According to the 2001 census – the last one for which data are available – there were 579,640 Muslims in Canada, almost half of those in Toronto.
Canada’s fastest growing religion, Islam is now firmly rooted in the country. And whileRoshan Jamal is glad to see her faith become established here, she laments that size has also allowed Muslims to remain isolated within their own communities if they choose.
“It’s a natural instinct,” says Jamal, president of the Canadian Dawn Foundation, set up a year ago to help Muslim leaders learn what it means to be a person of faith in this country.
But Jamal says Islam thrives best in a new country when its followers find ways to adapt the faith to their new home, as it did in the Middle Ages as the faith moved out of the Arab world and into Asia, Africa and Europe.
That’s why her group is putting $70,000 over two years behind a new Canadian Certificate in Muslim Studies program that was launched Saturday at the University of Toronto’s Emmanuel College.
Targeted at imams and other Muslim leaders – but open to anyone – the goal is to help develop a Canadian form of Islam, says college principal Mark Toulouse, a driving force behind the program.
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Two NWFP ministers of the beleaguered ANP-led government, who made it to the tragic sites [of a car bombing that killed 120 in October] within minutes of the blasts, were seen and heard across the country pointing in vain to the enemy within. Both are roundly rebuked and branded foreign agents.
Those differing with them walk through the streets and narrow alleys of the interior city but they choose to ignore the signs and sights of the orgy of death that has engulfed us. Several deadly blasts have taken place in the one-kilometre radius area in and around the fabled Qissa Khwani Bazaar in the recent past. All impacted sites are at a stone’s throw from each other. The area is like a game reserve with teeming flocks of game birds for the gamekeepers presently engaged in ideological war games. And why shouldn’t it be?
Hate is inscribed in clear and bold fonts all across the area. Massive billboards, which in previous days were a feature of cinema houses, now hold the larger-than-life portraits of militant leaders of certain sectarian organisations. Ancient and sweet-sounding names of the streets have all been discarded and replaced with the names of those who have fallen in the sectarian warfare. Posters and graffiti proclaiming the title of infidel for the adherents of rival groups and death for the US, India and Israel adorn all walls in the area.
And most disturbing of all:
Mosques that had jealously guarded their nameless structures for eons have been labelled in factional colours and hence declared restricted places of worship.
Bloodshed in Pakistan-administered Kashmir as a suicide bomber attacks Shiites. Five people dead, 81 wounded, 10 of them seriously.
Earlier I blogged about the issue of minority victimization in Pakistan which seems to be finding its source and inspiration in strident Sunni Islam. The Spittoon has a blog post about minority victimization in the Middle East. It raises a fair question: What will be consequence to Islamic civilization if large segments of the Muslim population lose the experience of living respectfully with diversity?
The Spittoon blogger accurately describes the situation now:
Together with the Jews, Zoroastrians, Mandeans, Bahai, Yazidis, and other, smaller groups have all left the region that gave birth to all the monotheistic faiths. Those that remain have often been reduced to what one Christian commentator has called an underground, “catacomb” faith, recalling the persecuted faith of the Early Church.
Anecdotally, I live near a large city in America that has a huge refugee population of Mandeans. According to Wikipedia, before the US overthrew the secular Saddam government, there were about 60,000 Mandeans in that country. Today, there are 5,000.
The Quran speaks to diversity as well:
…the Quran says: “O humankind, God has created you from male and female and made you into diverse nations and tribes so that you may come to know each other. Verily, the most honored of you in the sight of God is he who is the most righteous.” Elsewhere, the Qur’an reaffirms that diversity is part of the Divine intent and purpose in creation, and so it states: “If thy Lord had willed, he would have made humankind into a single nation, but they will not cease to be diverse…And, for this God created them [humankind].
In answer to the question I posed, the consequence will be, I think, a devolution – not an evolution – of Islamic civilization as Muslim communities thwart Divine intent and are acculturated to arrogance and disrespect.
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Different Muslim communities in America may benefit from different approaches. If Umar wants to recommend a live-and-let-live appreciation of diverse paths in the religion, that’s great, but it would be more powerful if he stopped blasting moderates, ‘progressives’, Sufis, the ‘mainstream’ and others who differ in their practice from him, though I do think that in more recent times he has moderated his ‘blasting’ a bit.
And the thinking on this needs to go in the same direction that the American founders did when they wrote the First Amendment (freedom of religion). Earlier drafts suggested that the US would ‘tolerate’ non-Christian religions, but James Madison argued that tolerance presumed a place of superiority for the ‘tolerators’ that would incite prejudice and injustice, so the language was pushed to a full expression of support for freedom of religion.
I would also add my own critique to Umar’s point which is that the communities he describes as ‘urban’ and ‘suburban’ are changing their geographical locations in many places in this country. Parts of America now resemble Europe where the wealthy and well-off live in cities, and the poor and desperate live in the suburbs.
Are European societies anti-Islam? That’s a question more people are asking in the wake of Switzerland’s referendum to ban the building of minarets in the Alpine country. Almost 6 out of 10 Swiss voters supported the ban — charges of racism be damned. France passed a law in 2004 that bans young women from wearing Islamic headscarves in public schools, and has now joined the Netherlands in debating a ban on full-body coverings like a burqa. And Muslims in multicultural Britain have also repeatedly accused officials there of talking down to them with urges to drop clothes that ‘form a barrier’ between them and mainstream society.
