Eid in a Time of Intolerance

Another month of Ramadan has come and gone — invariably, this is a month of fasting, feasting and fulfillment. And with the end of Ramadan comes Eid-al-Fitr — a holy day celebrated by 1.6 billion Muslims, nearly a quarter of the world’s population.

Although traditions and rituals will persist, this Eid already feels different. For many young Canadian Muslims, this Eid comes at a time where our identity is in distress. To many of us, it feels as though Canadian society is currently deliberating our case — judging our utility, our sincerity and our belonging. Our identity is at stake.

It is undeniable that Islamophobia is at fever-pitch. Both rhetoric and action have directly targeted Muslim Canadians, pitting us as the evil Other.

Armed militias forming in Alberta to fight Muslims, the cold-blooded murder of 5 brothers in the midst of prayer in Quebec, anti-Muslim/anti-immigrant candidates vying for leadership of our official federal opposition party, the verbal abuse of Muslim children on their way to school in Ontario, anti-Muslim rallies and protests — the list feels endless; the list is daunting. All that, and we haven’t touched on what is happening south of the border, and across the Atlantic.

As young Muslims, our ability to proudly wear badges of both faith and nationality has come under increasing fire. The resultant crisis of identity comes from a sensation that the two are somehow incompatible — thanks in part to the rhetoric of the likes of Kellie Leitch.

It is easy for young Muslims to feel ostracized — to feel removed from the Canadian fabric. We have been told we are less Canadian, that we belong in foreign lands, that we deserve pain and anguish. Young Muslims have been targeted and told that we are not welcome. Our intentions are called into question; our love for Canada undermined. Some of us have been physically attacked, many verbally abused and almost all emotionally scarred by that which is happening to our brothers and sisters across the country.

Sadly, in response to such hate and intolerance, there is risk of further hate and intolerance. This is how the vicious cycle of hate perpetuates — fueled by a single act of intolerance, giving birth to retaliation and counterattack.

As young Muslims struggling to justify our existence, the easy answer would be to push back when forced into a corner, to fight back and carve out our acceptance. Unfortunately, the right answer is far more difficult.

As young Muslims, we grow up learning that character and intention are the currency by which our wealth is measured. Accordingly, we must find it within ourselves to live by clichés — to turn the other cheek, to fight hate with kindness, and to take the high road. Understandably, it is not easy to pretend that there aren’t groups who want you gone, and may even want you hurt. Our solution must be to continue being upstanding members of Canadian society — to continue being leaders in intellect, service and charity. We must continue giving our detractors a reason to respect us, before we can hope that they learn to love us. There will always be ignorance, but our efforts can minimize how pervasive it is and lessen its consequences.

Most importantly, we need to remember that the action of a few do not represent the beliefs of the many. Just as the actions of lone-wolf, mentally ill Muslim Canadians do not represent the majority of Muslims, the ignorance and intolerance of a few Canadians also does not represent the majority of non-Muslim Canadians.

There’s a lot of work to be done. The Canada we grew up learning about in textbooks — the ones proudly showing a diversity of smiling faces on their covers — isn’t necessarily accurate… but it’s not far off.

There’s something poetic about Eid and Canada’s 150th birthday lining up so closely this year. Diversity and multiculturalism will inevitably be a focus of Canada’s pride and cause for celebration on Canada Day — let us remember that young Muslim Canadians define what it means to be Canadian, that our contribution to our country’s diversity is being celebrated.