Thursday, 8 October 2015

Book Review: History of the Muslims of Regina, Saskatchewan, and Their Organizations

Habib & Habib
I was excited to receive this book. I have worked with a fair number of Muslim students during my career. I did some research into the tenets of Islam, as it interested me and I wanted to better understand this religion. We always shared our December celebrations with one another in the classroom community. Many have the same symbols of light, including candles, food, music. This is how we did it: Holiday Celebrations.

It is timely, what with the fearmongering by the Conservative party in our Canadian federal election. It is shameful. Many do not understand Islam or Muslim ideals, except as broadcast by Loon Wolves, who think they understand it, or the extremist fringe. It breaks my heart.

Our 2005 research
Canada is a multi-cultural, diverse country
The book is a documentary of the development of an organization called Muslims For Peace and Justice, established after 9/11. All of the newspaper articles are reprinted, but in mice type, and I had issues reading it. There are meeting reports, and reports of interviews, conducted by the group after, for example, the Gulf War and Bosnian Crises. It was an onerous read.

This hard-working, well-educated couple, immigrated to Canada in 1973.  Both of them have graduate degrees: Dr. Habib was a practicing doctor, and a professor. Mrs. Habib earned her Masters in Political Science. There are brief, skeletal paragraphs about their wonderful education and
volunteer services. I anxiously await their auto-biographies, which are hinted for in another book. That said, I was somewhat disappointed that the book contained mostly facts, reports, newspaper articles, and meeting minutes.
Celebrating our diversity
My student created the Eid poster

The book is well-edited, even if some of the phrasing and syntax is awkward, but it is a very difficult read to get to the meat of it, to find the humanity in those who have given up their homeland to come to the cold, Canadian west.

Both authors were born in India, just prior to The Partition of India and Pakistan. Essentially, they immigrated what with battles over political issues involving many religious groups: Hindu, Buddhist, Jainists and Sikhs. Add in Jews, Christians, and Islamists, who arrived in the 1st millennium of the Common Era (CE), and you can understand how difficult it was for our authors to remain in this part of the world.

We celebrated many traditions,
and respected our differences
The reason I wanted to dig into this 641-page book, is to read about issues with integrating, and how they managed. I did watch the sticom Little Mosque on the Prairie, and wondered if it was all fun and fiction. There is a section of the book which refers to this subject, but I was interested in how Muslims on the Prairies managed to practice their faith.

I wanted to understand how many Muslims immigrated to the west.
Classroom poster
What were the communities like? How did they access buildings for Eid celebrations, subsequent to fasting? What were the issues the children faced in schools and how do you balance their spiritual beliefs and achieve their integration and acceptance into their new society?

"Ignorance is the biggest disease of the human being." --M. Naushaba Habib

Some of the issues we had to deal with when I taught: kids fasting while others students were eating, missing school days for religious celebrations, girls playing sports wearing a hijab, finding places to pray, all of which have been sorted out since. Mrs. Habib tells us that they were well into their way amalgamating into the region, but they wanted to blend their elements of their Indian culture, as well. Unfortunately, 9/11 convinced many people that all Muslims are extremists, and this breaks my heart.

Further research & my rant

ISLAM - The Meaning Of Islam

Islam is derived from the Arabic root "Salema": peace, purity, submission and obedience. In the religious sense, Islam means submission to the will of God...

I did read an article, which shocks, but does not surprise me, about racism in Alberta. I didn't know. I grew up in Toronto, where my birthday parties were a rainbow of faces.

The real election issues

The incredible lightness of
being Canadian
Then there was an Oct. 7th article, precipitated by our Prime Minister and his boys in short pants. It is a wedge issue in our federal election, taking away from more important topics including 1300 missing Aboriginal women, healthcare, poverty, free trade and the TPP deal, climate change, child care, Medical Marijuana, our Veterans, refugees, muzzled scientists, Senate reform, election reform, and the destruction of our libraries.

The Conservatives are racist, anti-muslims, and I am so ashamed. They were of no help to Canadian Mr. Fahmy, incarcerated for 400 days in Egypt, on trumped up charges.
We need more immigrants, like the Habibs, to tell us their stories of their past, their life in Canada, and what they hope for for the future.
How badly I feel about this


Yamini MacLean said...

Hari OM
Great review post... Something I observed over a quarter century in OZ (and essentially being a migrant myself) is that it often takes the newcomers to make the outreach which results in deeper levels of integration. There is 'surface warmth and welcome', but established society will always hold back; even more so here in UK. That said, there are areas where even someone of the same origin, if not born locally, can be perceived as 'other'. Human nature is a defensive critter. YAM xx

William Kendall said...

The fear mongering disgusts me, the way an entire group of people are being slandered for their beliefs by a pack of bigots.

Harper's fan club disgusts me just as much... it shames me that they're Canadian.

Red said...

All of us have a lot to learn when it comes to the Muslim religion. A little information on the Jewish religion certainly opened my eyes.

Powell River Books said...

I just don't understand all of it. Why is it such a political issue? - Margy