Don’t rush to judgment.
While it’s tempting to criticize Algonquin’s admissions and screening systems following recent reports in the Times and other media outlets, the true problem at hand is the intended actions of a very few – most notably Awso Peshdary, a 2014 graduate of this college and suspected terrorist.
While the RCMP has laid charges, Peshdary and his co-accused, Khadar Khalib, a former business student, have not been found guilty of any crime.
Let the justice system prevail before forming opinions about the accused or any of their associations.
If one were to zoom out, however, the entire Algonquin College Muslim Students’ Association – which has been silent of late but has stated that they unequivocally condemn violent extremism – could be vilified.
Furthermore, leaps in logic like these could also implicate the social services worker program – the program from which Peshdary graduated – and that would be absurd.
Zoom out further and our entire college community is cast in a negative light. Left unchecked, such reasoning has the potential to lead to some wild conclusions.
This is to illustrate how dangerous it can be to lump people together and form prejudices. The hard news of the matter has the potential to spin some observers off into a witch hunt mentality, whether it’s the ACMSA or the college itself.
It’s our duty to offer a counterbalance.
It’s easy to scrutinize when looking back, how an alleged extremist gained access to the ACMSA and how he graduated from the college in such a short time period prior to his arrest.
While one can’t presume to speak on the ACMSA’s behalf, the situation at hand warrants a condemnation of the ostracizing of an entire group of people due to the actions of a few. We’ve seen it many times before.
In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo killings in Paris, France, we’ve seen some people use their defence of free speech (something many of us hold dear), as a guise to hide Islamophobia. On the much smaller scale of Algonquin, one could speculate that our community is presented with the ingredients of a perfect storm.
The notion of outright hatred thinly-veiled as anti-theism has been a Western problem of late. In mid-February, three Muslim students in North Carolina were murdered in cold blood by their neighbour, Craig Hicks, who selfidentified as an “anti-theist.”
If the crime he’s charged with was in fact religiously motivated, that’s violent extremism, not anti-theism. In a secular society, it’s important that we don’t branch out into becoming hateful toward any religion.
We must be inclusive, understanding and nonjudgmental. We can’t paint with a broad brush. The crimes of which Peshdary is accused do not represent the wishes of the clubs he frequented or the religion he practices, just as they don’t represent the wishes of the school he attended.
Just as Hick’s actions don’t represent the wishes of all non-religious people.
It’s a two-sided coin