My four year old grandson loves to play “power rangers” and I’m always the bad guy. However he does know the difference between good guys (most days I’m a ‘rockstar’)bad guys and really bad guys, which is a fine line that many Canadians seem to be very confused about when it comes to Islamism. And who can blame them? The games Islamists play are dangerous and treacherous but at the same time, everything Muslim should not be suspect.
Recently, a couple of incidents have tweaked my interest and also shown me how ignorance can lead to accusations of Islamo-phobia playing directly into the hands of the radicals, so may I take a minute of your time my fellow Canadians to convince you to pick your battles carefully, otherwise the Islamists win.
About two months ago there was a flurry of emails, some directed at me personally seeking advice because ‘God forbid’ Canadians were exposed to halal meat. This hype picked up on face book where the discussion went quickly from ignorance to pure craziness. “OMG, we’re being poisoned by halal meat disguised as regular meat”; “they inject regular meat with halal hormones”; “I’ll never buy meat at the super-market again because who knows they may be selling halal meat as regular meat”. Someone even had the gall to ask me if halal meat was being forced on innocent Canadians?
Give me a break. I had better expectations from Canadians. Halal means that the name of God is pronounced before slaughtering the animal and blood is let out of the corpse before it’s consumed. By the way, this is considered quite healthy by medical experts as blood carries disease and many non-Muslims in enlightened countries prefer to eat meat which is halal.
In Canada halal meat is sold in separate sections of the grocery store because Muslims now constitute a huge consumer market, and not because a particular grocery store is pandering to them. If you don’t like it, don’t buy it. Simple. As Muslims we don’t consume pork, but buy all our products from the same stores that sell pork so what’s the big issue? Oh yes, before I forget, one issue is that “the animals are slaughtered in a cruel way”. Excuse me but Canada has laws about animal slaughter and everyone has to follow the same law. If you’re against animal slaughter then please become a vegetarian but don’t start a war about halal meat because your bigotry is showing and there are bigger battles to fight.
The second drama is more recent. A tense situation occurred few weeks ago at the ROM when visitors heard the azaan (Muslim call to prayer). Interestingly enough one of the reactions was to report that visitors were asked to join in prayer. The ROM issued a press release in which they explained that the call to prayer was part of a 30-minute audio-art installation called A Time to Hear for Here by acoustic architect and composer John Oswald. The ROM stressed that neither the artist nor the museum is making a religious statement and there was definitely no announcement to participate in prayer. This particular work of art features approximately 7000 sound events including the azaan which plays once in the 24-hour long work of art. No the ROM is not becoming a mosque so chill already, my friends.
For those who can get over their knee-jerk reactions long enough to ponder, think and absorb, the azaan is considered to be one of the most spiritually uplifting sounds in the world.
But that’s beside the point.
The point is, we are fighting a war in Canada in which the battle lines have been clearly drawn. As an observant Muslim woman, I’m on the front lines of this struggle to protect our values of liberty, gender equality and freedoms. Do we have time to waste on harmless stuff as halal meat and calls to prayer? I would say not. Personal worship should not be under attack because that will alienate those moderate and practicing Muslims who we need to support us in this challenge. I really don’t have time or respect for those who spend an inane amount of time ranting about my holy book and my Prophet. Beyond that, I am open to debate, discussion and yes, even criticism of how some Muslims have hijacked my faith and turned it into a violent ideology.
Consuming halal meat and performing ritual worship doesn’t create radical Islamists. It’s absorbing and devouring the radical political ideology of hate and exclusiveness that has created the Islamists who are better funded (thanks to the Canadian Government), better supported (thanks to the Saudis) and more in number (thanks to your lower birth rates). So unless you plan to indulge in more sex in the city, I would suggest that ignorant responses to valid practices will only create an atmosphere that gives the Islamists fodder to create animosity and hurl accusations of Islam-o-phobia.
So my advice is the same as Richard Carlson’s – Don’t sweat the small stuff.