Since the War on Terror began, people and pundits everywhere have been trying to discern what being Islamic really means. We have been told that it is a peaceful religion, and that we should not judge all of our Muslim neighbors by the actions of a group of terrorists. News stories in the mainstream press have stated that Islam is a peaceful religion that has been hijacked by a few extremists. I would agree with this for the most part. Christianity was once hijacked by rulers who used it to crush opposition to their expanding empires. They claimed that they were acting in the name of God, and we now refer to that period as the crusades. I have no idea where they got that idea, but it certainly wasn’t the Bible.
I bring up Islam not because I embrace it, nor because I believe it is a legitimate religion. I am simply trying to compare the way that people of faith are treated, and the biases that prevail in our society.
Next, we have religion itself. Religion has been blamed on most of our wars. Indeed, many holy wars have been started by men who hide behind religion while claiming that God is on their side. Religion neither condones or excuses war, nor does it start it. People do. Unfortunately, they sometimes hide behind it.
To illustrate that Canadians are indeed tolerant of other countries, we elected Canada’s first Muslim MP, and Canada’s first Muslim woman member of Parliament – Yasmin Ratansi from the Toronto riding of Don Valley East. In WWII, we interned all citizens of Japanese ancestry, but in the thick of the War on Terror, we have lifted a Muslim woman up to a position of great authority. What a contrast to years gone by.
Having established the fact that we are indeed a tolerant people begs the following question. How do some in the media today get to constantly refer to Christians of all denominations as extremists threatening to hijack the country to impose its will on us all? We are told that ‘the right’ or ‘radical Christians’ are trying to hijack the Conservative Party of Canada. Our own prime minister, leader of the federal Liberal Party was quoted on a Vancouver radio station earlier this year as stating that he was a strong Catholic. Does this suggest that the Liberals have been hijacked by religious fundamentalists? Of course not.
We have to stop targeting people of faith, of all faiths, and we must stop the branding. It is wrong, and it does our parliamentary system a great disservice. Most people of faith have the same character traits in common, those being honesty, integrity, trustworthiness, hardworking, kind, and charitable. How do these things disqualify an individual from holding power in our country, and how do these things give the media the ammunition it feels it has to call these people scary? These are exactly the kind of people that this country needs to return us to an ethical discourse.