Acts of religiously motivated terrorism, or in Canada’s case, foiled plans of religiously motivated terrorism, do not generally bode well for multiculturalism.
In the wake of Boston, and news of the VIA Rail plot, people are left to wonder about the merits of cultural pluralism. What are we to make of terrorists and would-be terrorists who weren’t disciples of Osama bin Laden, but outwardly happy inhabitants of the Western world. These people studied here, made friends here, sang the national anthem beside us after the morning school bell. It’s easier to conceive of blind hatred when the person doing the hating has never come into direct contact with the thing he hates: the skinhead who has never met a Jew, the righteous belieber who has never read the Diary of Anne Frank. But these men knew us.
It’s easy to become disillusioned with multiculturalism and religious tolerance when we fixate on the people trying to obliterate these ideals. Yet look to the faith communities that these men thought they were a valuable part of and it becomes clear that multiculturalism, co-operation, tolerance — all the cheesy Canadian principles Fox News makes fun of us for—are alive and well. So too are we, quite possibly, because a Canadian imam tipped the RCMP about a shady member of his mosque—a potential religious extremist. If Raed Jaser and Chiheb Esseghaier are the villains in this story, the anonymous imam is our hero.
I don’t usually agree with Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, but I can’t fault him for these comments he made to the National Post:
“The community involvement in dealing with these kinds of activities is absolutely essential. In that context, I’d specifically want to point out the fact that the Muslim community was very instrumental in providing very crucial information that helped the police in this case.”
The actions of the Cambridge Muslim community speak for themselves. The Tsarnaevs’ mosque refused to give Tamerlan a funeral. Yusufi Vali, executive director of the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Centre, Boston’s biggest mosque—denounced the brothers and their alleged crimes:
“I don’t care who or what these criminals claim to be, but I can never recognize these criminals as part of my city or my faith community. All of us Bostonians want these criminals to be brought to justice immediately. I am infuriated at the criminals of these bombings for trying to rip our city apart. We will remain united and not let them change who we are as Bostonians.”
Anyone cynical about multiculturalism and suspicious of foreigners in the wake of this month’s events would do well to remember that these suspects—Tamerlan and Dhokhar Tsarnaev, Raed Jaser and Chiheb Esseghaier—do not speak for their communities. But their communities have spoken for them, and their message is clear: Those guys are not with us.