Khadr Case a Wake-up Call
by Raheel Raza

Toronto Star
December 8, 2003

We must be vigilant about teaching our children inherent Muslim values and applying them in the Canadian context.

Abdurahman Khadr's picture on the front page of the Star touched my heart. Bright-eyed, clean-cut and the same age as my older son, he looks like an average Canadian youth. But something seems to be amiss.

While my boys learned to load the dishwasher, Khadr learned to load an assault rifle; while much to my annoyance, my boys played violent video games, Khadr was actually living among people who practice violence against women and minorities; when I proudly took my kids on their first trip to Disneyland, Khadr was proudly sent to a training camp in Afghanistan; when my kids went to Sunday school in Brampton to learn their Islam, Khadr was being taught in a land far away. There's something terribly wrong with this picture, and I'm trying to make sense of it.

Abdurahman Khadr's picture on the front page of the Star touched my heart. Bright-eyed, clean-cut and the same age as my older son, he looks like an average Canadian youth. But something seems
to be amiss. While my boys learned to load the dishwasher, Khadr learned to load an assault rifle; while much to my annoyance, my boys played violent video games, Khadr was actually living among people who practice violence against women and minorities; when I proudly took my kids on their first trip to Disneyland, Khadr was proudly sent to a training camp in Afghanistan; when my kids went to Sunday school in Brampton to learn their Islam, Khadr was being taught in a land far away. There's something terribly wrong with this picture, and I'm trying to make sense of it.

My concern as a Muslim mother is the fact that Khadr seems to take all this in stride. He says that he and an older brother took training because it was "a normal thing that everybody does in Afghanistan." That may be so. But is it normal for Canadian Muslims to send their kids to learn violence and destruction in a camp thousands of kilometres away? When my children came as young kids to Canada, their father and I taught them about loyalty to their adopted land and respect for the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is not at odds with our Muslim values. We also made it a point to take them back regularly to our country of origin, Pakistan, so that they would know their roots and become culturally aware. At one point, my younger son (now 18) wanted to join the Canadian Armed Forces, so I asked him, "If Canada were by chance to go to war against the land of your parents' birth, where would your loyalties lie?"

Without the flicker of an eyelash, he said, "Canada, of course." I didn't reprimand him because he "stands on guard" for Canada. Much of the onus and responsibility about what happens with our children's future lies with the parents. In a country like Canada, there are ample opportunities to help those in distress and in war-torn countries through valid means. Doctors Without Borders is a perfect example. I feel sorry for Muslim youth like Khadr, who haven't been taught that Islam means peace and submission to the will of God — not submission to the call for violence being spouted by some malicious mullahs. If parents are naïve and don't watch what their children are absorbing, then unfortunately we have produced many Khadrs in our society.

It's easy to become prey to the emotional call for a physical jihad as many Muslim youth born and bred in England have done in the recent past. They were sucked into the vortex of an ideology gone mad and never told that the larger jihad is that of tolerance and understanding. I often wonder about those who entice youth to commit suicide bombing — we don't see any of those who preach this message throwing themselves in front of a bus.

Khadr's case is a huge wake-up call for all Canadian Muslims. This could happen to our kids. But we hope it won't because we are vigilant about what they learn, about teaching them inherent Muslim values and applying them in the Canadian context. As the web of hatred increases from East to West and people find trouble with religion, we try to build bridges and steer our family away from the ritual to the spiritual, finding truth not only in the Qu'ran but in messages of peace and justice emanating from all faiths.

Hate and racism are taught at home and children learn from the example of their parents. From the fall of the Buddha statues in Afghanistan to the burning of libraries in Iraq, we as a family have lobbied against injustice and shared our joys and sorrows with our friends of all faiths. We enjoy a langar (meal) in a Sikh Gurdwara on Dixie Rd. as much as we appreciate answering tough questions about Islam in churches or synagogues.

I wonder if those who have enormous resentment in their hearts ever had the pleasure of driving along the "spiritual strip" on Bayview Ave. where a Chinese temple, Zoroastrian temple, a mosque and synagogue stand side by side. If they did, they would be awed at the beauty and tolerance that lie at the heart of a country called Canada.

 

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