excuse, of course. It falls into the same category of the childish "you made me be bad" excuse that most people realize is a rationalization by the time they're in their teens. Siddiqui's associate at Canada CAIR continues along this same line, demanding better public education on Islam so that Canadians will not be so judgmental of Muslims. The lesson that Karl Nickner advocates -- "Terrorism, as you know, is antithetical to Muslim belief and is a perversion of its teachings" -- has been beaten into almost every media story on Muslims since 9/11 and almost every pronouncement on radical Islam by the US government. He also wants sensitivity training for Canada's CSIS and law enforcement agencies, although they appear to have done rather well lately in their real job of providing security for Canada, rather than Nickner's priority of building self-esteem for Muslims.
We're tired of the years that we have heard this rhetoric. We'd like to start seeing some proof of this, perhaps by mosques expelling radical members and imams demanding that their congregations cooperate with law enforcement to identify and isolate the radical elements that plague them as well as us.
Siddiqui comes much closer to the mark when she talks about possible methods of correcting the descent of their youth into radicalism. She wants to publish a handbook for Muslim parents exhorting them to carefully watch with whom their children associate at the mosques and in the streets. That sounds like something Muslims could do without holding a summit. It's never a bad idea to meet with people who want positive solutions to real problems, but perhaps it might be more valuable for Siddiqui to ask her own community to take responsibility for their children first before shifting blame for them onto all other Canadians. When they start there, summits and conferences have a much better chance for success.Sphere It View blog reactions
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