By Rahila Ovais

O Canada!

October 22 is not a day any of us can forget. We all heard it on the news when a lone gunman started shooting in Ottawa.

The sad demise of Soldier Nathan Cirillo and our initial reactions of sadness of this cold-blooded act of violence, was followed by this typical conversation in the office lunchroom:

“Who was it? Who was the shooter?”

“I hope he wasn’t  Muslim.”

“It doesn’t matter if it was a Muslim or not.”

“I am worried if he is a Muslim, I almost feel like I will have to take my hijab off and de-identify myself as a Muslim.”

“This is exactly the problem: Muslims have been given a bad name due to the actions of very few. There are Muslims who have immigrated to Canada who contribute equally to the socio-economic fabric of the country and they have embraced Canadian customs while also keeping true to their own faith, religion and traditions but no one talks about that.”

Why do Muslims always have to justify themselves after such incidents? No one talks about the fact that these types of incidents affect Non-Muslims and Muslims equally. We are saddened by the loss of life. Media portrayal of Muslims in general is completely unjustified. We feel the same pain and sadness as all others. In fact, the main victims other than the people who die in such ncidents are Muslims themselves. People need to understand that true Islam has nothing to do with violence.

The media has done a good job of providing news coverage of the violence and relating it to Islam but it has failed to portray the emotions of Muslims around the world, particularly the ones who are in the western world who are hurt and saddened by the ignorance of both. Our hearts cried on the tragedy of 9/11 and the hundreds of innocent people who got killed. Our hearts also silently cried for the sheer injustice of blaming the entire Muslim world for that incident, without any proof. Our hearts still cry for the thousands of innocent men women and children that have been killed since then in Iraq and Afghanistan.

No matter the allegations by media portrayal, Islam is a religion of peace. Even our greeting “Assalam alaikum wa rahmatullah wa barakatuhu” means “Peace be unto you and so may the mercy of Allah and his blessings”. Talk to your  peaceful Muslim co-worker or neighbor and you will learn that most Muslims are peace loving people who avoid conflict at any cost as per the true teachings of Islam.

It was narrated from Abu Hurayrah (RA) that the Prophet (PBUH) said:

“Religion is easy, and no one overburdens himself in his religion but he will be unable to continue in that way. So do not be extremists, but try to be near perfection and receive the good tidings that you will be rewarded. Gain strength by worshipping in the mornings and afternoons and during the last hours of the night.”

 ~ Sahih Al Bukhari and Al Muslim

Ihsaan Gardee, the executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, denounced the attacks in a news conference last Thursday. He said an attack on one Canadian represented an attack on all Canadians.

“We stand united with Canadians in categorically condemning these cowardly and heinous acts. Our message to anyone who believes in violent extremist ideologies is that you have nothing to do with Islam.”

Not only do all Canadian citizens, Muslims and Non-Muslims equally condemn such acts of violence and representation of radicalized Islam, Muslims families have more work to do in order to ensure the safety of their youth and protect them from radicalization. There is a difference between practicing the religion and killing in its name. And while we teach our kids Islam, we also have be on heightened alert to any signs of extremism amongst ourselves.


About the author:

Rahila Ovais is a Pharmacy Technician and works for the Ontario College of Pharmacists. She is a proud mother of four children and Toronto has been her home for the past 20 years.