It's not terribly difficult to locate opinion and commentary by moderate and reform-minded Muslims – provided, that is, one knows where to look. Pakistani-Canadian journalist Tahir Aslam Gora is one who fits the above description, and whose opinions merit our attention.
Gora writes from a suburb of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, and publishes regularly in the Hamilton Spectator. He has recently published valuable pieces on the subjects of multiculturalism, Islamic banking and Shari'a in the West; and Gora's latest, titled "Muslims, don't shun multiculturalism," is likewise worth a read.
Gora begins with the thought that "Muslims across the western world in general and in Canada in particular blame media for creating an environment of Islamophobia."
They think western media – including Canada's – have orchestrated a campaign to call Islam and terrorism the same thing.
But also in Canada, on the other hand, some progressive Islamic circles think Canadian media are too caught up in political correctness and don't dare air issues that question Islam in public debate.
Why is there a dire need for open debate within Islam?
The answer, simply, is that we Muslims are still part of a closed community.
Gora praises, in principle, the "multicultural mosaic would give us the opportunity to mix with all cultures in Canada." But he laments the fact that Canada's Muslims, instead, inhabit diversity's gated community, "encouraged [by Canada's intelligentsia and academy] to stay aloof from the multicultural blend."
What must result, he writes, is "alienation" – a term that speaks to religious segregation and institutional hypocrisy alike. And sadly for us all, he continues, the gatekeepers of politically correct orthodoxy will not allow a term like this to inform popular and political discourse.
The fact is, he continues: "This country's society is based on a separation of religion and state."
But when it comes to applying this core value to Muslims, policymakers start mixing religion with state affairs.
It is sad our secular colleges and universities are allocating special facilities to growing Muslim student groups to promote their religious services.
Unfortunately, these religious services on campuses eventually lead to or are dominated by fundamentalist ideologies.
Gora contends that "if we keep meeting Muslims' religious demands in non-religious places, society indirectly harbours Islamic radicalization. And when that happens, we shouldn't complain about alienation of Muslims." We will have done nothing to prevent this radicalization from festering, this is to say.
There is a contradiction of ideas and actions in the way Canada's Islamic organizations and their leaders are advocating detachment from society at large and the way they are pushing themselves into the arena of national politics and policy.
That contradiction – that paradox – may push Canada and its Muslim communities into a state of pure alienation.
This is a bad thing, certainly, and stands to benefit only the most radical elements – at the expense of those Muslims, like Gora, who find a home in Canada, and insist that "Canadian society […] help Muslims become integrated with the core values" of their nation.
A wish to see Muslims integrated in such a way is not a "bad message," writes Gora; neither does this thought amount "racism," as some have claimed. It's rather a "more appropriate direction."
Hear, hear, Mr. Gora. And here's to seeking out your next installment.