An open letter to Sheema Khan and the Globe and Mail
The real issue
Sheema, I have read your impassioned article and although I can relate to a lot of what you’re saying there is so much that you are not saying, let me elucidate. But first a little background.
I am also Indian (though not Muslim) and arrived in England around the same age as you were when you arrived in Canada. I grew up in an area where the National Front repeatedly got the highest polling numbers, I feared racially motivated attacks at school daily. A teenager at the time, I lived through and experienced first-hand the race riots that swept through Great Britain in 1979. I say all this to highlight that I am not stranger to bigotry, racial profiling and indeed xenophobia. All brown people were labelled “pakis”, and we definitely were the other as you so quaintly put it.
I have had a blend of friends throughout my youth including many that follow Islam. I remember my only friend at school, Pervaiz and indeed Zahid a close friend at sixth form college. After moving to British Columbia in the 90’s, I left all that behind and found a new multi-cultural society and a new blend of friends and colleagues from all races and backgrounds. But for the purposes of this letter, I will mention two. The first, let’s call him Mr.X to maintain his anonymity is a Pakistani Muslim who arrived in Canada about the same time you did and is roughly your age, the other Mr.Y was part of the Ugandan exodus and is Ismaili and a regular visitor at this mosque, he has never seen India but his ancestry traces back to Gujrat. By coincidence not by design, I saw both these individuals on 9/11. This on a day when I was shocked and dazed by what I had witnessed live on TV, the perspective both these individuals offered defined our friendships from that day forward. When I met Mr.X that horrible day, he was grinning from ear to ear, and the first words out of his mouth were, “well they had it coming,” needless to say our friendship has slowly wavered since that day. However Mr.Y restored my faith in humanity, he was equally shocked and numb as I was, and when we talked about the events of the day he told me of a private conversation between him and his mother. Although I don’t remember it all, I do recall him saying that he told his mother, “they are ruining it for the rest of us.”
Elephant in the room
The aforementioned article or yours highlights several problems, but ignores the elephant in the room. According Brigitte Gabriel 15-25 percent of the world wide Muslim population is radicalized, that by some estimates is around 300 million people. However, the BBC reports that among European Muslims that number is in excess of 30% of the Muslims in these countries. That is a lot of people that firmly believe that non-Muslims do not have the same rights as them, indeed killing a non-Muslim isn’t even a crime in their eyes. We have to distinguish between radical and non-radical Islam, and that is the challenge you should be embroiled in. Denying the existence of radical Islam or not saying it by name in order to maintain political correctness has been the downfall in Europe, lets not follow that path. So instead of trying to manipulate the emotion around the issue to further your political agenda, you should be engaging in a discussion on how to keep Canada safe from very real threats that will come our way.
You stated that the federal government uses its hefty weight to vilify Muslims; I propose that the federal government is merely taking note of the elephant in the room that you chose to ignore. You are in a unique situation and have unique power as a published writer to further your own cause by clearly showing that there are two factions, radical and non-radical. Indeed publicly align yourself with my friend Mr.Y, you can’t do this my ignoring that there is “the other”, and the other is not as you define it. It is not every Muslim in Canada, it is those hiding in your midst with agenda’s that are too horrific to imagine. Your article is veiled (pun intended) in the discussion of racial acceptance but its real purpose is deeply political and as such you have wasted your opportunity to heard as a normal functioning member of society discussing real challenges facing members of your faith. Why, because you have branded yourself as a politically motivated person dedicated to do her part in ensuring a Conservative defeat.
Canada today is as inclusive today as it has ever been, for you to suggest otherwise is abhorrent. Jack Layton was indeed a passionate statesmen, the only NDP leader in decades that has commanded universal respect crossing political boundaries. He was right when he said, “My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.” The political realities of today need vigilance along with these values, no amount of love, hope and optimism is going to help the Christian’s or the Yehzidi imprisoned by the same people that wish harm to Canada.