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The ‘Other’ Virus

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Australian cruise ship passengers arrive at in Perth, Australia International airport on March 30, 2020 after being stranded in Rome for a week (Illustrative photo: Paul Kane/Getty Images)
Australian cruise ship passengers arrive at Perth, Australia International airport on March 30, 2020 after being stranded in Rome for a week (Illustrative photo: Paul Kane/Getty Images)

The current global crisis of the COVID-19 virus is not something I would wish upon my worst enemy, and the hope is that this too will pass without causing more misery.

What has the world done to fight this? First, they have (pretty much) gotten on the same page, trying to isolate the dangerous virus, treat its victims and find a cure for it.

To combat spread of the virus, religious institutions are (mainly) closed. As a Muslim it doesn’t surprise me that mosques are closed and Friday congregational prayers have been cancelled.

Even the largest place of worship for Muslims, the Kaaba where millions come for pilgrimage (Haj and Umra) and which is the holiest site for Muslims, is now closed. In the Shia world, their center of learning Qum has been badly affected with many deaths.

In short, to combat a virus with a global impact, we have closed down public institutions including mosques until a cure can be found and the problem resolved.

In my writings and public speeches, this is how I’ve addressed radicalization and extremism which are also viruses of global proportions.

I’ve always claimed that you have to diagnose them, isolate them and then treat them just like any other deadly virus until a cure is found.

Radicalization and extremism leading to terrorism have caused thousands of deaths on this planet and have left the youth of an entire generation immobilized and brainwashed.

They are a global threat even as I pen these words. In 2017, an estimated 26,445 people died from terrorism globally. Over the previous decade the average number of annual deaths was 21,000 (ranging from 2010, the lowest year, with 7,827 deaths to 2014, the highest year with 44,490 deaths).

In 2014 (after a terror attack in Ottawa) I wrote an open letter to all Canadians suggesting that extremist mosques be shut down until we can find a cure for this global epidemic.

This letter got everyone’s knickers in a knot!

Quran thumpers and hadith hurlers came at me with venom, accusing me of being outside the faith of Islam. The Southern Poverty Law Center called me a supporter of anti-Muslim policies and the regressive Left did the same.

How times have changed! The Council of Imams in Ontario had a meeting in which they jointly agreed to close mosques and suspend Friday congregational prayers. Are they not Muslim?

The greater powers in the Muslim world, i.e. clerics and religious leaders in Iran and Saudi Arabia, decided to close down their holy sites. Are they being accused of being non-Muslim?

Short answer is “no.”

I feel for the people suffering from COVID-19 as well as those who have lost loved ones. But I also feel for the victims of terrorist attacks that the world seems to have forgotten.

Now that we have learned from the virus the art of social distancing and self isolation plus staying away from signs of danger, let’s apply this to all viruses including the virus of radicalization which is equally deadly.

 

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Raheel Raza

Raheel Raza is a spokesperson for Clarion Project and of president of Muslims Facing Tomorrow.

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