The following exchange refers to the Short takes column in the June 20 issue of The Jewish Post & News:
The “Short Takes” column in the June 22 edition of The Jewish Post & News contained statements that we find to be of great concern. The undersigned are among the nearly 40 members of the Muslim-Jewish Dialogue Group of Winnipeg, an interfaith dialogue group which has been meeting since October of this year to discuss faith and culture. Although there are several points in your column that bear a response, we will address a sampling below:
First of all, there have been 282 mass shootings in the US in 2016. Only a very few have been linked to Muslim shooters. When a white Christian man shot up Planned Parenthood, I do not recall the media making much about the crime being linked to his Christian beliefs about the sanctity of life. Certainly, no one set out to demonize those denominations of Christianity which oppose abortions nor to suggest that this belief is “pervasive everywhere” amongst them.
Honour killing has nothing to do with religion. Sadly, there have been instances of honour killing amongst Hindus, Sikhs, and Christians.
Your characterization of the niqab noting that “ a woman wearing a burkah will always be in the company of a male” is incorrect; I assure you the woman attacked at Toronto’s Fairview Mall in October 2015 in the company of her two young daughters was not accompanied by her husband. Furthermore, a 2013 study by Karen Busby of the University of Manitoba for the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, which surveyed women who wear niqabs, found the typical woman who wears a niqab is married, in her 20s or early 30s, born outside of Canada but didn’t start wearing a niqab until she arrived here. They are also highly educated and say they choose to wear a niqab because it gives them confidence and security.
As for the rest of your references to the Qur’an, since you do not state your sources, it makes it rather difficult to make any sense of this.
Finally, the Manitoba Multifaith Council recently responded to the recent tragedies in Orlando and Iraq by issuing the following statement. It was published widely including the Winnipeg Free Press. We highlight in bold below a couple of especially pertinent lines given your “short takes.”
Justin Jaron Lewis
Statement of the Manitoba Multifaith Council on the Recent Tragedies
The Manitoba Multifaith Council joins the global chorus of horror and dismay at the recent waves of violence perpetrated by some accounts and to some perspectives attributable to the religious impulse, in the immolation of 19 Yazidi women by the forces of Daesh (IS) in early June and the shootings in the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in the early hours of June 12. We lift up several foundational concerns that extend beyond the visceral revulsion provoked by such acts.
We acknowledge and confess that all too often in the course of human history religious communities of all stripes have betrayed the founding impulses of their communities. We pledge yet again to stand by the conviction, as stated in many of our religious traditions, that within Creation all human beings are made in the image of the Divine; and that consequently, the image of God in all humans implies that each person has “infinite value, equality and uniqueness.” (Rabbi Irving Greenberg).
We hold these convictions to be universal human values, regardless of race, religion, orientation, or nationality.
We call upon all Manitobans, whether people of faith or no faith; we call on people of good will everywhere to:
Resist superficial analysis of these tragedies and the religious implications of each;
To suspend judgement concerning motivations and meaning in the face of apparent meaningless;
To refrain from xenophobic suspicion of the other;
To pursue open dialogue amongst people of differing religious traditions and ideological positions;
To seek always and everywhere to be agents of reconciliation, instruments of peace and understanding in contrast to the demagogue urgings of those who would pervert religious faith or human ideals to the demonic ends of hatred and bigotry;
To embrace complexity in all aspects of the human adventure.
We urge the leaders of our province and our nation to recall the provisions of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which recognize the integrity and liberty of religious expression and to apply that recognition to all policies of our province and nation, whether domestic or global.
We remember, soberly and hopefully John Donne’s conviction that “no (one) is an island,” and the wisdom of the late Rabbi Harry Joshua Stern that we will have “one world or no world.”
I’ll print your letter Belle, but I find it interesting that you use the terms “burkah” and “niqab” interchangably. I never did. I referred only to Muslim women wearing burkahs.