But while these controversies attract attention, there are also efforts to work out solutions to living with religious differences in Europe. Take a recent book by French anthropologists Dounia and Lylia Bouzar, Is There Room for Allah in the Workplace? The book offers legal guidelines on how work-religion conflicts might be examined, as well as practical suggestions on resolving them. “Paradoxically, as the question of the visibility of religious practice crops up regularly in the media, it remains a total haze in the professional world,” the book notes.
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Review of Alia Malek’s New Book:
In “A Country Called Amreeka,” Malek chronicles the lives of a dozen Arab Americans. Their stories are markers on a timeline that stretches back to the legendary Alabama-Auburn football game of 1948 and runs through the riotous Detroit of the ’60s, the fraught tensions over Palestine in the ’80s, up to the election of George W. Bush. Each chapter focuses on an individual (often, a family) whose personal lives dramatize the political concerns of the age or the timeless personal anxiety of living, as an outsider, in a foreign land. In between each chapter, Malek fills in the historical gaps, recapping for the reader the changes in Middle Eastern politics or in American immigration policy necessary to understand the next narrative.
The book looks at America through the eyes of a minority so often viewed as its enemy. As the book progresses through time, a bigger story begins to emerge. With delicate cues from Malek, the reader begins to see how the image of Muslims has hardened over time. They have always been outsiders; in the early 20th century, politicians went to great lengths to classify newly arrived Arabs as nonwhites, a form of social exclusion. But by the ’80s, the outsider has become the other, the “swarthy-looking,” turban-wearing villain in Hollywood’s good-versus-evil dramas. (Never mind that it’s Sikhs who wear turbans, and Sikhs aren’t Muslim.)
Take heed Islamophobes, the American Caliphate is coming, one-small-backwater-town-at-a-time….
In WA, old mining town elects a Muslim mayor
By MANUEL VALDES (AP) – 1 hour ago
GRANITE FALLS, Wash. — Granite Falls residents are suspicious of any newcomers, let alone a Muslim native of Pakistan who moved to this rugged, blue-collar mining town to open his own bar.
But 54-year-old Haroon Saleem has thrived, winning over the town with hard work and an easy smile. He has become so popular that, on Nov. 3, he won the mayor’s job in a landslide, getting 61 percent of the more than 800 votes cast — a result that residents say would have been inconceivable not long ago.
“In the old Granite Falls, there were no minorities. It was a rough, rough, logging town. Any outsider, whether a minority or somebody from Everett, was the same. It was very difficult to be accepted in this town,” said Sharon Ashton, a close confidant of Saleem.
Saleem said he was nervous about being accepted, and hired a white assistant manager to ease local concerns when he opened his bar in 2000.
“I was kind of scared, you know,” he says.
But he was embraced virtually from the start.
“That tells you how good and great of a community Granite Falls is,” he says with a slight accent. “They didn’t care … I am who I am, and people love me for that, and I just love people. People know that I am smart, I am a businessman. In the big scheme of things, all these qualities have made me, got me to where I am today.”
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US Religious Freedom Report Hits Speech Curbs
By David Gollust
26 October 2009
U.S. State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report 2009
The U.S. State Department’s annual report on world-wide religious freedom, released Monday, was critical of what it says are international efforts to limit free speech in the name of combating defamation of religion. The Organization of the Islamic Conference, or OIC, has been pushing such anti-defamation measures in U.N. bodies.
The State Department report says the United States deplores actions that show disrespect for religious traditions, including Islam.
But it says the broad anti-defamation measures being sought by the Islamic Conference would have the effect of curbing debate about religious issues and should be discarded in favor of outreach and government defense of religious freedom and free speech.
Glen Ford’s snarky rip on a government-funded think tank.
Don’t let the apolitical facades fool you. Virginia’s four Black colleges are hotbeds of “militancy and rebellion” and magnets for “a wide variety of terror or extremist groups.” So says a government-funded outfit called the Virginia Fusion Center, which also cautions against the national security dangers inherent in diversity. “While the vast majority of these individuals are law-abiding, this ethnic diversity also affords terrorist operatives the opportunity to assimilate easily into society, without arousing suspicion.” Safe, secure communities are uniformly white and English-speaking.
Says Glen, “The Homeland Security Department is paying these guys millions of dollars a year to give vent to their own racist paranoia – and to sic the political bloodhounds on a bunch of apolitical Black students.”
There is a petition calling for the removal of pictorial representations of the Prophet Muhammad (aws) from Wikipedia. I don’t support the petition in its current form. It describes the person responsible for placing the picture there as a “true terrorist”. The preternaturally offended Muslim who claims to represent the entire ummah is a media caricature that too many Muslims and well-meaning liberals help perpetuate through such essentialising hyperbole. I am sympathetic towards those Muslims offended by such representations, but not all Muslims feel the same way. You can buy pictures of the young Muhammad (aws) and members of his family (to whom the prohibition extends) in Iran today (warning: this link includes one such image). Moreover, there is also a legitimate right of students of all faiths and none to study such pictures in relation to Muslim history and art if they so wish. We need to move these disputes beyond the false dichotomies of religious/secular – censorial/libertarian. Ours is a plural world, and whilst there are serious imbalances in power between different nations and cultures and faith traditions, there is always room for peaceful negotiation in respect of most issues. Wikipedia should respect the feelings of those Muslims who object to such representations and move the pictures to a seperate page, perhaps dealing with representation as a specific topic, as well as including a warning at the head of the page about the potential for offence.
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