Over the past few decades, analysts have insisted that European style anti-immigrant politics were not easily exportable to either the United States or Canada as such ideas were unattractive to most North American voters. Anti-immigrant politicians usually appeal to a nation's ethnic majority population by insist that the dominant culture is being undermined by migrants. It's not simple to make this case in culturally pluralist democracies like the United States and Canada that lack an easily definable ethnic majority.
A window of opportunity has opened where several provincial governments and Ottawa are enlightened and willing to partner to deal with problems. Eleven Muslim MPs were elected to Ottawa alone in 2015, and one is a cabinet minister. If the stars are aligned, what then are the key challenges that the community should take on?
In the 25 years I have called Canada home, I have seen a steady rise of Muslim women being strangled in the pernicious black tent that is passed off to naïve and guilt-ridden white, mainstream Canadians as an essential Islamic practice. The niqab and burka have nothing to do with Islam. They're the political flags of the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS, the Taliban, al-Qaida and Saudi Arabia. Now I learn I have not only to fight the medieval, theocratic adherents of my faith for a safe space for myself, I have to battle the Federal Court of Canada as well.
We have seen how "Islamicism" has become a convenient tool for the government to employ a more aggressive foreign policy. Although it's easy for Canadian Muslims to lay blame on the Conservatives and Stephen Harper for such discriminatory and exploitative tactics (and doing so would be justifiable), it would also be disingenuous. The current situation is simply a culmination of years of political apathy from the Muslim community whose voter turnout is consistently below the national average.
Six years ago, I could not imagine the day my son would go into grade 1, let along imagine my son asking me if he can fast. Last week, he said to me: "I want to fast with you and dad. Please, please, please!" I was silent at first, not knowing how to tell him that there is no way I am letting him fast 17 hours.
Ramadan is scheduled to commence later this week and I am not looking forward to it. The Islamic calendar is lunar based, so Ramadan shifts by approximately 10 days every year. Fasting during the winter months is easy with dawn being so late and sunset being so early. Fasting during the summer months is brutal -- dawn is currently at 3:45 a.m. and sunset is at 9 p.m.
Few media outlets have mentioned the abuses that minorities in Bangladesh have endured since the country won its independence from Pakistan in 1971. Discrimination is particularly brutal against the indigenous peoples of the Chittagong Hill Tracts region, who have suffered horrific human rights violations at the hands of Bangladeshi settlers and the military forces supporting them. Canada is an aid donor to Bangladesh and must take action to end the ongoing human rights violations against religious minorities and indigenous peoples.
A ceremony designed to showcase our national values of freedom of religion, expression, accommodation and speech? Well, let's just say that this election year, the Prime Minister should focus on reaching elsewhere for points rather than conjuring fear from diversity at a time where cultural understanding and unity are desperately needed.
On January 30, a reporter asked Harper how newly-introduced anti-terror legislation will differentiate between somebody who is "radicalized" and "a teen who's just messing around in the basement." Harper answered by saying promoting terrorism is a serious offence no matter "what the age of the person is, or whether they're in a basement, or whether they're in a mosque or somewhere else." Harper's response to this question associates hundreds of mosques across the country with the promotion of terrorism and violence and is misguided for multiple reasons.
Muslims are justifiably worried that we'll be implicated in the crimes of these individuals. But Michael Zehaf-Bibeau was still a human being looking for support from both his Muslim and non-Muslim communities. And although we'll never know the truth, it seems he eventually found his support on the Internet, which preys on the marginalized in our society. People want moderate Muslims to speak out and decry radicalization. And they do, but tweets and press releases are not always the answer because they don't solve a very real societal problem. There are unwell people out there who need our help. And they are increasingly showing up in our mosques.
This week, Canadians observed the National Day of Remembrance for Victims of Terrorism. For Sikh Canadians and Jewish Canadians alike, the Day of Remembrance has particular resonance. That our two communities have shared experience in facing terrorism was pointedly on display during the 2008 Mumbai attack.
Quebec's Muslim women have been threatened -- violence against veiled women has increased dramatically since the Charter debate was introduced. In Quebec, the issue of choice and self-determination around the veil is critical. It would seem, then, that in matters of fashion, religion, and secularism, Montreal's Muslim women are being held to a higher standard by their provincial government. Montreal's young Hijabistas -- and those who support them -- told us what the veil means to them.
When I leaned over and asked a woman in a movie theatre to please put her cellphone away, she started yelling at me. She AND her husband called me an F'ing TERRORIST repeatedly. Does the colour of my skin or the fact that I wear a piece of cloth on my head make it alright to lambaste me in public in front of my child and her friends?
A peppy, intrepid, and widely read blogger from Denver, Ann Barnhardt, has stirred controversy with a vituperative attack on Islam and a specific denigration of Muhammad. She used bacon strips as book marks while reading from the Koran and then ripped out the pages and burned them on a video. Her strictures against Muhammad are excessive, given that the Prophet has a greater personal following than any ostensibly human religious figure except Jesus Christ, and they are regrettable, but her contempt for the Jihadists is commendable and brave, and should be emulated.
The Komagata Maru was introduced to me sandwiched between narratives of the Chinese Head Tax and Japanese Internment. It had no scope to breathe. No room for discussion and further explanation. And it was the only time I remember seeing people that looked like me in my school textbooks. But the Komagata Maru is more elusive. It took me years to unlearn the biases I had built up around the story, hear the voices of the pioneers and understand the history on its own terms.