O Canada: Muslim Accommodation Gone Too Far?

 

Zunera Ishaq, who fought in the courts and won the right to wear a niqab while taking the oath of Canadian citizenship (Photo: video screenshot)

Last week I traveled to Pakistan to attend to my mother-in-law who was very ill. Although I visit my land of birth once a year, this was my husband’s first visit in 16 years.

Despite the emotional nature of the journey, what struck us both in a positive light was that although Pakistan is not a shining example of human rights (in that there is lack of law and order) and issues surrounding the blasphemy law still exist, security agencies are keeping a tighter control on the masses (for the most part).

However the general public, after three decades, now is keenly aware of the problems. Pakistan is coming to terms with religiosity, i.e., the orthodox are following their own path but there are people who are moderate, modern and even secular, and they are not crossing swords as often.

It seems are finally learning to live and let live, and this is an encouraging sign.

Meanwhile in Canada, my wonderful adopted land, Muslim matters are going from weird to absurd.

  • Under the previous government, there was a move to revoke Canadian citizenship from known terrorists. The current government, however, passed a bill to restore citizenship to convicted terrorists.

Case in point: Zakaria Amara, a convicted terrorist, serving a life sentence for his role in a plot to murder scores of Canadians, will soon get the privilege of a Canadian citizenship. Amara wanted to detonate bombs in downtown Toronto and coordinate shooting sprees at the CBC and the Toronto Stock Exchange. He planned to lay siege to Parliament Hill in Ottawa and carry out executions and beheadings of politicians, including the prime minster. He will now be rewarded with citizenship? How does this make sense?

  • We saw fewer niqabs (face veils) and other face coverings in Islamabad and Karachi than we do in Mississauga and Thorncliffe Park, Ontario. Is our sense of accommodation going overboard?

Speaking of accommodation, there is a sense that unreasonable accommodation requests are being pushed to the hilt. In a school in the Peel school district (located in southern Ontario), a group of Muslim parents are taking a teacher and principal to court for allowing their child to sit next to and socialize with children who have same-sex parents.

The demand is that these Muslim children must be separated from the kids of gay parents, and that this is the responsibility of the school. Instead of slamming the parents for undermining the pluralistic and humane values of Canada, their requests are being considered.

  • In the same vein, a recent case was brought before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO), in which landlord John Alabi (himself an immigrant from Nigeria who became a citizen and worked his way up) was fined $12,000 for having discriminated against his Muslim tenants on the grounds of their faith. Alabai needed to show the rented unit to prospective new tenants and did not remove his shoes as requested. (He also did not wear his street shoes in the apartment but rather covered his street shoes when walking outside and wore clean, uncovered shoes inside the Muslims’ apartment.)

There were a number of issues of difficulty between the tenants and their landlord, but is it fair for the tribunal to fine him for such a large amount? It shows the quick knee-jerk reaction many Muslims are showing these days to take the smallest issue to the Human Rights Tribunal when such complexities could easily be resolved through dialogue and discussion.

In this case, the Muslim tenants waited close to eight months before bringing their claim. Were they encouraged by extremists to do so? The tribunals have used in the past by Islamists as weapons of lawfare (as the structure is set up so that the complaintants do not have to pay any legal fees whether or not they win or lose).

  • Dialogue and discussion have also become the victim of M-103, the new law which now turns almost every issue into one of “Islamophobhia.” M-103 has given license to push unreasonable accommodation to its extreme.

Should we also wait for 30 years to see the change in our understanding of how to deal with religiosity in Canada?

 

Raheel Raza is ​an advisor to Clarion Project. ​She is an award-winning author, journalist and filmmaker on the topics of jihad and sharia. She is president of The Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow, and an activist for human rights, gender equality, and diversity.To invite Raheel to speak please contact us.​