Key Points

  • Faced with an increasing Islamistideology problem, UK Prime Minister David Cameron ordered an integration study[1]in 2015.  The author of the study, Dame Louise Casey, looked at the levels of integration between various communities in the UK.

  • Some of Canada’s multicultural policy-makers don’t want to see Canada as a country with its own values and norms.

  • Islamistgroups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Jamaat-e-Islami are paving their way to introduce Sharia law here in Canada.

Dame Louise’s UK based study on integration accused public bodies of ignoring or promoting divisive and harmful religious practices because of their fear of being called racist.  It also clearly stated that “Misogyny and patriarchy has to come to an end…”[2]  She accepted that she is putting Muslim communities under the spotlight in her report. But she argued that bringing a community or an individual that lags behind closer to rest of the society, is a service to that community or individual.

Responding to this report, British Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said “Civil servants and other holders of public office should swear an oath to British values.”[3]  The study also produced the conclusion that “an oath of integration with British values and society” should be administered for new immigrants and that school children be taught “British values.”

Canadian Values

When Conservative MP Kellie Leitch asks for a screening test for “Canadian values,” should it sound odd to us?

It should not. What’s wrong with promoting Canadian values in terms of integrating new immigrants?

The question, of course, arises: What are Canadian values? And what do we mean by integration?  We could certainly write a book on Canadian values such as politeness, being sorry for everything, and elevating hockey to a religion.  But our core values based on the founding principles of the country are:

  1. Democracy,

  2. Separation of religion and state,

  3. Gender equalityincluding LGBT communities,

  4. Freedom of expression, conscience and thought;

  5. Individual freedom, and

  6. Non-acceptance of violence.

If an individual or community coming to Canada doesn’t endorse these values, it’s absolutely a problem for Canada, or for any democratic society.

Accepting and working with these core values would be called integration, no matter what the original cultural heritage of those concerned. Any person, from whatever faith or culture can be regarded as integrated when they live in accordance with these values.

But unfortunately, we are making this simple task difficult by playing political and religious cards.  We should not support those who ask for gender segregation, mixing of religion with state affairs and curbs on the freedom of speech.

Unlike the UK which had the courage to address the issues and “call a spade a spade,” Canada is burdened with reports such as that by Gerard Bouchard and Charles Taylor.  Their 2008 report titled BUILDING THE FUTURE: A Time for Reconciliation[4]is a feel-good bureaucratic effort.

Then Quebec Premier Jean Charest announced the establishment of the consultation commission on accommodation practices related to cultural differences on 8 February 2007.

In their findings, Bouchard and Taylor emphasized the importance of Canadians understanding immigrants’ cultures rather than urging immigrants to learn about their host country. This appears to be consistent with the post-modernist belief that all cultures are somehow “equal” and that something is wrong with “us” if we insist that “they” adapt to the rules of our house. As an aside, this is consistent with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s belief that we not only have to tolerate the practices of other cultures, but we must accept them.

The general public’s lack of knowledge or interest in this report indicated one more reality; that ordinary people don’t feel such solutions work on the ground.  Our governments should have understood by now that such reports don’t make much sense to the public.  By importing the cultures and problems of other countries, we shift the area of trouble from the national border down to the neighbourhood.

Many citizens have strong negative feelings about some immigrant communities looking for different laws and norms in this country.  They especially react to the demands of some fundamental Islamist groups. The angry outbursts at the Peel Regional Board of Education are examples of this.[5]

It looks like some of our multicultural policy makers don’t want to see Canada as a country with its own values and norms, especially those based on the founding cultures.  PM Justin Trudeau is one of those as he insists that Canada is a “post national state.” Similarly, feel-good academics, policy-makers and their associated commissions want to present Canada as a role model to the world, a country where one can regularly see veil/burka-wearing Muslim female drivers, delivering a message across the world how great a multicultural society this country is.

Such commissions, suffering from delusions of their own competence, remain fascinated by their illusions. They do not understand the fragmentation level within those religion-bound immigrant communities.  Rather, these commissions are causing more division.  They have no clue that the rights they are advocating in certain communities are already bones of contention within those circles.

