View of Islam skewed by actions of extremists: expert• Mar 16th, 2015 • Category: Works Cites Soroush
Renowned Islam and political academics Abdolkarim Soroush, left, and Asef Bayat gave keynote speeches and participated in panel discussion during the Islamism and Post-Islamism conference at Queen’s University on Saturday. (Supplied photo)
The popular view of Islam has been skewed by the actions of minority extremists, according to world-renowned academics.
Dr. Abdolkarim Soroush, a post-revolutionary Iranian philosopher, author and intellectual, and Dr. Asef Bayat, the Catherine & Bruce Bastian Professor of Global and Transnational Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, were keynote speakers at the Queen’s University Islamism and post-Islamism conference on the weekend.
With recent events, acts of terrorism and the continuous rise of ISIS, Sorough said society has become less tolerant of religious freedoms.
“Secularism, especially in France and Turkey, has become a militant secularism,” Soroush said. “Which means that it has lost its tolerance for religion.”
In February, Prime Minister Stephen Harper called wearing a niqab during a citizen ceremony offensive. On March 10, he said most Canadians oppose people wearing face coverings during the ceremony.
“It is very easy to understand why we do not allow people to cover their faces during citizenship ceremonies,” Harper said. “Why would Canadians, contrary to our own values, embrace a practice at that time that is not transparent, that is not open, and frankly is rooted in a culture that is anti-women? That is unacceptable to Canadians and unacceptable to Canadian women.”
Soroush said Canada is a free country and anyone can wear what they’d like. A niqab may be offensive to some, but so can wearing very little clothing.
“This is a free country, and so long as they are good citizens, I mean they obey and they abide by law, and they pay their taxes, they are not criminals, so they have every right to present themselves as they wish,” Soroush said. “In this society, you have every right to wear what you like “¦ Of course we have to respect each other. We have to be careful not to offend each other. This is a principle in every society.
“According to the modern conception of an man or a woman, all the society wants you to do, all the government wants you to be, is to be a good citizen. That’s it. Your personal morality is yours.”
Islam is getting a bad reputation these days, Bayat said.
“Largely because of some of the events that are unfolding, especially with respect to ISIS,” Bayat said. “Which sort of reinforces some of the prejudice that unfortunately exists.”
Bayat said Europe is less welcoming to Muslims, but now the United States and Canada are following suit. Bayat recalls in 2007 being invited to the Canadian embassy in Brussels to discuss how European countries can learn to be as accepting as Canada.
“It was very interesting to me that Canada had been considered to be a model, but in recent years it seems things have changed, and that’s unfortunate.” Bayat said. “I don’t know much about Canada, I don’t live here, but this is what I read.”
Bayat blames news media and popular culture for reinforcing a negative Islamic stereotype.
“We hear blarings of noise about ISIS that is taking over everywhere,” Bayat said. “But (media) is not paying attention (to the fact) that they are such a minute, small, extremely small group, out of 1.8 million Muslims.
“But the noise is so big that it’s like the Islamic world is like this. This is something that should be corrected.”