Tuesday, September 2, 2008

November 30, 2007


Canada did it. Canada opened a practice nobody ever thought about: to celebrate the Islamic presence in Canada under the form of the world’s first Islamic History Month (why not called Muslim History Month?). Why such a gift, you might ask? To me it doesn’t seem to be anything but a gift of fear. Our government knows very well what is happening in Europe and is hoping that Muslims in Canada might be bought with such gestures.

Such a gesture is simply questioning its timing, as it comes in the context of “offended”� Muslims by the reasonable accommodation hearings held in Quebec. I see a connection. The raising of Islam in Europe is not a distant theory or a page taken out of the history books. Such a reality, with all aspects included, can not remain unknown to our government and politicians.

Silently, with an Islamic History Month, Canada is hoping to keep the Muslims in a range of comfort given by such official events.

As some began to question the Quebec hearings, as they might trigger similar hearings in the rest of the country, this gift comes as a high level of assurance coming from the government that no matter what those people say in Quebec, Muslims are loved, wanted and their presence highly valued.

Now, a logical question comes: Is there a similar month for other religions or ethnic communities? Not quite. Official recognition of each ethic, cultural, religious or linguistic community’s contribution to Canada is undoubtedly a nice gesture. In this respect, Canada, besides the already well-established Black History Month (celebrated in February in Canada and the USA and October in the UK), has also a South Asian Heritage Month in Canada, celebrated in May. And this comes as, according to the 2001 Census, almost 10 % of Canadians are of Asian descent.

Significant Muslim population begins to move to Canada in the 1970s through emigration. The first census year in which Muslims in Canada were specially included was 1981 and they then numbered 100,000. By 1991 the number had grown to more than 250,000; in 2001, there were almost 600,000.

The Muslim community in Canada has its foundation in the West, where Al-Rashid, the first mosque in North America, was built in Edmonton, Alberta, in 1938. The Canadian Muslims come from all over the Muslim world. Many held or still hold key positions in the Canadian media.

Mohammed Azhar Ali Khan is a former Ottawa Citizen editorial writer. He retired recently after 10 years as a member of the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, deciding refugee asylum cases including dozens from Somalia.

Tarek Fatah (born November 20th, 1949) is a secular Muslim Canadian political activist, writer and TV host. Founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress. Fatah’s advocacy for a separation of religion and state, opposition to Sharia law, and what he calls a “progressive” form of Islam has met with considerable controversy from other Canadian Muslim groups, such as the Canadian Islamic Congress.

Haroon Siddiqui, newspaper journalist, columnist and editorial page editor for Toronto Star, considered by many a Third World apologist. Referring to a Siddiqui column that appeared in March 2001, Robert Fulford wrote, “He found a way to look with a degree of tolerance even on the Taliban’s destruction of ancient Buddhist sculptures in Afghanistan.” Haroon Siddiqui also greets Turkey’s returning to an Islamic country.

So, if some speak about a Zionist media conspiracy, others might be entitled to speak of a Muslim one.

On the Canadian Islamic Congress site, in an article praising Ottawa’s decision to install the Islamic History Month in Canada, Mohamed Elmasry, president of the Canadian Islamic Congress, says: “ Muslim identity in Canada has been influenced in two major ways; first, there is the country itself — a nation with a comparatively young history (140 years in 2007), occupying a huge and ruggedly diverse land-mass — and secondly, by the self-perceptions of its Muslim immigrants.”
140 years only?! According to this person’s broad knowledge, Canada came into being in 1867! Yes, indeed, Canada became a self-governing country on July 1st, 1867. But this doesn’t mean that Canada’s history as a nation began 140 years ago! According to his judgment, the history of a nation begins with its independence. Thus, Iran’s history as a nation began 1979 (the day the country became a theocratic Islamic Republic state), Norway’s in 1814, and Egypt’s, to end the examples, in 1922, when the country was declared independent from the British rule and it acquired full sovereignty following World War II. So, according to Mr. Elmasry, Canada is older than his native Egypt by 55 years!

Mr. Elmasry, French explorer Samuel de Champlain arrived in 1603 and established the first permanent European settlements at Port Royal in 1605 and QuebecCity in 1608. The Act of Union merged The Canadas into a United Province of Canada in 1840. Do the math. This doesn’t seem to exist in the history books Elmasry has read.

The same Dr. Mohamed Elmasry of the Canadian Islamic Council has declared in a televised interview in 2004 that Israelis over age 18 are a legitimate target for suicide bombers because adult Israelis are required to do military service, thus everyone is a soldier. “They are part of the Israeli army, even if they have civilian clothes,” Elmasry said on The Michael Coren Show. (See )

Elmasry apologized for his remarks as he considered being “misunderstood”, and kept his post as council president, as his letter of resignation was rejected by the board of directors. This was a very clear message of backing up his remarks from the part of the board. What was so multifaceted in his statement to lead to “misunderstandings”?

Certain Muslims believe that their sentences are so sophisticated that they make room to “misunderstandings”, especially when it comes to “non-believers”.

