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October 13, 2010

Fitting in should not have to cost Muslims their dignity

Dr. Mohamed Elmasry

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I am worried about the future of Muslims in Western countries, especially since 9/11. A number of news reports point to the phenomenon of a people trying so hard to fit in that they end up losing their self-respect and the respect of others.

We are familiar with this phenomenon in schools, where those who are ostracized because of color, race, physical appearance, religion, or even high academic achievement will do anything to be accepted by a group.

Here are two recent examples of Muslims making the mistake of trying too hard to be acceptable:

A Canadian Muslim is invited to give a talk by our extreme right-wing government, and is suddenly disinvited. He understandably feels insulted, but why did he accept the invitation in the first place?

Why should Muslims in Canada have to issue Islam-against-terrorism joint statements every few months, and other Muslims go around giving “Jews are not my enemy” talks?

For that matter, why does any Muslim have to say day and night that he is a moderate, when “moderate” is subjective? Besides, our corporate media labels all Muslims who advocate for social justice issues in Canada and peace through justice around the world extreme and radical, and never discusses their views.

An American Muslim woman announces in front of TV cameras and reporters that she will lead Friday prayers.

Last summer, a Canadian Muslim woman was “invited” in front of TV cameras to lead Friday prayers in England. Why the wide publicity?

Is challenging 1400 years of tradition the highest priority of a Muslim woman today, given that Muslims in the U.S. and Canada have been steadily losing their civil liberties since 9/11?

Because Islam does not have a Church, every Muslim can do what he or she thinks it is right, so why did she not lead the prayers privately among her followers. There was no need for a media circus.

Muslims in Canada have replaced blacks as the number-one racially profiled group, and have replaced Jews at the number-one target for hate crimes.

Not a single place of worship in Canada or the U.S is spied on more than mosques.

Only the Muslim holy book is threatened with being burnt in front of TV cameras.

Only Islamic centers must get media approval before they are built.

Young Canadian Muslims have lost the basic right to worship in mosques without RCMP and CSIS intimidation.

Muslims who are made to feel “foreign” because of their religion are significantly less active in political life, and feel less politically effective than those who feel socially and psychologically equal.

To be political effective, Muslims need to stop acting like foreigners, and come out of the mental ghetto of subordination they feel because of their religion.

Just as Canadian Muslims must speak out against Israel’s injustices against the Palestinians, NATO’s injustices against Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the drumbeat to war against Iran, they must also speak out against discrimination and deprivation among First Nation peoples, refugees, the poor, the needy, children, the sick and elderly, and other marginalized minorities.

Canadian Muslims must speak out against Islamophobia in the media, in schools, in the work place and in government, and they should not rush to condemn those who are arrested on terrorist charges before they are judged in a court of law.

Finally, Canadian Muslims must show how they contribute to Canadian wealth. I have taught thousands of Canada’s top engineers over the last 40 years, and they have created millions of jobs.

To my fellow Muslims: please do not sacrifice your dignity as you try to fit in—Zionist Jews, Christian fundamentalists, racists and extreme right-wing politicians and media will never accept you—never

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