Love for all, Hatred for none – a peaceful message to the world, an inclusive motto that extends to Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Jews and Sikhs, indeed all God’s creation. By engaging in civilized dialogues bridges can be build, misunderstandings can be removed about religion and lead the way to create a peaceful and harmonious society. Canada has long been a leader in international human rights.
Yet despite all of the polls and negative media attention paid to Islam in America and Canada, there probably is not a better time in history to be proud to be a Canadian. This may sound like a tall claim, but some international perspective might help. Consider for a moment the state of religious freedom for Muslims in Europe in recent years. In November, 2009 57.5% of all voters in Switzerland supported a constitutional amendment banning the construction of any new minarets (an Islam Symbol found on Mosques). In June, 2010 in Netherlands, the anti-Islam Freedom Party of MP Geert Wilders won 23 seats in Parliament. Wilders has publicly demanded that the Qur’an be outlawed and that Muslim women who wear head scarves be taxed. In July, 2010 the French Parliament approved a ban of the burqa (or full Islamic veil) by a vote of 336 to 1. Support for a ban on the burqa is now widespread across Europe, with strong majority votes in Spain, Britain and Germany. Recently, the Atheist Society of UCL has posted a cartoon depicting the Holy Prophets Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) and Jesus (PBUH) having a beer (God forbid) at a pub frequented by some the UCL students. Needless to say, it is tasteless, disrespectful, completely unnecessary, and adds no value to meaningful debate. The cartoon has been posted on the society’s face book page.
In Pakistan, all Ahmadi Muslims are denied their basic rights. Ahmadies are unable to call themselves Muslims or use Islamic terms. In Pakistan if an Ahmadi reads, writes, speaks or uses Islamic terms, then that Ahmadi Muslim can be arrested and punished. Thus such laws that persecute and curtail basic rights must be changed. It is essential that religious views should not impact or interfere with Government policies. Moreover, it is mandatory to declare your religion as Ahmadi or Muslim in the Pakistani Passport. For American and Canadian Muslims, these European and Pakistani headlines come as a bit of a shock. U.S President Barack Obama recognized this very fact in his speech in 2009 to the Muslim world in Cairo, He said: “Freedom in America is indivisibly from the freedom to practice one’s religion. That is why there is a mosque in every state of our union, and over 1,200 mosques within our borders. That is why the U.S government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear hijab, and to punish those who would deny it.”
No place in Canada has laws that ban minarets, headscarves, or any other kind of Islamic custom or practice of the kind France, Switzerland and other European nations seek to implement. What is it about Canada that enables Canadian to exercise their faith more freely than anywhere else in the world? Canada particularly deserves praise for the efforts to promote integration and religious tolerance. I pray that the entire world become like Canada for adding great value to religious freedom. According to the teachings of Islam, Qur’an taught respect for all religions to such an extent that Muslims have been ordered to not only protect their own mosques but to protect all places of worship, whether they be churches, synagogues or temples. In a world that is often troubled, we are blessed to live in a country like Canada. Canadians are proud to live in a land that offers greater tolerance, social harmony, and freedom than perhaps any other country in the world. Canadian immigrants can raise their children without fear of persecution, without religious discrimination and with the assurance that their family will be accepted as an equal and valuable part of this remarkable country.