Canada – Our Home
By Asma Warsi
CIC and TARIC, teamed up with Muslim Council of Montreal and World Islamic
Call Society, took a very bold step towards Smart Integration by offering
a two-day intensive course covering Canadian history, politics, media and
law, Islamic family law and family counseling. This short but comprehensive
course was geared towards Canadian Muslims who are active in the public and
was taught by qualified people such as Prof. Anthony Hall, Prof. Marliyn
Pilkington, and Prof. John Miller, as well as Imam Gamal Solyman, Barrister
Ahmad Baksh, and Sr. Wahida Valiante.
There was a concern that many Muslims who are not much aware of the politics,
history and the laws in Canada, may, in their ignorance, interpret the Qur’anic
verses inaccurately, and hence can be accused of hate crimes. Or, they may
not know their rights in Canada and, in case they are approached by CSIS or
RCMP, may become a soft target.
Some of the questions addressed in this course were pertaining to the history
of Canada’s First Nations and how it may reflect on future of Muslims in this
country; how the media machinery works; democracy in Canada and how it works;
Islamic family law and Canadian laws in general; and the role of Islamic
Professor Hall presented an over view of the history of Canada starting from
1400’s. He informed us of different stages in the life of this country up
to now. He stressed on three points, namely church and state, assimilation
of aboriginals, and the partition of Canada from the British Parliament to
have our own Charter of Rights and Freedoms, of which Quebec never agreed to.
In his scholarly address, Hall pointed out that aboriginals, who had lived
on this land for thousands of years, were marginalized; their civilization,
languages and religion were demonized; their children taken away to be schooled
by missionaries so as to break any ties with their past and assimilate them
into the ruling culture. Since there was close collaboration between church
and state, it was best done by the churches. He also tied the globalization
of American imperialism after the fall of the Soviet Union to the same
mentality of the Western colonizers that was started in 1492 by the Crusaders,
and inspired by the Vatican. In North America, they sold the territories to
establish their empires. In all these cases, indigenous people were never
consulted about their fate. Imperialist powers also used the same
"divide and rule" tactics as they are now using in, for example, Iraq.
Professor Pilkington gave an overview of the Canadian government system
and politics. She talked about the constitution Act of Canada as it stood
in 1867. It was to be a statute of the UK Parliament, with the supremacy
of the same except for the independent judiciary. In 1982, Canada got
her Charter of Rights and Freedoms with the affirmation of the Aboriginal
rights and amendment process called “Patriation” of constitution to
Canada. She talked about Canada’s international commitments, federal
division of powers, levels of governments, political parties, election
system and the role of courts. She also mentioned the procedures in place
for amendments in the constitution. To improve our democratic system, she
said, a six-point plan has been requested by the MPs, reformers and
citizens, for more power and involvement in the governance.
Professor John Miller shed light on the news media in Canada. He touched on
the role the media play in a liberal democracy like Canada, who owns the
media outlets, how the news are selected for reporting, different types
of columns, advertising, and accountability in the media.
The main purpose of media, he said, is to provide people with accurate and
reliable information. He explained the core values of journalism as being
loyalty to citizens, verification of news without bias, not having any
vested interests of any groups, playing role of an independent mediator,
presenting proportional coverage to issues, and monitoring of power of
But in today’s fast paced age of internet, sometimes it is difficult to verify
the news independently. Hence, truth is perceived as what is best truth
today. Also, the credibility of media is falling as thrill and sensation
is making its way into news media. Due to common ownership of many media
outlets, sometimes same story or storyline is repeated by several newspapers,
magazines, radio and TV news. Often, stories are gathered by phone thus the
body language is ignored.
There are many departments such as Press Council, Canadian Broadcast Standards
Council, CRTC, Cultural Diversity Task Force and so on that can be contacted
for correcting various misdeeds in reporting, he said.
Barrister Ahmad Baksh explained the Canadian laws and how the system works.
He also appealed to Muslims to stand up for their rights granted to them under
the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. "We can’t be ignorant to what’s happening
to Muslims in Canada," he passionately pleaded. Liberty and freedom has been
restricted and security services are detaining Muslims without any reasonably
just cause, especially since 9/11, and it is authorized by the law. We will
protect Canada to the best of our capability, but will not sit still if our
Muslim brothers are being mistreated, he said. Many people who fought the
fights for justice were demonized first but then accepted as heroes, he
reminded the audience. Baksh criticized the "no-fly" listing and security
certificates. Everyone must have access to a fair trial. He sited many cases
where race, religion, even how a person looked or smelled, caused the judge
to rule against the person. Muslims are particularly vulnerable today as we
are viewed in the eyes of a large majority as potential time bombs, he said.
"Today’s Pharaoh wants us to revise our Qur’an; the Qur’an stands between
us and slavery," declared Br. Ahmad.
Imam Gamal Solyman from Ottawa gave the Islamic perspective on a Muslim family.
He described the recipe for establishing a strong and happy family beginning
with selection of a spouse, engagement process, marriage contract, and rights
and obligations of the spouses. He named commitment, communication and
contentment as three tips for a blissful marriage. Some of the common problems
to ruin a happy marriage, according to him, were lack of budget-making, not
good intimate relations, interference from in-laws, misunderstanding the
superiority of man as described in Islam, strictness from husband,
jealousy and abuse of power of divorce.
Sister Wahida Valiante gave a very helpful session on Islamic family therapy.
She compared the contemporary psychological view of human personality and its
traits to what Islam has given us. She discussed several models and how they
either blame the genetic inheritance, biological disorder or the repressed
desires to be the main causes of traits such as aggression, hate, violence,
lust, greed and adultery. Islam, on the other hand, makes each person
accountable for his or her own actions.
She also looked at the human relationships in the light of the Qur’anic guidance.
According to her, it is important to understand family relationship within
the context of the Qur’anic belief system and North American secular and
The two-day session was one of a kind. Along with food for thought,
participants were treated with delicious food, drinks and snacks throughout
the length of the session.
2005 Short Course Photos