When I use the two terms, I am quoting your use of the word “burkah”. I use the word “niqab” which is the term I am most familiar with, and have heard my Muslim friends use exclusively. As well, the study that I referred to “Women in Niqab Speak: A Study of the Niqab in Canada” also uses that term exclusively, as I recall.
They’re quite different. The burkah is a complete covering of the woman in one piece - often covering the complete face. The niqab is a head scarf leaving the eyes exposed.
Further to what I had written in my June 22 Short takes column, following is an excerpt from an article I had written about Kasim Hafeez in January 2015. Kasim is a very brave Muslim who has been willing to challenge many of the notions that Western liberals harbour about Islam. Much to my regret, Kasim has moved from Winnipeg; he was a breath of fresh air when it came to speaking candidly about Islam.
Here is that excerpt, taken from a report of a talk Kasim gave to the group, Winnipeg Friends of Israel:
Kasim Hafeez speaks as someone who was indoctrinated within a style of Islam that is not as extreme as what, say a nutcase group such as ISIS would be pushing, but nonetheless, hatred for Jews within Kasim’s Pakistani upbringing in Britain was taken for granted.
During Kasim’s talk on January 15 I asked him whether it was not true that many Muslim immigrants who had moved to Western countries were not, in fact, wanting to get away from the more extreme forms of Islam that had been practiced in their native countries?
“Yes, that’s true,” Kasim agreed. “The first generation of Muslim immigrants did come to the U.K. and Canada to get away from Islamic control (Sharia law)…but later generations are harkening back to the old ways.
“Two things happened,” Kasim suggested: “When an immigrant community first arrives in a new country, for the most part they want to integrate into the larger community.
“But, younger generations find themselves struggling for an identity. And, as happened in Britain, when the members of the younger generation see their new adopted country giving weapons and support to Israel, they ask themselves: ‘How can we be loyal to this country?’ “
So, the question that I wanted to ask Kasim, emanating from his observation about the generation of which he is a part, is how much hatred of Jews is a natural part of being a Muslim? Kasim said: “Demonization of Jews is the default position in much of the Muslim world.”
To that end, Kasim lays most of the blame on Saudi Arabia and the extreme form of Islam practiced there known as “Wahabism”. I noted in my last “Short takes” column that Kasim alluded to one organization in particular, known as the “Al Magri Foundation”, which is Saudi financed and which has laid down deep roots in Canada, as an example of the type of organization that fosters the kind of antipathy for Jews that is so typical among young Muslims. As for distinguishing between Jews and Israelis, moreover, Kasim explained that Muslims generally find it difficult to understand the difference. We’re all the same, in essence, in the minds of most Muslims.
For anyone who may be naïve about Islam, Kasim would say this: “Islam, at its core, is about conquest.”
There have been three stages of Islam, Kasim noted: As a “desert religion”, as a “global empire”, and as an empire in “decline”, i.e. the Ottaman Empire, culminating in the past century with the artificial creation by colonial powers of Muslim “nation states”, something Kasim described as a “complete failure”.
“The problem” in dealing with the failure of the attempt to create Muslim nation states, however, according to Kasim, is that “instead of asking how we can remedy this we look backward” to past glories, such as the Islamic Caliphate, which is what ISIS is doing.
Thus, an organization such as the Al Magri Foundation says to young Muslims: “You don’t belong here.”
But, because of Saudi Arabia’s huge influence in so much of the Muslim world, Kasim warned, “Things are going to get a lot worse because we can’t deal with the core issue, which is Saudi Arabia, unless the oil money runs out.”
Turning to ISIS and its nihilistic ideology, Kasim said: “ISIS ideology maintains that if there is an Islamic state (which is what ISIS claims to have created in Iraq and Syria) then, by law, it is every Muslim’s duty to emigrate to that state. But, if you can’t move there, then kill the infidels where you are and strike terror.”
Interestingly, however, Kasim suggested that “ISIS doesn’t care about Jerusalem. It’s Mecca and Medina that are important” and nothing else.