They don’t know that very few Sikhs are looking to overrule the laws.  The bureaucrats, politicians and commissions show their pride in turning Canada into a country of hodgepodge laws where some Sikhs are walking to school with their kirpans (ceremonial knives) and some Sikhs are asking Canadian law to be overturned so they can wear turbans instead of motorcycle helmets or safety hard hats.

They don’t understand that most Muslim women don’t dream of wearing burkas.  Nor do most Muslim women want to be beaten in their homes, nor do they think being beaten is a type of education.  They do not see being beaten as a sign of “love and concern.”  Very few Muslim men are looking to create prayer places in the corridors of their work places.

Why then are governments spending millions of dollars on commissions and consultants to prepare reports of hundreds of pages?  Why do the governments consider special accommodation, but only for the highly vocal and visible minorities?  Do we hear any unusual and abnormal demands by the Chinese, the biggest immigrant community?  Do we hear of requests by Filipinos, Latinos and eastern Europeans? No.

We have large immigrant communities from those parts of the world as well.  Why do we give so much importance to the demands of a few members of just some immigrant groups?

The time and effort spent on these reports and hearings could be much better spent on teaching immigrant groups about cultural norms of their Canada, their host country and new home.  This of course, assuming our governments believe in Canadian values any more.

Such are the challenges we face in our changing social fabric.

Canadians react to another recent issue, Anti-Islamophobia Parliamentary Motion 103.

Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Jamaat-e-Islami are paving their way to introduce Sharia law here in Canada. Federal parliamentary motion number 103 (also known as M-103) on Islamophobia is part of this activity.  It seems that Islamist groups in Canada are trying their best to prove that Islamophobia is a big issue here.  Some Muslim Canadian MPs are working hard in our federal parliament on behalf of the Islamist cause.

Under the guise of “eliminating systemic racism and religious discrimination,” MP Iqra Khalid tabled only the second motion[6]of this type in parliament to curb “Islamophobia” in Canada.

M-103 is unnecessary.  If there would have been islamophobia, Canadians would have not elected 11 members of the Muslim faith to the Canadian Parliament (Ten Liberal and one Conservative).

Progressive Muslims find it difficult to raise questions about this loose motion.  It’s against the wind of populism.  Since the Liberal Government passed M-103, opponents to modernist Muslims are calling them traitors and infidels.  But modernist Muslims are the voice of the voiceless.  It is also they who suffer at the hands of Islamists.

Canadians of diverse religious backgrounds are also concerned about mixing religion with politics. Unfortunately, most politicians are playing with this motion for their short term political gain, but they are unable to understand the magnitude of damage they are causing to our own beloved Canada.  They are unable to understand the damage to Muslims in Canada.  This motion has put Muslims’ safety and security at risk.  Now, Muslims in Canada are selected targets of backlash and retaliation.

If MP Khalid was concerned about the “root causes” of Islamophobia, she might find broader support.  Islamophobia is generally defined as a “dislike of or prejudice against Islam or Muslims, especially as a political force.”  So why are the Islamists seen so poorly and what are the root causes of disliking Islam and Muslims in Canada and elsewhere?

Could it be groups such as the Islamic Circle of North America? For instance, what Canadians see in the Islamic Circle of North America education syllabus is regarded as offensive.  They believe that:

  1. Women are inferior to men;

  2. Western civilization is the enemy of Islam;

  3. Songs, music, jesters, buffoons are satanic work;

  4. A Muslimwife must obey her husband when he calls her to bed;

  5. A majority of the dwellers of hell are women; and

  6. A pregnant adulteress is to be stoned after giving birth.

This mindset, and many others like it, are the basic root cause for any potential “Islamophobia.”

But our Canadian Muslim organizations and Muslim Members of Parliament (MPs), such as Iqra Khalid, fail to condemn this syllabus.  Iqra Khalid and her family, however, do appear to have good relations with this group.

One possible request for MP Iqra Khalid would be to have her ask the Islamic Circle of North America remove this offensive syllabus from their website.

Would Muslim and non-Muslim parliamentarians, who are striving to denounce Islamophobia, strive equally hard to denounce and remove this mindset from the larger part of my Muslim community?

Similarly, when Canadians see Canada’s Security Intelligence Report about how over 180 Muslim Canadians have joined ISIS abroad, what message does that send to Canadians about my Muslim community?

