by Licia Corbella, Calgary Herald –
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 co-ed 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
a better idea. “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. If they did not like these things in Canada, why
did they not go somewhere else? If they want Canada to be like their
homeland why don’t they go home?
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
“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
of sharia law 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
“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 values. 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
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