Muslim Canadians, as Muslims elsewhere in Western societies, have felt increasingly besieged for some time now, both from outside their community and from within.
This sense of isolation, of being misrepresented and misunderstood, will inevitably deepen as the full story unfolds of the arrests of 17 Toronto-area Muslims on terrorism charges.
But whose fault is this? Let us, Muslims, be brutally honest.
We have inherited a culture of denial, of too often refusing to acknowledge our own responsibility for the widespread malaise that has left most of the Arab-Muslim countries in economic, political and social disrepair.
Statistics and intergovernmental reports over the past several decades have documented a gap, perhaps now unbridgeable, between Muslim countries and the advanced industrial democracies in the West.
In a recent "failed states index" published in the journal Foreign Policy (May/June 2006), Pakistan, for instance, is ranked among the top 10 failed states in the world -- ahead of Afghanistan. Pakistan is a Muslim country, a nuclear military power, but it can barely feed, clothe, educate and shelter its population.
The reports on the Arab countries are a dismal catalogue of entrenched tyrannies, failing economies, squandered wealth, gender oppression, persecution of minorities and endemic violence. The cleric-led regime in Iran seeks nuclear weapons and threatens to obliterate Israel, repress domestic opposition, and seek confrontation with the West.
Instead of acknowledging the reality of the Arab-Muslim world as a broken civilization, we Muslims tend to indulge instead in blaming others for our ills; deflecting our responsibilities for failures that have become breeding grounds of violence and terrorism.
Many of our intellectuals in public life and our religious leaders in mosques remain adept in double-speak, saying contrary things in English or French and then in Arabic or Farsi or Urdu.
We have made hypocrisy an art, and have spun for ourselves a web of lies that blinds us to the real world around us.
We seethe with grievances and resentment against the West, even as we have prospered in the freedom and security of Western democracies.
We have inculcated into our children false pride, and given them a sense of history that crumbles under critical scrutiny. We have burdened them with conflicting loyalties -- and now some of them have become our nightmare.
We preach tolerance yet we are intolerant. We demand inclusion, yet we practise exclusion of gender, of minorities, of those with whom we disagree.
We repeat endlessly that Islam is a religion of peace, yet too many of us display conduct contrary to what we profess.
We keep assuring ourselves and others that Muslims who violate Islam are a minuscule minority, yet we fail to hold this minority accountable in public.
A bowl of milk turns into curd with a single drop of lemon. The minuscule minority we blame is this drop of lemon that has curdled and made a shambles of our Islam, yet too many of us insist against all evidence our belief somehow sets us apart as better from others.
In Islam, we insist, religion and politics are inseparable. As a result, politics dominates our religion -- and our religion has become a cover for tribalism and nationalism.
We regularly quote from the Koran, but do not make repentance for our failings as the Koran instructs, by seeking forgiveness of those who we have harmed.
We Muslims are the source of our own misery, and we are not misunderstood by others who see in our conduct a threat to their peace.
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