“Under Islamic law the only mosque you can travel to visit is in Mecca or Medina,” he added.
The Catch 22 in dealing with ISIS, however, is that if you attack them, you inflame Muslim passions; but if you don’t attack them and allow them to remain where they are”, you are also in a terrible conundrum.
Finally, Kasim had this to say about our situation right here in North America: “The Jewish community in North America is making the same mistake that the Jewish community in the U.K. made, which is: “If you don’t say anything (about Islamic extremism), the problem will go away.”
I added this in an e-mail which I subsequently sent to Belle Jarniewski: I don’t know whether you’ve heard about or read anything from Khaled Abu Toameh, who writes for the Jerusalem Post and who regularly castigates Western liberals for being so naive about Islam, but he makes the same points as Kasim when it comes to liberal Jews being afraid to speak honestly about Islam..
Belle, why do you insist on ignoring everything that’s negative about Islam and continue to try and treat it as a peace-loving faith? I’ve looked again at the results of the Pew Report on Muslim attitudes toward such things as honour killings and imposition of Sharia law. There is strong support in the vast majority of the Muslim world for attitudes that I don’t think you’d favour, yet you continue to look the other way.
If I’m going to print your letter, which I will, in its entirety, I’m also going to put in a very strong response to it.
From a 2011 Pew survey of Muslim attitudes toward honour killings, suicide bombings and violence against civilians
The survey asked Muslims whether honor killings are ever justified as punishment for pre- or extra-marital sex. In 14 of the 23 countries where the question was asked, at least half say honor killings are never justified when a woman stands accused. (Ed; The corollary is that almsot half of Muslims in those countries do support honour killings of women!) In only two countries – Afghanistan (60%) and Iraq (60%) – do majorities say honor killings of women are often or sometimes justified.
Muslims in South Asia are less likely to say honor killings of both women and men are never justified. In Pakistan, 45% of Muslims say executing accused women is never justified, (Ed.: The corollary is that 55% say it is sometimes justified!) and 48% say the same about accused men. In Bangladesh, fewer than four-in-ten Muslims reject honor killings for women (34%) and men (38%), while in Afghanistan roughly a quarter say executing a woman (24%) or a man (24%) is never justified.
In four of the seven countries where the question was asked in the Middle East-North Africa region, at least half of Muslims say honor killings of accused men are never justified: Jordan (81%), Morocco (64%), Tunisia (62%) and Lebanon (55%). Smaller percentages share this view in the Palestinian territories (46%), Egypt (41%) and Iraq (33%). But in only two countries in the region – Morocco (65%) and Tunisia (57%) – does a majority reject honor killings of accused women. In the other countries surveyed in the region, the percentage of Muslims who reject honor killings of women ranges from 45% in Lebanon to 22% in Iraq.
More than eight-in-ten American Muslims say suicide bombings and other forms of violence against civilian targets are never justified (81%) or rarely justified (5%) to defend Islam from its enemies. Worldwide, most Muslims also reject this type of violence, with a median of 72% saying such attacks are never justified and 10% saying they are rarely justified. Just 1% of U.S. Muslims and a median of 3% of Muslims worldwide say suicide bombings and other violence against civilian targets are often justified, while 7% of U.S. Muslims and a global median of 8% of Muslims say such attacks are sometimes justified to defend Islam.
(Ed.: As Bill Maher has pointed out, even if only 3% of Muslims worldwide say suicide bombings and attacks against civilians are justified, if there are 1.54 billion Muslims in the world, that means there are still 4.62 million Muslims worldwide who do support suicide bombings and attacks against civilians. Further, in the U.S. where there are 2.75 million Muslims, if 7% say such attacks are sometiems justified, that means 192,5000 Muslims in the U.S. do say such attacks are sometimes justified.
And we’re supposed to believe that Islam is a religion of peace? I think on this point I find myself believeing Kasim Hafeez - who is a Muslim, more than Belle Jarniewski.)