October 2011

Dear Mr. Harper,

What is Islamicism?

Is there a Christianityism? Or a Judaismism? What is the difference between Islamicism and Islam?

In all my years of studying, exploring and practising my faith, surely I would have come across such a monumental distinction, or potentially relevant offshoot of what I thought was my religion.

Please Prime Minister, could you break it down for me?

See, I have a few ideas, but I’m not sure I’m on the right track. Is Islamicism like racism, but specifically against Muslims? ‘Cause that’s sure what it sounds like when you talk about it.

Or are you talking about religious fundamentalism? ‘Cause if you are, couldn’t you just say that? And if that is the case, where is the recently and specially coined term for religious fundamentalists that terrorize in the name of Christianity or Judaism or any other religion?

Why does Islam get a special term? Is it because it is so important to you, Prime Minister, to distinguish between terrorists and the rest of us? Because, you know, I think that’s kind of cool, that you would go through all that trouble to distinguish for the population that you don’t think all Muslims are a threat.

Because that would mean I’m a threat.

That would mean my parents, my grandparents, even my little cousins, are somehow threats to the country we call home, simply by virtue of our faith, the language in which we pray.

I’m sure that’s not what you meant. Because Mr. Prime Minister, if what you are really trying to say is that Islam is the threat to your oil-seeking conservative imperialist Zionist enterprise then I’m sure you would just come out and say it.

If you have the guts to justify the deaths of thousands of people every year—Palestinians, Afghans, and the Canadians that serve in your armies, surely you can admit that all of your talk of defence, security and justice is just a front for your racism, intolerance and Islamophobia.

Mr. Harper if you mean to say that every Muslim in this country is a threat to your security, your worldview and your peace of then that I dare you to come out and declare it.

Don’t add innocuous suffixes to make your words seem less hateful. Don’t make up words so you can avoid saying what your really mean.

You talk about security, but what about my security? What about protecting me from the hate-speech, the verbal violence that I have to fight every day when the topic of my religious persuasion comes up in conversation?

Then there is the physical violence, women assaulted because they are wearing hijabs, mosques vandalised, anti-Islam terrorism that goes unacknowledged.

Why is it that Norway’s recent tragedy, and attack by a white man was “out of the blue,” But “Islamic terrorism” is a constant and international threat?

Why is it that even though it has been reported that the perpetrator was actually targeting Islam and multiculturalism, his 1,500 page manifesto is being compared to “a jihadist manifesto,” a “a complete mirroring of al-Qaeda”? (Magnus Ranstorp, a terrorism expert at the Swedish National Defense Col- lege, told TIME.com. Read more here. )

Did you know Mr. Harper, that the Prime Minister of Norway made a public address in a mosque to show support and empathy to the Norwegian Muslim community?

He reached out to the Muslim community to strengthen bonds and com- bat Islamophobia.

What the hell are you doing? You’re just feeding the fire with your created “isms” and your talk of terror.

You know who the real terrorists are, don’t you? Mr. Prime Minister don’t you see that by perpetuating Islamophobia, by propagating fear and hate among your citizens you are alienating a good chunk of them?

I have enough trouble justifying the fact that I am even Canadian, being a woman of colour, never mind having to defend my faith from the assumptions people are left to make after watching conservative news broadcasts with im- ages of oppressed women and suicide bombers.

What I’d really like to ask you Mr. Harper, is when you say “Islamicism” could you just qualify who you are talking about? Either come out and say you are accusing all Muslims, from my 92-year old great-grandmother down to my future children, of being terrorists, or differentiate between religious funda- mentalism and religion.

And while I have your attention, could you please not generalize, essentialize and then demonize an entire faith? Unless your goal as Prime Minister is to lead a country full of fearful, accusative and ignorant people I suggest you lead by example.


Haseena Manek

as published in the Ryerson Free Press, October 2011