What about our Muslim MPs, such as Iqra Khalid, Salma Zahid or Omar Alghabra, who have close ties with all the Islamic establishments in Canada?  They speak very loudly about the need to protect the reputation of Muslim community and Islamic centers.  But what about the need to curb radical mindsets and distance themselves from the concept of armed jihad?

None of our Muslim MPs condemned any of the Islamic preachers who recently chose to sit down during Canada’s national anthem in Mississauga.

None of our Muslim MPs have questioned the role of the Muslim Student Association, affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, and who are active in 17 out of 19 high schools in Mississauga.  They are seeking the right to preach in the schools.

Every year, various Islamic centers together arrange a hateful Al Quds Rally in Toronto against the Jewish community and Canada’s best friend and ally in the Middle East, Israel.  What message do Canadians get through this ugly rally?  Will Muslim MPs challenge the hateful messages of this rally?

Our Muslim MPs, who are advocating more for their Muslim communities than their own country, should not appear as hypocrites by asking Canadians to change their mindset while not asking their own communities to leave certain hateful practices behind.

How would Canadians react to a conference of over 20,000 Muslims in Toronto in which some speakers talked about killing homosexuals?  Similarly, how would they feel about acts ranging from my Muslim community’s general conspiracy theories as well as men and women being segregated?  What about adherence to Sharia values? Would this make our neighbors and fellow Canadians comfortable with us?

In short, faith is a personal matter to every individual.  Communities should not bring these sorts of beliefs into our social fabric.

The Burka Debate

The advocates for the right of Muslim women to wear veils ignore one basic reality: This is not about Islamic faith.  If wearing the veil was a faith-oriented right, every Muslim woman should be striving for it. But most Muslim women, in Islamic countries and in the West, don’t practice this tradition, which was traditionally imposed by Muslim men.

It seems ironic to me that some Western feminists and intellectuals speak loudly in favour of Muslim women’s right to put the veil over their faces.  No sensible person is in favour of forcing women to take off their veil, but many Muslim scholars and women’s groups are opening a debate on whether the veil represents Islamic values.

Since veil-wearing women and their proponents have a right to state their opinions, those who oppose this trend have the same right.  The clear majority of Muslim opponents think that the traditional veil is clearly a mark of separation, and consider it an element of the fanatical side of Islam.

Should anyone have a problem with the consensus of most Muslims?  If most Muslims call the veil tradition an “attempt at separation” (not only in the West but in their own Islamic countries, too), should this statement be called — as it has been — absurd?

If Western proponents of the veil see that as absurd, they may also appreciate the actions of suicide martyrs waging jihad, encouraged by the minority of literalist, fanatic Islamists.

Hold on for a minute.  I do understand there is a difference in the degree of fanaticism between the veil issue and suicide attacks. But both fall into the core category of fanaticism.  The opponents of the veil do not want to snatch them from women’s faces.  But they will keep exercising their right to denounce it just as they denounce other fanatical elements of the Muslim world.

There is a need to understand the difference between being separate and being moderate.  There is also a need to understand that most Muslim women who don’t wear these emblems are still followers of Islam. The conclusion of this debate should be that wearing a particular item of dress should be a person’s choice. But showing yourself — your identity — should be a choice made by society.

If a woman wants to show a hardcore Islamic religious symbol, she can be modest and wear a headscarf.  When a woman puts on a niqab (a head-covering with a slit for the eyes), a burka (a full-body garment that hides the eyes as well) or a face veil, then she must grant society the right to decide whether that is appropriate to wear in public.

It seems obvious to me that a secular society can’t accept citizens concealing their identity.  Just as the Netherlands, France, Austria and Germany are banning the burka and veil in public places, so women’s rights groups need to understand the reasons — which seem simple and logical to me — behind the decision.

There is no harm if Canada goes the same way (although there is no plan to do so).  Such a decision wouldn’t be against the multicultural mosaic of Canada.  It would help us Canadians show our secular and moderate face.

What is Multiculturalism? And what is the Canadian version of it?

These are among the hottest debates in our society these days.  Does multiculturalism mean blending all cultures in one pot, or does it increasingly mean keeping all ethnic communities separated from each other?

According to the Department of Canadian Heritage definition, “Multiculturalism ensures that all citizens can keep their identities, can take pride in their ancestry and have a sense of belonging.” But belong to what?  To one’s own ethnic community or to Canadian society?

