RACISM AND MARGINALIZATION
As part of my research for my Masters of Social Work the focus was on identity development among non-white Canadian adolescents, and I truly believed that racism and marginalization is contributing to the problem of radicalization among youth.
While white adolescents struggle mostly with their physical and emotional development, non-white adolescents have the additional task of dealing with their ethnic identity and their feelings of inclusion or exclusion in Canadian society.
Today many young Muslims and wannabe Muslims are feeling alienated, and at the same time they are bombarded on a daily basis with the notion that their faith is about violence, evil and the subservience of women.
The messages ignore the fact that the majority of Muslims are very much like the rest of us; trying to make an honest living and wanting only the best for their families.
Let us take the stories on pages A2 and A3 of a recent copy of the Montreal Gazette as an example.
The first story is about a young man, Merouane Ghalmi, who is taken before a Quebec court judge because the RCMP has reason to believe that ‘he is likely’ to commit a terrorist act.
Beside that article is another which describes the results of a SOM poll which says that 65% of Quebecers agree with the city of Shawinigan’s decision to forbid change to zoning rules to allow for the construction of a mosque. The results of the poll also indicate that a similar number of respondents would not want to have a mosque built or moved to their neighborhood.
On the following page is a story of three mosques forced to close, a Quebec Court judge refusing to hear the case of a Muslim woman because of her head scarf, and two colleges “immediately” cancelling the rental contracts with Muslim organizations because the teachings contravene the school’s “values”.
And that is only two pages in one copy of the Montreal Gazette.
Then, there are statements from Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, about Jihadists in our midst and the need for new pre-emptive federal legislation (Bill C-51), a Quebec political leader proposing an investigative body for new mosques (and not for other religions), and seemingly inflammatory statements from the Montreal mayor and which includes the announcement of a program to de-radicalize youths.
Together these notions could lead a young, formative mind to believe that Islam is under attack. And, consequently, he or she might see no other alternative but to join the fight against the ‘infidels’.
It is clear that we have a problem. But the conversation, thus far, is certainly not helping the situation.
At one point (after 9/11) the discussion was about people in other countries who were jealous of the Western way of life and wanting to destroy it. That discourse is now invalid in that a significant number of youth are deciding to leave the comfort their ‘Western’ life to go and fight in places like Syria and Iraq and we cannot seem to understand the motivation.
For sure, there is much work to be done. But sadly many of the responses so far can only serve to have a reverse effect, by creating the impression that there is a problem with Muslims in general and leaving them all feeling ostracized. This is especially true when proposing solutions, as Mayor Coderre and his bunch of white folks did, without the input of the communities involved.