When legislation was passed making multiculturalism an “official” characteristic of Canada, the hope was that it would entice immigrants to celebrate their native cultures while adopting the liberal ethos of their new country. But Robert Sibley draws on the views of Muslim scholars, journalists and activists to argue that the 9/11 attacks revealed the flaws and failures of the state-promoted policy.
The Ikhwan (Muslim Brotherhood) must understand that their work in America is kind of a grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and sabotaging its miserable house.
â€” Muslim Brotherhood strategic plan for North America, 1991. Discovered in 2004 during an FBI raid on a house in Anandale, Virginia.
A couple of days after the 9/11 attacks, Raheel Raza received a phone call from a minister at the United Church in the Toronto neighbourhood where she lives. The minister wanted Raza to speak at the church that coming Sunday, to say something that might help the congregation understand the horrific events.
“She said her parishioners were terribly upset and she wanted a Muslim to speak to her congregation and I was the Muslim she knew best,” says Raza, recalling that phone call 10 years later. “I didn’t know what to say. What could I tell them? I was as shocked as anybody.”
Nevertheless, Raza, a journalist and activist, accepted the invitation. “But I had to make a choice. Was I going to be an apologist for Islam or was I going to actually address the issue of what was wrong with Islam.”
She chose the latter. That Sunday, Raza stood in the church pulpit and told 250 parishioners that those 19 Muslims who took part in the 9/11 attacks represented a perverse interpretation of Islam, and, yes, that perversion was present in North America as part of a deliberate effort to Islamize the West.
Raza is a liar. She cannot get herself to tell the unpalatable truth: Islam is Islam and that’s it. Islam itself is a vile and perverted ideology, no ‘perverse interpretation’ by Â a ‘tiny minority of excremists’ is needed to change the fact. I’ve had it with the apologists and with these ridiculous taqiyya exercises.
That speaking engagement would the first of many. For the next couple of years, Raza regularly spent Sundays in churches across Ontario, trying to explain this new world of Islamist terrorism that had crashed into Canadians’ lives.
But it was also the beginning of a period of reflection. “9/11 was a turning point for me,” says Raza, the author of Their Jihad … Not My Jihad that argues for Muslims to reclaim their faith from Islamic extremists. “I knew things were happening (in the Muslim community) I didn’t like before 9/11. So the attacks came as a surprise, but not as a total shock. But after the attacks I knew I had to stand up and speak the truth and say, yes, there are problems in Islam. 9/11 brought this whole issue (of Islamist ideology) to the forefront.”
But it’s not just Muslims that need to confront the dark elements of their faith, says Raza. Non-Muslim Canadians, too, must recognize their liberal democratic traditions are threatened, and government-sanctioned multicultural policies make it worse. “When I first landed in Canada and heard the word ‘multiculturalism’ I thought this country was telling me I could enjoy my culture, but at the same time it was my responsibility to adapt and blend into this new culture. It took me a while to realize that official multiculturalism, as promoted by the Canadian government, allowed people to ghettoize themselves. So, I was a multiculti fan until I realized it was doing more harm than good.”
That message is, no doubt, unwelcome to those sold on the beneficence of Canada’s four-decade-old attachment to multiculturalism. Yet it is a message that since 9/11 has acquired considerable resonance for a small group of Muslims attempting to prevent ultraorthodox Muslims from hijacking the faith and using the excuse of multiculturalism to import 7th-century tribal practices into 21st-century Canada.
“Canada is losing out because it drank the Kool-Aid of multiculturalism,” says Salim Mansur, a political scientist at the University of Western Ontario and the author of a newly published book, Delectable Lie: A Liberal Repudiation of Multiculturalism. “This has profoundly weakened the country in its ability to get new immigrants to adopt Canadian values. The historical legacy of multiculturalism leads many immigrants to no longer make the effort to become Canadian.”
“Some of the practices allowed in the name of multiculturalism are fundamentally in contravention of western values,” says Muslim activist and scholar Farzana Hassan, the author of two books calling for Islam’s reformation, Prophecy and the Fundamentalist Quest of Islam, and Islam, Women and the Challenge of Today. “We have this abusive multiculturalism now, and it has become the West’s Achilles heel.”
Salma Siddiqui, the vice-president of the Canadian Muslim Congress, echoes that argument, saying “multiculturalism is faulty in that it has created conditions that make assimilation (of immigrants) hard. It’s not just failing Muslims immigrants. It’s failing all immigrants.”
Multiculturalism arrived in Canada in 1971. At the height of the Quebec crisis, Pierre Trudeau’s government conceived of multiculturalism as a way to dilute Quebec nationalism and, more generally, to promote tolerance in an increasing pluralistic and diversely populated country â€” “a feel-good public pronouncement that would do no harm,” as Mansur puts it. Like many theories, no one gave much thought to its long-term practical consequences. And so, in 1988 Brian Mulroney passed legislation making multiculturalism an “official” characteristic of Canada. The political elites hoped multiculturalism would entice immigrants to celebrate their native cultures while adopting the liberal ethos of their new country. (The Liberals, and later the Tories, also regarded multiculturalism as a vote-grabbing mechanism, but that’s another story.)
