Canadian Muslim Leaders call for Summit …

Just listening to a press conference on CBC Newsworld with leaders from CAIR-CAN … the Canadian Council on American Islamic Affairs, and they are calling on provincial and Federal governments to hold a summit on extremism in their community, and to help address those extremists in their midst's.  This attitude highlights what I see as a fundamental difference in the environment of Canada, as opposed to places like the UK, or Holland, or France, or even the US.

All week, as news coverage of the arrests has unfolded in Canada, I've been watching members of the Canadian Islamic community come onto Newsworld and talk about what happened.  Unlike after other arrests in other parts of world, the voices coming to speak are without exception voices of calm reason who are clearly opposed to any extremism in their midst's.  There is a call here for quick action, for collaboration between government and community to ensure that peaceful, law-abiding Muslims in Canada are not controlled by a small minority of extremists.

The CAIR-CAN spokesman today spoke eloquently about the actual community, and about the danger of rushing to judgement.  He spoke eloquently about the need to work together with non-Muslim Canadians, and the government, to further relations.

But I think one of the key differences was highlighted by Mark Kelley in his report on the National the other night.  In places like France, Muslim's who immigrate, even those who become citizens, face serious social impediments to advancement.  In France, or Holland, "French" or "Dutch" people represent those cultures in public at all times.  Its vital to their 'history' and their national character in some ways.

But Canada is different.  Look at our advertising as an example.  Its true that 20 years ago Canada was a very white-bread place in public, even though the real Canada was a true rainbow.  But today, an Indian family discusses hime loans on one CIBC ad, while the average coffee house ad is full of Asian or Middle Eastern actors.  Canada really IS a multi-cultural place today, and while there are Canadians who resent that, its become very much a fact in 2006.  The coloours and hues we see when we look around both he real world AND the 'public space' in Canada today are many and varied.

And while Canada does have poverty, and we do have slums and ghettos in a manner of speaking, one key difference that I can see between Canada and elsewhere is that those slums are RARELY racially related.  Immigrants coming to Canada don't have a huge issue with fitting in, we don't have huge suburbs of disaffected youth who are refused entry into normal society.  We don't have these things because it doesn't matter what religion you are, what colour your skin is in Canada … it matters if you are a part of the community or not.

After other arrests and attacks, I haven't seen the locla Muslim cimmunity react in the same way.  Elsewhere, there's always been hostility, resentment, a seething undercurrent of hatred that I simply don't see here in Canada.  I can't explain why or how Canada has come to the point where everyone involved can look at these arrests simply as justice being done, and why it hasn't brought out bad blood.  The only answer I have is that there is no bad blood to bring out here, that Canada is an example of a place where the Muslim community IS integrated into the rest of society, and that there's no seething undercurrent of Canadian mistreatment of our Muslim population.

And therein lies my perspective for how we ensure it stays that way.  We can't let these arrests change the way we deal with anyone.  The point is, the were a SUCCESS … its ridiculous to use them as a reason to crack down on a community that has responded with passion both for their own community and for Canada as a whole.  I say we go ahead with the summit … its good PR at a time when the world over, Islam and the rest of the world are at odds.  But whenever I hear people talk about radicalism being at the core of Islam, I have to question their motives.

As Muslims have been pointing out all week in Canada, it is a tiny minority of their population that choose violence.  The CAIR-CAN spokesman today likened it to the Italian community being expected to answer for the Mafia continually.  And I can't help but think back to a decade ago, as I wandered up a street in Lagos amongst several different BBQ pits celebrating the wedding of the brother of a friend.  My friend herself was 'unusual' by most people's assumptions, a well educated, intelligent Muslim woman I played tennis with twice a week for 3 years named Omodele.  When her brother's wedding came around, and she didn't have a 'date' to take, she asked me to be her escort.

There were two different ceremonies … one for the Muslim groom, and one for the Christian bride, and at both ceremonies, the two families came together in fellowship and friendship.  It was a remarkable experience, but its also the 'poster' for why I KNOW Islam isn't an extremist religion bent on world conquest and the subjugation of all others … because I know there are millions of Muslims the world over who are just like you and me.  My friend Dele is a lawyer, educated by her Muslim family.  She was still umarried in her late 20's when I knew her, though she married a few years after I knew her to a Muslim man.  She continues to practice law by all accounts, though its been some years since I have spoken with her.

I KNOW from Dele and others that Muslims are no different than you or me.  The extremists in their community have managed to hijack their politics in MANY places, but its not representative of the general community of Islam in the world, at least not the ones I have met, both here in Canada and elsewhere. 


One Response

  1. My guess it has to do a lot with the fact that when Canada was emerging as a national identity, it was composed of at least two VERY different groups. French Canadians and English tories who has fled the United States during and after the revolution. Despite their major diferences, they were united in being Canadians and having a fervent desire NOT to be Americans. Yes, even by 1812 many Americans had the delusional idea that foreign people WANTED to be invaded by “liberating” American armies.

    Other successful polyglot nations such as Belgium and Switzerland were also forged under similar circumstances. It helps when your national identity is based on a very real world need to circle the wagons and work together. Behaviour changes attitude, when people work together for the common good they realise that their differences are ones of style, not substance.


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