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Editorial: Guarding against "us" and "them"

History is full of warfare conducted in the name of religious faith but all of the world's religions also promote peace, Canadians should, too
Canadian tolerance niqab
Zunera Ishaq became a Canadian citizen in October. Canadians must guard against a binary vision that promotes intolerance. Ishaq's quest to wear her niqab became a political issue during the recent federal election.

A world split up into us and them is a dangerous world, indeed, and Canadians are not immune to this binary vision.

Right now, it would be easy to lapse into intolerance and hate. The news is full of speculation about radicalized youth and adults who may be turning to terrorism to act out their rage against Western culture.

As many knowledgeable people have said, those who are killing in the name of a particular ideology are not getting their ideas from religious texts but from zealous leaders who use nationalism laced with religion to create a potent brew.

But those who follow these leaders are also a small minority, despite how it appears in traditional media coverage and on social media, which together make these factions appear more powerful and ubiquitous than they actually are.

History is full of warfare conducted in the name of religious faith but all of the world's religions also promote peace and their overriding ideals are about serving their god through love and brotherhood.

Still, there is a growing fear that violence against others in the name of a particular religion or ideology will radicalize average Canadians or Americans who choose to identify with the victims. This is a form of radicalization to be truly concerned about.

The recent Conservative-created niqab debate that gained prominence in the fall as an election issue (after a court ruled in favour of Zunera Ishaq, who challenged a 2011 Conservative ban on wearing the niqab while taking the citizenship oath) shows that Canadians are not immune to divisive talk about religious minorities. Fortunately, the niqab issue was settled by the election of the Liberal government, which chose not to politicize the issue any further and tolerance for peaceful religious traditions is now back in fashion.

Still, we must guard against manipulation by those who would promote intolerance and Islamophobia to further their own interests and political goals.

Instead of us and them, Canadians can work towards a safer world by promoting understanding and tolerance rather than narrow-mindedness and fear.