This definition states further, “The Canadian experience has shown that multiculturalism encourages racial and ethnic harmony and cross-cultural understanding, and discourages ghettoization, hatred, discrimination and violence.”  This is less than clear on the ground, when attacks in St Jean sur Richelieu, Ottawa, Edmonton and Toronto seem to indicate.

How does this discourage ghettoization?  It is hard to explain this part while saying the multiculturalism also encourages the “sense of belonging” to one’s own ethnicity.

Critics often attack this contradiction, saying this is a particularly Canadian form of multiculturalism. Visible minorities, such as Chinese, South Asian, Arab, Black and South American communities are across Canada, congregated mainly in big cities such as Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa and Hamilton.

But the Canadians from (or descended from) European Caucasian nations, who have long had a strong feeling of “owning” this country, raise the questions and concerns.  “Hey, we have made the rules of laws of this land.  Hello newcomers, welcome.  But make no mistake: stoning or burning women alive won’t be tolerated and faces are not to be covered except at Halloween.”

In our multicultural mosaic, none of the ethnic communities except Muslims have fundamental clashes with “Canadian values” such as women’s liberties, openness, separation of religion from community or questioning religious scriptures, etc.  Drinking alcohol or sexual freedom is equally shared by the majority and most other minority communities.  Killing the non-believers is not acceptable.

The Islamists clash with multiculturalism is not due to cultural reasons but on the mixing of Islamic religious orders with cultural values.

In our definition of multiculturalism, though, we didn’t endorse religious scriptures.  We need to make it clear that our model of multiculturalism should be structured based on multiple cultures not multiple religions.  There is a separate debate to be had on how religion reflects culture and to what extent. But religion must be made separate from culture; otherwise it is hard to reach a harmonious and practical model of multiculturalism.

Our multicultural model weakens when we try to introduce religious ethnicity into it.  That’s the point where we don’t understand why things don’t go smoothly.  Instead of blending different religions, the mixing up of cultures could be the right path to multiculturalism.

Implications:

True multiculturalism and integration can only flourish when cultural values – not religious restrictions – come together.

 

References:

[1]Louise Casey, “The Casey Review: a review into opportunity and integration.” (2016).  The article can be seen online at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-casey-review-a-review-into-opportunity-and-integration. Viewed 16 August 2017.  Not rated.

[2]BBC News, “Segregation at ‘worrying levels’ in parts of Britain, Dame Louise Casey warns,” 5 December 2016, accessed 14 May 2017. http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-38200989.  Viewed 16 August 2017.  Not rated.

[3]Matt Dathan, “Everyone employed in public office will have to swear an oath of allegiance to British values under plans to fight extremism,”The Daily Mail Online, 18 December 2016.  The article can be seen online at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4045902/Everyone-employed-public-office-swear-oath-allegiance-British-values-plans-fight-extremism.html. Viewed 16 May 2017.  Not rated.

[4]Bouchard, Gérard, and Charles Taylor. “Building the Future.” A Time for Reconciliation. Report (2014). The article can be seen online at  http://red.pucp.edu.pe/wp-content/uploads/biblioteca/buildingthefutureGerardBouchardycharlestaylor.pdf. Viewed 16 May 2017.  Not rated.

[5]See, among many others, Caroline Alphonso, Ontario school board’s Muslim support fuels hate, threats, the Globe and Mail, 18 April 2017.  The article can be seen online at https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/news/toronto/peel-school-boards-muslim-support-fuels-hate/article34746614/?ref=http://www.theglobeandmail.com&. Viewed 16 May 2017. Not rated.

[6]House of Commons, Iqra Khalid – Private Members’ Motions – Current Session, Parliament of Canada. http://www.ourcommons.ca/Parliamentarians/en/members/Iqra-Khalid(88849)/Motions?sessionId=152&documentId=8661986.  Viewed 16 May 2017.  Not rated.

 

 

Author: Tahir Aslam Gora

Tahir Aslam Gora is a Pakistani writer, novelist, poet, journalist, editor, translator and publisher. He has over 20 years of experience in the media industry during which time he’s been a biweekly columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and contributed as a freelanced to various European and American media outlets.