Instead, multiculturalism morphed into a decidedly anti-western posture. Multicultural theory, at its extreme, asserts that assimilating immigrants from non-western countries is morally wrong because it presumes the superiority of western culture. Assimilation thus amounts to coercion. Liberal societies, the argument went, must accept not only the immigrants but also their cultures. Indeed, the assertion of those immigrants’ cultural values becomes a fundamental right.
For moderate Muslims, that’s a formula for the West’s cultural suicide. The imposition of multicultural policies on a liberal western country like Canada has allowed the importation of cultural ascriptions and practices that are inimical to liberal traditions. And the fact that so many opinion-makers, politicians and otherwise avowedly secular liberals ignore this is, they say, disappointingly credulous and dangerously delusional. Multiculturalism weakens Canada as an open, tolerant, liberal society by granting minority groups opposed to the basic principles of liberal order the “right” to promote their hostility even as they benefit from the society they abuse.
“Multiculturalism is the slippery slope that leads to the acceptance or appeasement of the politics of jihad within a liberal democracy,” says Mansur. “The worm inside the doctrine of multiculturalism is the lie that all cultures are worthy of equal respect and equally embracing of individual freedom and democracy. The concerted assault by the Islamists on the essential and life-affirming values based on individual rights and freedoms is proof of this lie.”
Hassan concurs. “Once the people pushing this (Islamist agenda) are in positions of influence they will make sure that no philosophy or ideology can flourish other than the one they want. I will go so far as to say that if we allow these (illiberal practices) it will eventually spell the demise of western pluralism and western democracy.”
Both Hassan and Mansur have direct experience of this downside of multiculturalism. Indeed, their experience arguably illuminates one of the unthought consequences of multiculturalism.
“Until 9/11 I was still having this debate within myself about being a hyphenated Canadian; you know, was I a Muslim-Canadian or just a Canadian?” says Mansur, who arrived in Canada in the early 1970s from Bangladesh, which, at the time, was riven by ethnic politics. “But there was no ambiguity after 9/11. After 9/11, I was Canadian, full stop.”
But that ‘full-stop’ is difficult to sustain because of the “hyphenated” psychology promoted by multiculturalism. One of the irritating aspects of the multicultural mindset Mansur continues to confront after more than three decades in Canada, and long after having acquired citizenship, is how his fellow citizens, particularly the bureaucrats and document-creators, still insist on identifying him as an “Indo-Canadian.”
“This country keeps telling me I’m a hyphenated Canadian, that I’ll never be a full Canadian because, thanks to multiculturalism, there is no such thing as a full Canadian. I’ve made my life in Canada. But as far as multicultural Canada is concerned, I am something else.”
Hassan’s experience is of a different order, but not unrelated to the abuse of multiculturalism. Earlier this year, during a lecture at the University of British Columbia, she was confronted by Najma Mohammed, the education director of the B.C. Muslim Association’s board of women’s affairs, who denounced her for calling for a law to deny public services to women who wear the body-covering burqa and the face-hiding niqab in public.
Hassan argued such a restriction would not violate the Charter of Rights because such garments are themselves symbols of patriarchal oppression. Nor is wearing them a religious “right” because the Koran does not require them, saying only that women should dress “modestly.” “Muslim women are under tremendous pressure to conform to a particular school of thought in Islam,” Hassan said in her lecture. “It’s all part of the politicization of Islam that is taking place (in Canada and elsewhere), with the niqab and burqa as its most pernicious symbols.”
Ultraorthodox Muslim communities force women from early childhood to cover themselves in one fashion or another, and they grow up knowing no other way to live, according to Hassan. To free them from such garments would be a form of liberation. “Micro-cultures within the diverse cultures of Canada that justify the subjugation on women in this fashion are not equal to cultures that don’t,” she told the audience.
Najma Mohammed liked none of this, saying she was “very insulted” by Hassan’s remarks and that “nobody (was) oppressing me to wear this hijab.” Tellingly, she denounced Hassan for picking a “secular place” like a UBC hall to discuss such issues rather than within the Muslim community. “I represent all the Muslim community here,” Mohammed claimed.
Hassan cast doubt on that claim in refusing to retract her views. “There are women who are being forced into wearing the niqab and hijab,” she said, citing the case of Aqsa Parvez, the 16-year-old Muslim teen strangled to death by her father and brother in Mississauga in 2007 “because she refused to wear the hijab and she wanted to integrate more into Canadian society. This 16-year-old lost her life … so I am not going to go back on what I said. These women are being forced, and no matter what you say, that’s the simple truth about it.”
