SURREY; DELTA – Members of the local Muslim community are condemning last week’s attack on a satire magazine in France and calling on the faithful to reject violence.
The comments were made Friday, the same day French special forces found and killed the men believed to be responsible for killing 12 in a Wednesday attack on the Paris magazine Charlie Hebdo.
Imam Balal Khokhar from the Baitur Rahman Mosque in Delta said Islam forbids anyone from taking the law into their own hands and that events like this create a negative perception of Muslims.
“What happens is this keeps putting ideas in people’s minds, ‘OK, it’s only the Muslims that are doing this.’ So it creates this negative stereotype in people’s minds, ‘Are all Muslims like that?'” Khokhar said the motto of the Ahmadiyya Muslim faith is “Love for All, Hatred for None.”
The imam travels throughout Canada to educate both Muslims and non-Muslims about the peaceful teachings of Islam.
While he said the cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad in Charlie Hebdo are offensive, Muslims have an obligation to educate people in a respectful way. However, Khokhar said freedom of speech comes with responsibility.
“As a Muslim I sometimes hear about Jesus being mocked,” he said. “And I don’t like that. Because Christians have revered Jesus.”
Mufti Aasim Rashid, a Surrey resident and member of the BC Muslim Association, said their group was threatened following the October shooting death of a soldier at the National War Memorial in Ottawa.
But he added there hasn’t been the same backlash this week because multiculturalism is strong in Canada.
“The non-Muslims here realize they’re dealing with a different kind of Muslim,” said Rashid. “We don’t really have those elements here.”
Rashid said anti-Islamic laws in France banning veils and imposing restrictions on freedom of religion has created tensions that are radically different from Canada.
“This incident didn’t just come out of nowhere. This was something that was brewing in that environment for a long, long time where it seemed like anyone who had anything to do with an anti-Islamic message was being appreciated and was being protected and nurtured.”
By marginalizing Muslims at a political level, tensions in France have escalated, said Rashid.
“That group is feeling cornered and then they have to work extra hard just to have the basic rights to practice their religion,” he said.
Rashid said insulting religious symbols should be rejected in any civilized society. He added the Koran forbids Muslims from insulting those who worship other faiths because it would bring retribution back to Islam.
“By doing that you have created a situation whereby God is being insulted.”
While acknowledging the principles of freedom of the press and free speech, Rashid said that doesn’t mean people can use those to incite hatred.
Prior to the attacks, Charlie Hebdo had been warned by the government about their offensive cartoons, Rashid noted.
As well, he said the magazine has been sued dozens of times by people of all denominations, including the Catholic Church, for insulting religious symbols.
But Rashid said the publication found a “niche market” of people who were interested in seeing the cartoons, regardless of their offensive content.
“That does not mean that people can take the law into their own hands and carry out these attacks of revenge. That’s also not acceptable.”