Time to change tune on official multiculturalism (external - login to view)
By Licia Corbella, Calgary Herald February 12, 2011
About one dozen families who recently immigrated to Canada are demanding that the Louis Riel School Division in Winnipeg excuse their children from music and coed physical education programs for religious reasons.
The families believe music is un-Islamic -just like the Taliban believe and then imposed on the entire population of Afghanistan -and that physical education classes should be segregated by gender even in the elementary years.
The school division is facing the music in a typically Canadian way -that is, bending itself into a trombone to try to accommodate these demands, even though in Manitoba, and indeed the rest of the country, music and phys-ed are compulsory parts of the curriculum.
Officials say they may try to have the Muslim children do a writing project on music to satisfy the curriculum's requirements. The school officials have apparently consulted the Manitoba Human Rights Commission, and they have also spoken to a member of the Islamic community suggested by those very same Muslim parents.
In any event, the school district is trying to find a way to adapt the curriculum to fit the wishes of these families, rather than these families adapting to fit into the school and Canadian culture.
Mahfooz Kanwar, a member of the Muslim Canadian Congress, says he has some better ideas.
"I'd tell them, this is Canada, and in Canada, we teach music and physical education in our schools. If you don't like it, leave. If you want to live under sharia law, go back to the hellhole country you came from or go to another hellhole country that lives under sharia law," said Kanwar, who is a professor emeritus of sociology at Mount Royal University in Calgary.
That might be putting things a little more forcefully than most of us would be comfortable with, but Kanwar says he is tired of hearing about such out-of-tune demands from newcomers to our country. "Immigrants to Canada should adjust to Canada, not the other way around," he argues.
Kanwar, who immigrated to Canada from Pakistan via England and then the United States in 1966, says he used to buy into the "mosaic, official multiculturalism (nonsense)."
He makes it clear, that like most Canadians, he is pleased and enjoys that Canada has citizens literally from every country and corner in the world, as it has enriched this country immensely. But it's official multiculturalism -the state policy "that entrenches the lie" that all cultures and beliefs are of equal value and of equal validity in Canada that he objects to.
"The fact is, Canada has an enviable culture based on Judeo-Christian values -not Muslim values -with British and French rule of law and traditions and that's why it's better than all of the other places in the world. We are heading down a dangerous path if we allow the idea that sharia law has a place in Canada. It does not. It is completely incompatible with the idea and reality of Canada," says Kanwar, who in the 1970s was the founder and president of the Pakistan-Canada Association and a big fan of official multiculturalism. Kanwar says his views changed when he started listening to the people who joined his group. They badmouthed Canada, weren't interested in knowing Canadians or even in learning one of our official languages. They created cultural ghettos and the Canadian government even helped fund it.
"One day it dawned on me that the reason all of us wanted to move here was going to disappear if we didn't start defending Canada and its fundamental values." That's when Kanwar started speaking out against the dangers of official multiculturalism. He has been doing so for decades.
So, it's no surprise that Kanwar is delighted with the recent speech British Prime Minister David Cameron delivered to the 47th Munich Security Conference on Feb. 5.
"Under the doctrine of state multiculturalism," said Cameron, "we have failed to provide a vision of society to which they feel they want to belong. We have even tolerated these segregated communities behaving in ways that run counter to our val-ues. So when a white person holds objectionable views -racism, for example -we rightly condemn them. But when equally unacceptable views or practices have come from someone who isn't white, we've been too cautious, frankly even fearful, to stand up to them. . . .
This hands-off tolerance," said Cameron, "has only served to reinforce the sense that not enough is shared.
All this leaves some young Muslims feeling rootless and . . . can lead them to this extremist ideology."
Kanwar actually credits German Chancellor Angela Merkel for being among the first of the world's democratic leaders to take the courageous step in October to say that official multiculturalism had "failed totally."
It appears leaders are getting bolder. During an interview with TFI channel on Feb. 10, French President Nicolas Sarkozy declared: "We have been too concerned about the identity of the person who was arriving and not enough about the identity of the country that was receiving him."
Cameron ended his speech by saying: "At stake are not just lives, it's our way of life. That's why this is a challenge we cannot avoid -and one we must meet."
That democratically elected leaders are at long last starting to sing a different tune on official multiculturalism is sweet music to Kanwar. Here's hoping those poor kids in Winnipeg will get to hear some of it.
licia corBella is the herald's editorial Page editor. lcorBella@ calgarYherald.com
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