Hassan says the response to her lecture illustrates just how much Canada has changed in the 10 years since 9/11. A decade ago, who could have imagined anyone advocating a legal ban on clothing, or someone insisting on their right to a body-covering garment? How many people 10 years ago had heard of jihad or Sharia or, indeed, “honour killings” and the practice of polygamy? (“There are at least 100 men in the GTA who openly maintain polygamous marriages,” she says.)
Such questions highlight the problematic nature of burkas or niqabs, says Hassan. Giving them public sanction opens the door to other symbols â€” and the practices pertaining to those symbols â€” inimical to liberal society. “The practice of wearing the veil is proliferating in Canada. If we allow it to happen, what sort of society are we creating? If there is acceptance of this sort of thing you change the dynamics of a society and you no longer have a society that upholds the equality of all women.
“People who wear the burqa and people who promote Sharia are some of the most intolerant people. They will demand restrictions of freedom of speech against those who might question or criticize their religion. How can we tolerate intolerance?”
According to Raheel Raza, while the majority of Muslims do not share the Islamist agenda, they have been cowed into silence by an aggressive minority pushing the Islamization of Canada. “People are silenced by fear and intimidation. Criticizing fellow Muslims is akin to criticizing Islam, which is like criticizing the Prophet and the Koran and, therefore, God. This is the kind of brainwashing done on youths.”
Hassan echoes that view, saying that even “skeptical Muslims,” those who no longer believe every word of the Koran is God’s â€” a “quite significant” number, she says â€” are afraid to speak against the ultraorthodox agitators. “Many Muslims are afraid to speak out. They love Canada. They love the freedom here, but they are afraid.” But it is not only fear of violence; they also fear ostracism. They want to remain within the fold as “cultural Muslims.”
Silence through fear means the radicals and extremists have a greater opportunity to claim they speak for Muslims as a whole. “I don’t believe in this narrative that they (the Islamists) are a small minority and can be ignored,” says Hassan. “Absolutely not. They are the ones calling for Sharia. They are the ones wanting to put limits on freedom of speech and so many other values that we cherish in the West.”
Muslims promoting extremist views aren’t the voice of Islam, says Salma Siddiqui. Unfortunately, they are often the ones who speak loudest and get the media attention, thus giving non-Muslims a false impression of Islam. “Most Muslims want to have a life where they can live in harmony with others in society. Muslims promoting extreme religious values, or who reject liberal, pluralist values, do not speak for all Canadian Muslims.”
Nonetheless, say moderates, the Islamists are often able through intimidation to promote the most orthodox interpretations of Sharia law, import imams to preach radical jihadist propaganda in the mosques, and even insist on their “right” to ban liquor, music or whatever offends them, in areas with a majoritarian Muslim population.
Canadians, says Mansur, need to openly discuss how the country’s civilizational character as “a secular, liberal, and predominantly Christian” culture “is threatened by open immigration and multiculturalism.” And immigrants, he says, have to accept that “to be Canadian in the fullest sense means to embrace the West and freely assimilate its distinctive culture. Since 9/11 the Muslim population in the West has not shown forthrightness and determination in repudiating Islamism as an ideology that increasingly makes a mockery of Islam as a peaceful religion.”
Raza echoes that view, adding that non-Muslims should reject notions of Islamophobia. “Many Muslims in the West use Islamophobia as a penalty card against free speech whenever there is criticism of Muslims. This reactionary response is stifling dialogue, debate, and discussion â€” all signs of a healthy thriving democracy. The best thing non-Muslims can do, for themselves and Muslims who genuinely want to be part of Canada, is speak out. Keep the issues alive in the public consciousness to create a critical mass of people who can act to thwart the Islamist infiltration.”
For Raza, the situation is worrisome. She and her husband fled to Canada from Pakistan in 1989 after the regime of then-president Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, under the influence of Saudi Arabian Wahhabists, began imposing more and more religious restrictions and taboos on what until then had been a tolerably free and liberal-oriented society. Raza, a Shia Muslim, and her husband, a Sunni, were suddenly social pariahs, ostracized by both communities. In coming to Canada they thought they’d escaped that kind of bigotry and intolerance.
“We find it ironic that the very ideology we were trying to run away from 23 years ago has followed us to Canada.”
[A] survey of 1,500 Canadians, conducted over three days last week for the Montreal-based Association for Canadian Studies, showed 56 per cent of respondents see Western and Muslim societies locked in an unending ideological struggle, while about 33 per cent â€” just one-third of the population â€” held out hope that the conflict will eventually be overcome.
The authoritarian cult of Islam has been at war with the West for 1,400 years. In all that time, obsequiously patronizing Muslims as they eat away at our territory has never produced a positive result. The only way the conflict will end is if one side or the other definitively wins â€” and the other no longer exists.