Sunday, July 22, 2018
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Reflections: Muslim Experience in Canada

By Abubakar N. Kasim

In a multicultural society, there is always the potential of picking on minorities. They are blamed for whatever mishap one of their members is accused of. Minorities who are picked upon take turns.  Yesterday might have been the Japanese and Italians, the day before were the Jews and today the number one enemy is a Muslim.

It is tremendously challenging to be in such position where you are picked on. Not only children, even grownups lose their confidence.  People lose their confidence in identifying themselves with the minority so that they will fall under the radar.

They do everything to avoid been associated with the “enemy from within” the “trouble maker” and the “terrorist”. They try to stay away from dress codes that would make them easily identifiable. Some would go to the extent of changing names or modifying their accents especially when they talk over the phone.

The few who remain steadfast suffer the consequences of been labelled with the worst names you can imagine.

I am living such an experience.  It is tremendously difficult to even look like a Muslim today let alone care names like Abubakar. Even those around you will make fun of.  In such a climate of fear and anxiety, everyone bares the responsibility to fight the stereotyping which could lead to much more.  If such stereotyping is not confronted, members of the targeted community can face backlash, violence, discrimination and much more.

It could lead to having the community to be abandoned such as what just happened in the United Kingdom where the entire building was let to burn without much assistance from authorities.  In spite of concerns raised by tenants about safety hazardous, no one bothered to pay attention as the people living there were majority Muslims who were perceived as less British.

When hate builds up, the situation become dire and life could be lost as a result. Those working for instance in hospitals, ambulance services, in the police force, judges are all humans and could be affected by the sentiment.

How many times have you heard in the news about Somali families in Edmonton complaining that their calls to 911 were neglected?

There was a young student who was molested in the washroom of one of the public schools in Toronto. What was surprising and alarming at the same time was to hear about the total neglect by her teachers. And what was more disturbing was to hear about the police investigation concluding that the school administration did not do anything wrong for not reporting such an alleged crime?

Hate against my community is building up. I have seen firsthand how negative attitude my former colleagues at the Toronto’s Pearson International had towards Muslims and Arabs. Professional employees were making outrageous remarks and everyone in the room responded with laughter. “We should give Muslim women ultimatum when entering the country,” said one. “Either remove the hijab or go back to wherever you come from.”

I spoke up but by voice wasn’t strong enough. I even wrote an essay published by the CBC’s former Radio program I Believe.

And eventually I was terminated.

My hope and wish is to have the society at large standing up against hate, against targeting the weak and the vulnerable among us.

We should not tolerate ignorance. We should follow the example of the three passengers in a train in Portland who stood up to defend two Muslim girls wearing headscarf.  Sadly, two had lost their lives.

Remember one thing. To forsake one of us is to forsake all of us. Things could turn around. If today the target are Muslims, tomorrow it could be you. Even if you belong to a majority today, things could change and you could end up in what will be perceived as “the wrong crowd.”

I’m a Muslim. A proud Canadian Muslim. I am not your enemy. I have a lot to offer for the well being of my country and humanity at large. My religion commands me to be like a fruit tree. Even when people throw rocks at it, it throw fruits back.

Much of the violence you hear  in my name I have nothing to do with.   The same way you don’t have anything to do with madmen in your community who go wild claiming to be talking on your behalf. There are extremists everywhere. They come in different sizes and shapes and hold different ideologies and creed.

We have a lot in common.  Let us take advantage of  this special occasion and embrace one another, celebrate our differences and cherish the blessings we have.

Violence we hear is politically motivated as religion always call for love, for peace and harmony.

Happy 150 Canada Day.

Abubakar N. Kasim
Toronto, Ontario

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