A recent survey by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute shows a frightening amount of extremism within the Canadian-Muslim community. A significant minority support terrorist groups and establishing a global caliphate. The results substantiate the notion that the Canadian-Muslim community is relatively moderate, but plenty of extremism resides in America’s northern neighbor to provide a base for Islamists.
Sixty-five percent completely repudiate Al-Qaeda and only 3% view it positively. About one-fourth view the Muslim Brotherhood positively, though some of these may falsely believe it is a moderate group. One-fifth of respondents had a favorable opinion of Iran. Hezbollah and Hamas have favorability ratings of 17% and 15%, respectively. About 13% view Israel positively, which is quite high for a Muslim community.
The authors of the study admit that the extremist minority poses a significant risk.
“From a security perspective, it is difficult to know if a 65% rate of repudiation (of Al-Qaeda) is re-assuring or a 35% failure to repudiate troubling,” they wrote.
The survey shows that a substantial majority of Canadian-Muslims reject key tenets of Islamist doctrine and oppose terrorist groups, though significant extremist minorities exist.
Nearly half disagree with the objective of establishing a global Islamic state. A little more than one-fifth (22%) don’t want Sharia law at all, including voluntary courts for Muslims to settle civil disputes based on Islam. About half favor such courts. About 8% want Muslims to be required to use Sharia arbitration courts, and 7% want the courts to decide all matters for Muslims, which is effectively Sharia-based governance.
JihadWatch.org, the website of Islam expert Robert Spencer, was less welcoming of the results. It emphasized that 62% of Canadian-Muslims want some form of Sharia. It warned that limited Sharia, such as in the form of Sharia tribunals, “is just a temporary condition on the way to having more.”
Dr. Daniel Pipes, President of the Middle East Forum, wrote that the survey shows that a majority of Canadian-Muslims think highly of their government, whereas other Muslim communities in the West tend to view their governments as hostile entities. He took particular comfort in their positive attitudes towards freedom and allowing independent thought.
Stephen Schwartz of the Center for Islamic Pluralism, an anti-Islamist organization based in Washington, D.C., told FrontPage that some of the questions in the survey “are too broad and vague” and gives an exaggerated impression of the levels of extremism.
“Canadian Islam is more moderate, diverse and more open to debate than American or even British Islam,” says Schwartz.
He said in an interview that the moderate beliefs of most Canadian-Muslims are because of the types of immigrants that have come to the country. Many are secularists from North Africa, Sufis, Ismailis and Muslims who had to live with other faiths in places like East Africa and India. However, the survey found that only a minority of Muslim immigrants arriving today reject terrorist groups.
A poll of American-Muslims substantiates Schwartz’s theory, as it found that Muslim immigrants are much more hostile to mixing religion and politics than those born in the U.S. It is likely that this is partly because Muslim immigrants have been exposed to the negative consequences of Islamism and Sharia-based governance.
He also suggested that the immorality of pop culture is causing young Muslims to gravitate towards more conservative forms of their faith.
“Young Muslims often now find themselves addicted either to violent video games or to gangsta rap or to religious fundamentalism,” Schwartz told FrontPage.
Tarek Fatah, the founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress, told FrontPage that the source of the extremism is from Saudi-funded Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood and “the respectability these ideologies have been given by the liberal to left side of the political spectrum” while Islamist opponents in the U.S. and Canada are “shunned.”
Indeed, the Muslim Brotherhood in both countries has been successful at influencing the media, academics and government officials. Non-Islamist Muslim groups have found it difficult to compete because of their disadvantages in resources and publicity. Recently, the Obama administration blocked the nomination of an anti-Islamist Muslim activist named Dr. Zuhdi Jasser to a post at the State Department.
Fatah says Muslims who “expose the fascist nature of Islamism as compared to Islam as a faith” must be embraced. One of the most interesting findings in the study is that, in the words of its authors, “the most radical political views tended to be expressed by relatively secular people, often equipped with higher education in the social sciences, while devout Muslims were sometimes the most articulate advocates for Canada and democracy.”
Fatah gave a list of suggestions that would help undermine radical Islam, such as adding the Muslim Brotherhood and Jamaat-e-Islami to the list of terrorist organizations; removing the charitable status of mosques that engage in political advocacy and requiring donations to be made by check, credit card or in cash payments less than $5.
The survey shows that there is an ideological struggle within the Canadian-Muslim community between the Islamists and the moderates. The majority is moderate, but the extremist minority is disturbingly powerful. The Western world has an interest in picking a side in this struggle.
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