Now, back to 2007, when Ottawa officially proclaimed October to be Islamic History Month in Canada. Since the Muslim community has only a few decades presence in Canada, I was wondering if other older cultural/religious communities have anything similar: for instance, a European History Month in Canada would be a sign of recognition of the centuries old contributions made by European immigrants to the development of this country, culturally, socially and economically.

I am also thinking of the First Nations. After contacting The Assembly of First Nations, I was informed that there is no such thing as First Nations History Month in Canada. Tracy Lavallee, a First Nations woman stated, ”There is no month dedicated to the First Nations in Canada - we do have “National Aboriginal Day”, June 21st, that has been proclaimed by government. It would be nice if Canada would declare some month First Nations history month - this might prompt the various provincial governments to look seriously at having “proper” history taught which ought to include First Nations’ history, contributions, etc.”

What Canada gave the aboriginal people is one day, June 21st, as recognition of their historical presence and contribution to our society. Is it, perhaps, enough?

I have also contacted the Jewish community, and I received a prompt answer from Enza E. Martuccelli, Director of Community Relations for Canadian Jewish Congress, Quebec Region , who stated: ”We have had Yom Hashoah recognized by Parliament and from October through November the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre runs a series of programs on the holocaust. The Sephardic community also runs a month long cultural program focusing on their community in Quebec and elsewhere. However no proclamations of the kind that are found on the Muslim History Month website exist for the Jewish community.”

There has been a Jewish population in Canada since the 1700s. The 2001 census lists 370,505 Jews in Canada. In the USA, May was proclaimed in 2006 as Jewish American Heritage Month. Another significant community in Canada is the Christian Orthodox community which numbers 479,620 (2001), counting as 1.6% of the population (the Muslim community 579,640, counting2.0%).

I believe that the Orthodox community is also entitled to be honoured with a History Month. The first Orthodox Church in Canada was erected in 1898, 40 years earlier than the first mosque.

What about the Hispanic community in Canada?

During the Islamic Month, of 31 days, 10 days were without events. As for the events, they were basically a handful, shuffled during 21 days: - Free Public Performances on Qanoun By Dr. George Sawa “- Film: Damascus and the Umayyads, people of the 9th and 10th centuries “- Film: Istanbul, capital of the Ottomans in the 15th and 16th centuries “- Film: Glories of Islamic Art, Part 2; Cairo, the cockpit of the early Islamic struggles between Sunni and Shiia faiths “- Islamic History Month Canada (IHMC): Its Goals, Its Methods, Its Themes “- Cairo, traces of the 12th and 14th centuries “- Eid-ul-Fitr- Canadian Muslims celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr across Canada, ending the Islamic month of Ramadan “- Expo Islamia- Displays from around the Muslim World, books, CDs, DVDs, films on Islamic History, Arts, Architecture, Heritage, Games and Prizes “- The Ottawa Muslim Women’s Organization- Multicultural Show, Dinner & Entertainment “- A Mystical Journey - Sufi Music and other Expression of Devoton from the Muslim World- “- Islamic Civilization - A Very Short History- A presentation by Dr. Jamal Badawi, delivered by Dr. Safaa Fouda “- The Canadian Muslim Artist Ibrahim Shalaby in a Special Solo Show: Longing for the divine - an artistic tapestry “- Islamic Architecture, Science, Art and Spirituality: A Lecture in Celebration of Islamic History Month Canada- By Prof. Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Professor of Islamic Studies, George Washington University, Washington DC in his first Canadian Lecture Tour “- Friday October 26th- “National Pink Hijab Day”- to raise funds for breast cancer research “- The Canadian Islamic Congress Annual Ottawa Gala Dinner- with the speech: “Creativity in the Medical Sciences during Medieval Islamic Times”�- by Dr. Ingrid Hehmeyer, MSc, PhD.

Even cancer is opportunity for Dawah
As about the “National Pink Hijab Day”, this is not only an initiative to raise funds for breast cancer, but also a method of advertizing the religion itself. The organizers of this specific are hoping to also raise awareness about Islam and hijab. They have used it as an opportunity for Dawah, considered to be an obligation on Muslims to invite others to Islam. Dawah is often referred to as the act of “preaching Islam”.

It is, undoubtedly, an activity of proselytizing. In some cases, Dawah can also be seen as preaching to non-Muslims to convert to Islam. (The Encyclopeadia of Islam, BRILL)

The Canadian Islamic Congress has announced it was giving away pink hijabs to 200 Canadian women across the country who would volunteer to wear them on October 26th, to raise funds for breast cancer research. To request a free pink hijab, those interested were supposed to send a message to an e-mail address before October 22nd and include name, phone number, postal address and “a short personal biographical statement”. Why this ”biographical statement”?

And this is how the Muslims have decided to enlighten us about their history.

Call for a Canadian year

If the Canadian government decides to offer one month to every single ethnic, religious, linguistic group, there is only one tiny problem: the length of the year. Since there are only 12 months and more than 20 large ethnic groups and over 100 of “smaller” groups, I suggest the creation of the Canadian year, so that every single community gets a celebration! The Canadian week would become 3, 04 days long. Thus, the 120 ethnic groups could each get an equitable representation in the Canadian calendar of official events.

Posted by Madi Lussier at 6:38 AM  


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