Christian and Jewish religious leaders, the mayor and senior police officials gathered outside a mosque in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada last Friday forming protective barriers to help Muslims offer their Jumah prayers.
It was the first Friday prayer since the deadly attack on a mosque in Quebec City on Sunday, January 29.The gunman, a right wing extremist, walked into the mosque and opened fire, killing six people and injuring another nineteen. People belonging to different communities turned up to express their sympathy and solidarity with the Muslim community and to condemn the attack. These human shields also described as ‘rings of peace’ stood shoulder to shoulder bearing placards with messages of love and harmony, till the midday prayers were finished.In response to the warmth extended, about twenty Muslim women turned up at the Pickering church along with their children to welcome the Christians for their morning Sunday prayers.
The Quebec shooting comes after President Donald Trump’s controversial decree banning people and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries to the US. The attacker, a 27-year old university student, is described as pro-Donald Trump, anti-immigrant and a racist. However, Canadaadopted a divergent stance of not taking advantage of the incident politically or communally. The country became a model for the rest of the world redirecting the fear and anxiety in the hearts of the people to amity and harmony by creating rings of peace outside the mosques for the first Friday prayers since the attack.
The incident was reminiscent of times when Muslims formed human barriers around synagogues in Oslo when the Jews were subjected to anti- Semitic racism in France and Denmark in 2015. Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau strongly condemned the attacks calling out to the people to rise from the darkness ‘stronger and more unified than ever before’.
Neither did the Muslim and Christian communities blame the attacker and the community nor held communal discourses. The political parties acted wise by not using the attack as an opportunity to make way for their own interests in a situation favourable of extreme right wing ideas. Similarly, secular think-tanks were mature enough to not use the environment for anti-religion propaganda. Canadians displayed an exemplary performance before the rest of the world upholding peace and unity as one nation. A country like India could only watch the happenings as a mere spectator. Not forgetting to mention the ‘Visit My Mosque’ campaign initiated by an organization Muslim Council of Great Britain (MCB) in Britain. After the Brexit vote, it is when the attacks targeting the Muslims in different parts of England surges up, that the campaign in which 150 mosques across the country takes part, open their doors to non-Muslims. Personal humiliation
People belonging to other faiths are invited on Visit My Mosque Day to foster a better understanding of Islam and clear the misconceptions about the religion in the hearts of people. The imams and scholars explain the Islamic Shariet, the Islamic approach to other religions and communities and how the mosques deal with the terrorist tendencies like the ISIS. Alongside these discussions, the mosques share tea and biscuits. Leader of the main opposition Labour Party in Britain, Jeremy Corbynwho attended the function on Saturday stressed the importance of kindness in communities. He said that ‘drinking tea together is far more effective than pouring concrete to build wall to keep each other apart’ taking a dig at Trump.
The Muslim Council aims discourses for better understanding and bonding between communities and not bickering debates. Given the Brexit and the victory of Trump sparking excitement among the racists in the West, the Council says that they realise the relevance of social interventions in the diverse society.
Canada’s stance is highly relevant in the current Indian scenario where conflicts are triggered by igniting the hatred against communities in the name of religions. In India, people who misuse religion and caste for political motives place the burden of communal rifts and conflicts on the believers and roam freely as secularists promoting anti-religious campaigns. The religious sections either play the blame game or bow down before their propaganda. When will the believers be able to carry out united discourses against the atrocities in the name of religions, to have a better understanding of other faiths and to open the doors of our places of worship to others?