Too often in online articles we see the worst qualities of people come out in the comment section. The hateful comments run the gamut between racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and any other type of prejudice you can name. In particular, the comment section on articles relating to Islam tends to be particularly awful.
To understand why people leave terrible comments about Muslims and Islam on articles, Yahoo Canada News conducted a Q&A with Mubin Shaikh.
A former extremist himself, Shaikh de-radicalized after studying Islam in Syria and went on to become a counter-terrorism operative for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Integrated National Security Enforcement Team (INSET). He is now an external Subject Matter Expert to CENTCOM, the UN Security Council and instructs police, intelligence and counter terrorism units on extremism related challenges.
We asked Shaikh some questions based off troubling comments we’ve seen on Yahoo Canada.
Q: People often say that they’re tired of stories about Islam being “forced” on them, which is not the case when we post stories about other faiths. Why do you think that is?
MS: When people see a particular group as “the other” as opposed to co-equal members of society, there is a psychological effect related to what is termed, In-group/Out-group group dynamics. This means that if “my” group does something, it is not as bad as when “their group” does something. Members of the In-group are viewed with harmony as opposed to animosity and this is what you see in the above comment. So, if a Muslim asks for the same rights as everyone else, it is viewed as “forcing the religion” or “changing our laws” when in fact, neither is the case. As for the idea that Islam needs to be eradicated, this is actually no different than antisemites who say all Jews have to be eradicated. The person is frankly, an extremist.
Q: One of the most common things we see is that people say Islam is barbaric, and that it’s an evil cult and that Muslims are bringing Sharia Law to Canada or trying to brainwash the country. Why do people think that?
MS: People think Islam is barbaric and a religion of terrorism because of the actions of Muslim extremists themselves. The irony is that anti-Muslim and Muslim extremists tend to believe the exact same thing: Islam is about violence and killing and imposing upon others. These two groups exist in symbiotic union and reinforce each others’ narratives in this regard.
Q: People often say that Trudeau favours Islam over other religions. Why do you think that is?
MS: The overwhelming majority of those who say Trudeau favours Islam over other religions, are those who already don’t like Liberals and certainly don’t like the idea that Trudeau is the prime minister. Since those people already don’t view Muslims as co-equal Canadian citizens, any attempt to include Muslims in the Canadian family is viewed as “favouritism” when in fact, no favouritism has ever been manifested in this regard. Many of these folks also come from religious groups that have indeed received favouritism and view the inclusion of other groups as encroaching on that favoured status.
Q: Why do people hate Islam?
MS: As you see from the comment, such sentiments of hate are no different than ISIS-like extremists. They too target entire religions, they too incite attacks against places of worship, they too view all members of a nation or group as targets to be attacked. This shows us that radicalization is not something that just happens to ‘brown’ people. Hate is something that is taught at home, by associates and by the media. Education and cross cultural interactions are the antidote to hate. Ignorance is also something that exacerbates hate, so also is fear of the unknown. All these factors taken together, explain why people hate in general.
Do you have any opinions on these questions? Let us know in the comments.