SHAFAQNA – Dear Santa,
All I want for Christmas is to wake up and not find the word “Muslims” in the news — especially if it’s about Muslims in Quebec. News, be it good or bad, is part of life, but what I am referring to is the importance placed on trivia that neither informs nor entertains, but fans the flames of discord over our heads — hijab-clad or not.
You find that’s a strange wish, Santa?
Recently we were inundated with reports about a planned housing project, initially declared to be exclusively for Muslims, on the South Shore. Somehow, a businessman without history of community involvement or organizational backing seemed to become the face of Montreal Muslims. It boggles the mind how much attention he got, all for a project that he alone stands behind and that goes against the all-encompassing ideal of inclusion and diversity in our tradition.
The justifications given for the project ranged from the folkloric to the absurd, but no one paused to question them. The argument mostly emphasized was Islamic financial principles. Although making a profit is allowed in Islam, Riba, which is earning money on money, is not. Financial advisors have responded by offering programs that are designed to be “Shari’a compliant.” Presentations have been done periodically at all the major mosques for the last 30 years, at least. One such plan is the cost-plus financing where the lender (person or institution) buys products and resells them with a certain margin to the borrower (client).
There has been no restriction on where to live from the lenders and no desire to congregate in one area from buyers. Muslim homes are spread all over the city, Santa.
One might have thought that the story would instantly fade from the news. But the minister of immigration was asked to comment, as local Muslims are only and will be always “immigrants,” it seems, even if half of the members of our communities were born and raised in Montreal.
Not to be outdone, politicians raced to denounce the “Muslim ghetto.” The media amplified the criticism and the hate mail heaped on us. This went on for three straight days, in the print, audio and video. In English and French.
Unfortunately, this was not an isolated incident. Think of the burkini issue: all the pompous declarations in defence of “our values,” the debates about whether our society should accommodate this strange attire.
There is never a dull moment. In the wake of the burkini, came National Assembly hearings on Bill 62, on religious face-coverings. Was it indeed 62? I’ve lost track of the numbers: 94, 60 … all the same Santa, variations on a theme.
Meanwhile, the contributions of Muslims, to Montreal, Quebec and Canada, often go unreported. There are some newsworthy things happening around the Muslim community, if only media paid attention.
As an antidote to the Brossard “Muslim ghetto” we find the initiative launched by the Michaëlle Jean Foundation, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, and Institute for Research and Education on Race Relations (IRERR), to celebrate the work of young Muslim artists. The theme of the competition, Art of Inclusion, says it all. The Montreal Gazette ran a nice story, but the initiative could have received broader coverage.
On the economic front, no one seems to be paying attention to the multitude of small businesses benefiting our city. Did you notice, Santa, the proliferation of “Halal” signs? We don’t hear about the struggles, and indeed the successes, modest or spectacular, of these endeavours. I would also love to see a story about the many hijabi women working in daycare centres. Their contribution to our society is truly remarkable.
This is the kind of constructive, pertinent information that I wish got more attention.
Please give me a break, Santa. I remain hopeful in miracles.
Samaa Elibyari is a member of Canadian Council of Muslim Women – Montreal Chapter.