Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Is there an antidote for extremism?

First a little background for those who may not be up on the news from Canada. There have been two incidents this week of what one newspaper writer calls “microterrrorism.” On Monday in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Québec an automobile driver struck two uniformed soldiers, killing one and injuring the other. Wednesday in Ottawa, a man shot a soldier standing guard at the National War Memorial, then ran through the hall of the Parliament building firing at random until he was shot and killed by the Sergeant-at-Arms.

Both of the attackers were young Canadian-born men who had recently converted to Islam. In both cases police and security responded very quickly. There were no other injuries in the Parliament building and the first attacker didn’t get far before he was captured.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper spoke today, calling for prayers of support for the families involved and said that Canada would not be intimidated. We must be vigilant, but we will continue to be a free, open and safe society.

A prominent Canadian Imam, Syed Soharwardy of Calgary, said today that imams should be investigating the backgrounds of new converts and those with recent problems with crime or drug abuse should not be allowed to convert. He also urged other imams to follow up with new converts to ensure they do not fall under the influence of radicals.

Mr. Soharwardy sounds like a moderate, yet some other things he has said leave room for doubt. The problem is that Islam has no doctrine of the separation of mosque and state. Living under the laws of a secular state is always second best. Living in a nation with religious freedom for all is second best.

I want to believe that there are moderate Muslims. I want to believe that the majority of Muslims who have come to this country have come to get away from religious intolerance and violence. But sometimes I find myself wondering if moderate Muslim is an oxymoron, at least at the organisational level.

Nevertheless, we will do far more harm than good if we treat all individual Muslims as suspect. We need to do our utmost to reach out to them and draw them into the fabric and tradition of our country and encourage them to leave behind the attitudes and suspicions they brought with them from their homelands.

Syed Soharwardy is quoted in one place as saying that 20 to 30 Canadians are converting to Islam every week. How many Canadian Muslims are converting to Christianity? It is happening in some places. What are we doing to give Muslim people an attractive and realistic picture of what Christianity is all about?

We need to realize that most Muslims are simply Muslims by birth and may not even have much grasp of the teachings of Islam. Most of them have been given an entirely unrealistic picture of Christianity. Let’s do all we can to bring the real picture into clearer focus.

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