Diversity Enriches a Country

Untitled3Source: Whig Column
Author: Alia Hogben
Date: July 16/16.

What do Brexit and Trump and Daesh (ISIS) have in common? How do these global entities affect me as a Canadian Muslim woman?

These groups are driven by xenophobia – an intense, irrational fear of anything perceived as foreign or strange. This fear leads, amongst many negatives, to discrimination, scapegoating, and violence.

I think one of the reasons some British voted to leave the European Union was their desire to pull up the drawbridge and insulate England. I am old enough to remember when the English held that “foreigners start at Dover.” It is sad if this kind of insularity is now re-emerging in a vastly different world.

In the States, Donald Trump is appealing to the base instincts of Americans to close their borders to Mexicans and Muslims. I am not alone in worrying that Trump may win, and what a world leader we will have!

And then there is Daesh. I include this group as being similar to the other two, as they too are motivated by xenophobia, with their politics based on intolerance and violence framed within an abuse of religion.

The West forgets that Daesh’s violence is more often directed towards their neighbouring countries. Besides hating Christians and the Yazidis, Daesh is increasing the levels of discord and conflicts among their own co-religionists.

I wish someone would tell the members of Daesh that the Quran states, “The true servants of God are those who walk on the earth in humility and when the ignorant address them, reply with words of peace.”

All this violence and hatred is creating problems for Muslims. The influx of recent Syrian refugees to the West is causing empathy but also great anxiety. For example, in the States, 56% think Islam is incompatible with America, and there has been an increase in anti-Muslim sentiments in the U.K.

In Canada, we are generally fortunate because most of us celebrate and accept diversity. For example, recently in welcoming American President to Ottawa, our Prime Minister said that diversity enriches a country and should not be seen as threatening.

I do like Canadian multiculturalism. Its goal is to recognize diversity, foster integration and maintain the equality of all. Surely, these are foundational to any civilized society.

I like this definition of integration from the field of Information Technology. Integration is an act of bringing together smaller components into a single system that functions as one…the end result of a process that aims to stitch together different, often disparate subsystems.

This is very different from assimilation which was Canada’s policy regarding First Nations – with a very damaging implementation – or the American image of the “melting pot.”`

Do we Muslims have a role in positively countering the anxiety and fears that are emerging from our presence? I strongly believe that we do.

A basic dictum to live by is to fight for the same rights for others as we desire for ourselves. As a Muslim, I believe in the teachings of the Quran with its values of compassion, social justice and equality. There is no contradiction between these values and those of the Charter or the universal declaration of human rights.

The constant reality for new immigrants is adaptation and the host country’s accommodation. Each immigrant comes from her own culture, traditions, and religion, and understandably wishes to retain as much as possible. But some of them may conflict with the culture and norms of the host country, so how should this be resolved?

It is unrealistic if we immigrants hold tight to ALL aspects of our cultural and religious traditions. After all, these are not static but are constantly evolving. We hope for accommodation, but we must also demonstrate our ability to adapt to our Canadian values and laws.

Let us, as Muslims, discard any of our practices that are against universal human rights.

One tradition which must be jettisoned is the acceptance of the inequality of women and girls. Some of our cultures have taught us to believe in women’s inequality and think this understanding is based on Islam. Contrary to what is practised in some cultures, a correct reading of the Quran shows that none of these are part of Islam – inequality, or gender segregation, early or forced marriage, or any abuse inflicted on the bodies of any female.

Some immigrants do not adapt to their new context, others adapt totally into their new culture, and then there are those who are cosmopolitans and create a blend of both their new and old cultures. The last is a beneficial compromise for all.

So to create a pluralistic Canadian society there must be mutual accommodation, which means that all ethno-cultural groups, including those of European origins, must accept the core values and basic norms. These, by necessity, are an amalgam of what we all bring to our pluralistic society.