Saturday, 26 May 2012

"Are we really in Canada?"

Those words were spoken by a friend of mine as we sat having lunch at the beginning of last week.  What he had hoped wasn't true really is - Canadians do have a racist side to them as well, they're just more polite about it. What brought this question up was that he had read the comments under an opinion piece that his sister in law had written regarding the apparent "anti-Jewish teachings" of an Islamic Sunday school in east Toronto.

Here is a link to the opinion piece printed in the National Post, written by Yasmin Patel - Anti-Semitism charge a shock to East End Madrassah

It wasn't actually the issue that had my friend wondering if we are in Canada - it was the hateful, vitriolic comments that were posted after Ms Patel's article.  If hateful, vitriolic posts are your thing, then go ahead and read them.  However, if they send up your blood pressure, make you angry and generally want to scream at someone, I suggest you not.

Here's the thing - only half the story is being told.  Not by this article, but by the mainstream media.  You know, the media that (once again) jumped on the "Muslims are horrible!  Muslims want the Jews dead!  Muslims are evil and violent!"  But then, when doesn't the mainstream media try and look for psoitives in the Muslim community?

My friend and his wife attended this mosque before moving up here.  His wife taught at that Sunday school.  And the original issue had already been dealt with when the group that decided the best course of action would be to go to the police, instead of, you know, talking to the person/people/group they had an issue with.  Before this mosque moved, it was actually known as the mosque that shared a parking lot with a synagogue.  In fact, even my dad said he'd heard of this mosque because of that.  Here's a link to that - Jaffari Islamic Centre/Temple Har Zion 

At what point did we become a society in which we took a paragraph out of a text, a paragraph which, when not with its' original source looses all context, and take it to the police?

At what point did we become a society in which we don't actually communicate with the people we have an issue with, but do it through the police and the media?

Why is the media our first call now, instead of someone who can actually do something about the situation?

At what point did we become a society in which it's seen as a good thing to attack a group (religious or otherwise) and show them to be hateful, rather than to show what actually happened?

So here is the story that I have been told, with the knowledge that I have.

The Toronto East End Madrassah (please people, remember that "madrassah" is the Arabic word for "school attached to a mosque") is not unlike a Christian Sunday school or Jewish Saturday school.  They teach Arabic, Qur'an and Islamic history.  Remember that last one, as it's important.  And yes, they import their books just like pretty much every other Islamic school would have to do for these lessons as they're not widely available by Canadian and/or American publishers.  Also, many are translated from Arabic, and sometimes unfortunately the translations aren't so good.

What respect I have had in the past for the Simon Wiesenthal Centre I have lost.  There was a local synagogue who had approached the mosque in regards to the books they were using.  Those in charge of the mosque were receptive to what they had to say.  They took those books out of the curriculum and off the internet.  These are the facts as has been related to me by someone who attends there when in Toronto, whose family goes there.  The issue was settled.  The books were gone.  And then the SWC got involved and instead of talking to the mosque, took their issue to the hate crimes division of the York Regional Police.

Here's the thing though - these books are history books.  And yes, the wording may have left much to be desired.  It may have been in everyone's best interest to get one copy, get a native English speaker to read them and then decide whether they were good or not.  But that didn't happen.  But it also would have been nice if the SWC had talked to the board of directors at the mosque (like what happened with the local synagogue), and that didn't happen either.

If you think that Islamic history is used to spread hate, then I'd stop reading here.  If you'd like to know what this paragraph was taken from, keep reading.

When the Prophet Muhammad (saallahu alayhi wa salaam) and the other original Muslims made hijra to Medina, the rights of Jews to maintain their religion and to take care of themselves and the rights of Muslims to maintain their religion and take care of themselves was written in to the Charter of Medina.  However, it wasn't the Muslims of Medina that broke the treaty but the Jews of the Tribe of Banu Qaynuqa.  And yes, since they were at war, and the treaty was breached, as with any other war, they then became the enemy.  And anyone (even my kids) can tell you what happens when you are the enemy at war.  And yes, the Muslims fought the Jews of the Tribe of Banu Nadir when it came to be known they were going to try and kill the Prophet Muhammad.  If the sandal was on the other foot, if it were a Jewish prophet and the Muslims had a plan to kill him, would they have just let it happen, or would they have fought back?  And yes, a third tribe (the Jewish Tribe of Banu Qurayza) was also at war with the Muslims and the Muslims won.  It was a period of warfare, and it could have gone the other way.  And it wasn't necessarily because they were Jews - it was more because they'd broken the treaty.  In fact, in the case of the Banu Qurayza, Prophet Muhammad actually deferred to another Jewish tribe (the Aws) and the Banu Qurayza were executed on order of the Aws - not the Prophet Muhammad.

But here's the thing.  It's not hate literature.  It's not hate speech.  It's not teaching hate.  It's teaching history.  It's teaching what happened.  Is it hate speech to teach how the Canadians fought the German and Italians?  Does that mean that German or Italian organizations can come in and call the police hate crimes unit and claim hate speech?  Can the Japanese come in and claim hate speech because we fought them in the Pacific theatre or put them in concentration camps in western Canada and the US?  Can Mongolians come in and claim hate speech if our high school text books teach that the Mongols under Genghis Khan loved to massacre people and did by the thousands?  Can Africans of various countries come and claim hate crimes if we teach about the inter-tribe warfare (which is essentially what happened on the Arabian Peninsula circa 630CE) and how the Tutsis and Hutus slaughtered each other in the 1990s?  Or how the Christians and Muslims killed each other in the Balkans?

There is not a single tribe, group or religion on this planet that is not guilty of, at some point or another, participating in warfare.  What I do see as a crime is when a group will take said history out of context, make it appear to be hate speech and just that, and report it to the police, without first bothering to talk to the people in which they got said statement.  Especially when a sub-group of that group already talked to and dealt with the situation.  So first, talk among yourselves.  Find out if maybe something hadn't been done locally, and if it hadn't, first talk to the group that has apparently offended you.  Running off to the police instead of talking does nothing more than, in the end, shooting yourself in the foot.

1 comment:

  1. There is a reason why we are to mistrust the Jews, look at all the trouble they cause. They own the media, so getting the media to ever respect Muslims or show us in a good light is a pipe dream