Canadian liberalism - and beyond

Canadian liberalism - and beyond

My column neighbor (and ex-sparring partner) Mustafa Akyol was perfectly right when he praised “Canadian liberalism” after a cute children’s choir in Canada welcomed Syrian refugees by singing “Tala al-Badru Alayna” (The Full Moon Rose Over Us), the tune that was sung to welcome the Prophet Muhammad upon his arrival in Medina from Mecca in 620 (“Canada: A bright hope for liberalism,” Hürriyet Daily News, Dec. 16). 

It was truly sweet of the choir. Unfortunately, the kind of peaceful co-habitation and interfaith dialogue the saner parts of the world long for requires a two-way journey. The reason for the insanity we observe today is NOT because elsewhere in Christian lands children’s choirs do not welcome Muslim refugees with holy Muslim songs. It is, rather, related to why Muslims in their homelands or in non-Muslim lands are possibly centuries away from the kindness that justifiably inspired Mr. Akyol. 

Forget, even in a world of fiction, the possibility of Muslims welcoming Christian refugees with hymns in their Muslim lands. Just look at what they do to their Christian compatriots. See, for instance, how the Muslim Brothers, when in power, treated the Coptic Christians in Egypt: Arson attacks on churches instead of peaceful hymns. 

In the span of a week in 2013, 40 churches were looted and torched in Egypt while 23 others were attacked and heavily damaged. In one town, after burning a Franciscan school Islamists paraded three of its nuns on the streets as if they were prisoners of war. Many more atrocities against Christians happened, while the Muslim Brotherhood’s Facebook page claimed “the Church has declared war against Islam and Muslims.” It must be noted that the perpetrators were not the barbaric bunch of jihadists that go under the banner of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). 

Understandably, Muslims who have chosen non-Muslim lands to live in demand to be respected. But they do not seem to understand that they cannot “force” their hosts to respect them. They should rather try to earn the respect they want. And they cannot do that by declaring jihad – literally - on pet dogs.

In 2012, a Dutch Muslim politician called for a ban on dogs in the Netherland’s third biggest city, The Hague, reflecting a controversial Islamic tradition that believes dogs are “unclean” animals. A Turkish Dutch member of The Hague city council called for the criminalization of pet dog ownership. 

Earlier, in 2011, two Islamic groups in a small Catalonian city, Lerida, asked local authorities to regulate the presence of dogs in public spaces so they did not “offend Muslims.” They demanded that dogs be banned from all public transportation, arguing that dogs violated their religious freedom and their right to live according to Islamic principles. After that demand was refused by the city of Lerida, the city saw more than a dozen dogs poisoned on the streets. 

Fast forward to present times… Turkey generously provides any researcher with several terabytes of input on any form of xenophobia. This column’s archive is full of some of them. Forget any of the rich dossiers of unpleasant incidents in the last few years only. Just the repetitive calls for the opening of the Hagia Sophia Church, now a mosque, to Muslim prayers should suffice to tell us where we go wrong. 

Muslim Turks may have silently praised the children’s choir in Canada but they [not Mr. Akyol] tend to shout loudly for prayers in the Hagia Sophia mosque. What they want to see is a one-way kindness: Muslims in Christian lands must be treated well; Christians in Muslim lands preferably should not. 

“Canadian [or any other western] liberalism” is the wrong place to start building interfaith peace. When “Muslim liberalism” reaches half the way to where Canadian liberalism stands today, peace will be there, with or without ISIL and Islamophobia.

Why not fix things where things need to be fixed?