The organization Atheist Freethinkers salutes the release of this courageous manifesto. We find much in it that we can agree with. However, the manifesto’s authors retain complete ownership of and responsibility for their point of view.
English Translation: David Rand
Manifesto for an Islam of Freedom and Citizenship
Montreal, 19th February 2017
The following manifesto was written during the month of January 2017, before the racist attack which targeted Muslims – because they were Muslims – in Quebec City on 29th January 2017, and which left six dead, five seriously injured and an incalculable number of other deeply wounded victims. These events have convinced us, more than ever, of the importance of this initiative. The attack also rekindled memories in many citizens who originated in countries targeted by Islamist terrorism.
First and foremost, we offer our condolences to the victims’ families and express our complete solidarity with them. They have suffered irreparable losses.
The overwhelming reactions to the attack, the denunciations, self-questioning and acts of solidarity demonstrate clearly that accusations of generalized systemic racism directed against Quebec society are baseless and unjustified. Of course racism exists in Quebec as it does elsewhere, but there is also openness and solidarity. The positions taken by all political forces went far beyond the minimum necessary for public relations and showed a genuine will to live together in harmony.
We deplore the fact that this tragedy was co-opted and exploited by those who wished to score political points, at a moment when mourning and respect for the bereaved families were the priority.
Some activists took advantage of the situation to present themselves as “the” spokespersons for a purported “community” when in reality there are numerous and diverse groups originating from Islam, as a religion of course, but also as a culture, with extremely varied attitudes towards religious belief and practice. And there are also those who wish above all to be citizens and not members of a religious community. It is in this capacity that we sign this manifesto.
MANIFESTO FOR AN ISLAM OF FREEDOM AND CITIZENSHIP
Montreal, 28th January 2017
We, the undersigned, being from a Muslim background and having a wide variety of approaches to religious faith and practice, declare the following.
We consider ourselves to be first and foremost citizens, and it is as citizens that we wish to take our place in Quebec society. Our action is also an expression of our resistance to Islamism and its social manifestations within Muslim societies.
Quebec citizens from a Muslim background originate in some thirty countries of various cultures and traditions. No-one can claim a monopoly as our unique representative. We deplore the diversion of the Muslim faith by currents of political Islam present on an international scale, and we reject their claim of representing Muslims in Quebec. These currents are in part responsible for the profound impasse with which Muslim societies are confronted. Their strategies based on exaggerated identity and their strict interpretations of religious obligations lead inevitably to identity-based ghettoization, thus compromising the flourishing of Muslims in western societies.
While we remain cognizant of injustices caused by the policies of western powers in the Near East and in the rest of the Muslim world, we condemn the use which Islamists make of these injustices to rationalize violence against innocent people and to promote the ideological preparation which is a precursor to, and legitimizes, djihadist violence.
We do not approve of all requests for religious accommodation, especially those which undermine the very concept of citizenship and Quebec’s achievements in the area of equality and the neutrality of the state and public institutions. In general, such accommodations do not favour the integration of immigrants, but instead have the contrary effect, slowing or preventing their integration into the workforce. The flexible and accommodating character of Islam for centuries implies that Muslims have the right and the obligation to adapt their religious practices to the conditions in which they live, thus facilitating harmony and good relations with the host society. Such an attitude, justified by the history of Muslim societies, is compatible with the universal values defined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and stands in opposition to the sectarian values defended by Islamism.
The sensationalism of the media, which shine such enormous light on shocking but marginal behaviours, promotes a false image of Quebec Muslims and contributes to an increase in hostility expressed towards citizens of Muslim culture in general. We call on the media to assume their responsibilities on this issue because it affects the entire social climate.
Sensationalistic and stereotypical images of Islam, presented in certain media, have increased insecurities about identity in Quebec society. Electoral calculations based on exploitation of these insecurities are short-sighted: they validate among the Quebec population an attitude of mistrust towards all citizens from a Muslim background, and they create an atmosphere of suspicion which generates discrimination against them and has very negative effects on the social climate in general.
At the same time, we reject attempts to manipulate the concept of Islamophobia in order to muzzle all opposition to Islamist currents which are, in large part, responsible for the climate of hostility towards Muslims in general. That hostility is founded on the confusion between Islam and political Islam. It validates Islamists’ attitude of victimization, which is fundamental to their strategy, as is the pretence of Islamists and their allies to be the defenders of “persecuted” Muslims. This confusion is dangerous and contributes to the vulnerabilization of Quebec society in general.
In this context, it is important to recognize the distinct character of Quebec society, already weakened by its minority status within North America and which strives to maintain its specificity. It must be acknowledged that the vast majority of citizens from a Muslim background flourish in this society and wish to live as part of it. While aware of certain racist attitudes which are present but nevertheless marginal, they also see many signs of openness towards them, both in their daily lives and in special situations, such as they welcoming attitude towards Syrian refugees.
The many and varied non-fundamentalist tendencies within Islam (rational, secular, liberal, Sufi, etc.) are demobilized in the face of Islamism. They need support in order to counter the enormous financial, media and political resources which Islamism has at its disposal, provided by the oil monarchies and other actors who wish to exploit it. We deplore the fact that some currents of civil society, out of fear of encouraging Islamophobia, defend the most fundamentalist practices by opposing criticism of those practices coming from more open-minded tendencies in Islam. Islamism in increasingly contested even from within Islam, by voices which are embattled and less visible. The ideological struggle against Islamism can only be won from within, but help is needed. That struggle is ours as well.
- Hassan Jamali, retired professor and writer
- Mounia Ait Kabboura, philosopher by training, researcher, Chaire UNESCO-UQAM (FPJD)
- Noomane Raboudi, Islamologist and political scientist, université Ottawa
- Nadia El Mabrouk, information systems professor, université de Montréal
- Salah Beddiari, writer, poet
- Leila Lesbet, teacher
- Ali Daher, sociologist, independent researcher
- Khaled Sulaiman, writer
- Mohamed Ourya, political scientist, université Sherbrooke
- Nezar Hammoud, researcher
- Ali Kaidi, doctorate in philosophy
- Oussama Abou Chakra, researcher and writer
- Nadia Ghalmi, manager and ex-journalist
- Karima Bensouda, engineer
- Joulnar El Husseini, interpreter
- Hind Snaiki, project coordinator
- Khaled A.Baki, engineer
- Seba Alnabhan, educator
- Nezar Hammoud, biochemist and nutritional clinician
- Farid Kettani, retired consultant
- Fatima Aboubakr, child-care centre director
- Samira Boualem, kinesiotherapist and orthotherapist
- Karim Lassel, consultant in organizational development
- Salimata Ndoye Sall, social worker
- Mohand Abdelli, retired engineer
- Nacer Irid: automation engineer
- El Mostapha Aboulhamid, retired information systems professor, Université de Montréal
- Nassir Ath vraham
- Ferid Chikhi
- Imad Al-Zawahra, engineer
- NINI Karim Zakaria, doctoral student in comparative and general literature, Université de Montréal
- Nassira Belloula, writer
- Omar Lebchirit, ex-journalist, family support worker
- Houssine Idrissi, designer and retired
- Suzanne Cotte, communications officer, université Laval
- Clyde Paquin, Masters student in philosophy, université de Montréal
- Djamal Benmakhlouf, doctor of dental medicine
You may consult the French version on the LPA web site.
You may also consult the original French version on Facebook. Addition signatures may be added.