After Short Cuts #41 – Ugliest Election, CANADALAND received a letter from a listener sharing his experience of being Muslim in Canada. We asked Hamza Wajid whether we could publish it in full. With Mr. Wajid’s permission, here is what he wrote to us:
I am writing this email as a response to your last podcast Short Cuts #41 – Ugliest Election. I hope to give you the perspective of a Muslim Canadian if you are interested.
To start off, a little bit about me. I am a Canadian citizen, my family came to Canada from Pakistan when I was 4. Hence, I have no memory of a time when I was not in Canada so I might as well have been born here. Today I am a 20-year-old university student.
Throughout my upbringing I realized quickly I was a little different. My family went to the mosque on Fridays not church on Sundays. I celebrated Eid, not Christmas (though I enjoy having both days off). However, I never felt like an outsider. I always felt like another member of a multicultural country. Until lately, the idea that I was not a real Canadian or that because of my religion I was less loyal to Canadian values never crossed my mind or my family’s mind.
Even the citizenship ceremony I went to was a great experience for my family. To be honest, I was in grade 4 when it happened, so for my brother and me it was just a random event where we sang O, Canada. My father, however, remembers that day fondly. He remembers a citizenship official telling him to never forget his culture when he becomes Canadian, to never forget his mother tongue (Urdu), but to cherish it. Being Canadian does not mean one gives up who they were, being Canadian means adding who you are to this country. A country built by people from all over the world.
Sadly, all of that seems to be a memory. Today, my culture is seen as “barbaric.” Today, my mom who wears a niqab is afraid to go out without me or my father. Today, I sometimes hesitate to say who I am or where I am from — something I once said without a care in the world. This prime minister in an attempt to stay in power has demonized my family and many like me. Many in my community feel anger and confusion over what has happened, but I only feel sadness. I used to tell my cousins in the USA about how much better my country was in its behaviour and actions, but underneath this prime minister I can’t say that anymore.
Let me conclude with two points.
First is to say that I do acknowledge that my community, Muslims, have real issues to deal with. We have internal demons in our community: sexism, homophobia, and extremism to name a few. I feel future generations of Canadian Muslims like myself must work to eliminate those demons. My letter here is not meant to say that we are innocent people being picked on in this country for no reason at all. Rather I mean to say that the climate in the country has changed. It used to be that our community was pushed to become better in an encouraging way. We were never told that we had to give up all of our religion to be real Canadians, but now that is that case. Today we are seen by the government as a community committing barbaric cultural practices and we are seen as a dangerous group of people hell-bent on imposing Sharia law. Never mind the fact that we moved to Canada seeking the same freedoms as everyone else.
Secondly, and lastly, I would like to say that my sadness is still not absolute. I firmly believe that the vast majority of Canadians are still the kindest and most loving people in the world. I would never want to live anywhere else, nor would I want to call anyone but Canadians my fellow citizens. My letter here is meant to address the actions of this prime minister, his government, and his loud minority.
Thank you for your time.
P.S. Though my mom wears a niqab she is not an uneducated woman under the control of my dad (as many would assume). At least in my family my mom calls the shots and my dad follows, it fits their personalities. They both have the same level of education. They are both pharmacists who studied at the same school. Though my mom does not work, she could write a few exams and get licensed like my dad and easily make a good living if she wanted to.