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Saturday, November 28, 2015

A book all non-Muslims in Canada must read

The Syrian refugee crisis and the November 13 Paris attacks have once again focused the West’s attention on the Muslim Question. The abominable and reprehensible Paris attacks pushed to surface the subterranean resentment that western societies harbour against Muslims and Islam.

The attacks clouded the West’s effort to provide humanitarian succour to the millions of refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war. The debate that should have focused on humanitarian objectives such as providing safety to the fleeing millions, turned into fear-mongering, and resulted into devising means to delay if not altogether prevent the influx of the refugees.

Arguments such as why the Arab states aren’t offering aid, to the Arab world need to fix its problems, and statements such as what if ISIS terrorists pretend to be refugees and infiltrate western societies to wreak mayhem, to western societies should have a right to choose who it should take in, were (are) being made not merely in everyday conversations, but even in policy-making forums.

Canada emerged with dignity from a particularly brutish election campaign where the Conservative Party of Canada led by Stephen Harper focused on portraying Canadian Muslims as a threat to Canadian values. Justin Trudeau’s sweeping victory may provide temporary relief to the embittered Muslims of Canada, but unless the new Liberal government resolves to undertake substantive measures to rectify inherent biases, no far-reaching, long-lasting systemic changes should be anticipated.
Haroon Siddiqui at the
launch of the book

The Relevance of Islamic Identity in Canada published by Mawenzi House and edited by Nurjehan Aziz analyzes critical issues pertaining to Islam and Muslims. (Disclosure: My essay ‘Married to a Believer’ is in this anthology).

The essays in the volume discuss nearly every aspect of the Muslim identity, and how it impacts and is impacted by Canada. The collection is a great mix of the personal, the academic, and the polemical; all the 11 essays address the issue of identity, and what it means to be a Muslim immigrant. The volume offers a rich diversity of opinions, reinforcing the fact that Islam in Canada is multicultural and varied.

Nurjehan Aziz notes in the Preface of the book that it “began as an exploration” of What does it mean to be a Muslim, and that “the responses have been illuminating, though-provoking, and also disturbing…To our great surprise, however, one observation was almost universal: recently in Canada Muslims have found themselves the objects of vilification and discrimination. Being a Muslim then means being a victim.”

The three essays that contribute original though on the issue of Islam’s place in Canada are by Monia Mazigh (Reexamining Relations Between Men and Women); Haroon Siddiqui (Anti-Muslim Bigotry Goes Official – Canada’s Newest Dark Chapter); and Mohamed Abualy Alibhai (The Future of Islam in North America).

Audience at the launch program
Alibhai’s essay in particular is radically refreshing in its approach to interpreting Islam in present times. He says, “The time may have finally arrived when North American Muslims will not be able to avoid thinking the unthinkable with respect to verbal revelation. The experience of American Jews teaches us that once the question is raised it is difficult to put the genie back in the bottle. The only way forward is to abandon the belief in the verbal revelation of the Quran and to adopt an alternative understanding – for example, that the words of the Quran are words that Muhammed uttered and authored in a divinely inspired involuntary and creative cognitive-emotional state.” 

He adds, “Perhaps the most important practical consequence of abandoning the belief in the verbal revelation of the Quran is the corresponding abandonment of the legalist conception of Islam. The new denomination would be premised on the principle that it is possible to practice Islam without the Shariah.”

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