Islamic History Month Comes to Manitoba, Canada

Is it really the only group worth recognizing?

045-1008071838-canadian-muslim[What will it include?]

A few weeks ago, in an extraordinary act of dhimmitude, Manitoba became the first Canadian province to proclaim October as Islamic History Month, a month designed to recognize the province’s “flourishing Muslim community.” Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Christine Melnick gushed that “In Manitoba we value and cherish our ethnic diversity, to which the Muslim community contributes so richly.”

Also present at the announcement was Shahina Siddiqui, the chairwoman of Islamic History Month Canada (IHMC), founded in 2007 by the notorious Canadian Islamic Congress, whose former President Mohamed Elmasry once refused to retract on public television his statement that all Israelis over age 18 were legitimate targets for terrorist attacks, and who wasted hundreds of thousands of public dollars pursuing a human rights complaint against Maclean’s magazine for publishing articles critical of Islam. None of that aggressive Islamic supremacism was evident in the feel-good tropes trotted out by Siddiqui, who stated in the news release that she and her community “are pleased to celebrate, inform, educate, and share with fellow Canadians the Muslim cultural heritage” in order to build “a more inclusive, compassionate, and multicultural Canada.”

Anyone who has been paying attention to the news over the past few years may well question whether Muslim presence tends to contribute to “compassion” and “inclusivity.” Tell that to the Christians being massacred in Muslim lands across the Middle East or to the European Jews who find themselves, yet again, the target of slurs, vandalism, beatings, and murder because they are unfortunate enough to be living in areas with concentrations of Muslim immigrants. Islam just doesn’t seem to be a religion that produces a lot of compassion.

For those with negative perceptions of Islam, the Manitoba announcement will, if not lay our fears to rest, certainly indicate decisively that Manitoba has now ruled them out of bounds. The Manitoba provincial website proclaims that Islamic History Month is intended to “recognize and celebrate the history and heritage of Muslims.”

One might be forgiven for not realizing that Muslims have made a significant enough contribution to Manitoba to deserve an entire month of celebration. Manitoba’s Muslims number around 9,000, less than 1% of Manitoba’s total population of just over 1.2 million people.

Like most parts of Canada, Manitoba has a relatively multicultural demographic, with many diverse groups who have made substantial contributions to the province’s history. Ukrainians, for example, first arrived in Manitoba in 1891 and constitute, according to the 2006 census, nearly 13% (167,175 people) of the present-day population. This Slavic group forms the backbone of modern Manitoba, having played a significant role in agricultural development as well as in the spheres of business, manufacturing, the trades and professions. As an item on Manitoba history notes, “there are six members of Ukrainian origin sitting in the legislative assembly, one of whom is the speaker of the house, and [Ukrainian-Canadians] have been elected reeves, mayors, councillors, and aldermen in eighteen municipalities.”

Another distinct and vital part of the province are Manitoban Jews, who arrived even earlier than Ukrainians, in 1874. Although their numbers have never been large (they are now, at 16,500, only about 1.3% of the provincial population), and although anti-Semitism created many barriers during their first century in the province, Jews made enormous contributions as farmers, laborers, storekeepers, lawyers, judges, political leaders, teachers, and philanthropists. Neither of these groups is publicly recognized with its own Manitoban month. The fact is that there aren’t enough months in the year to properly acknowledge all the peoples who have made Manitoba what it is, and such attempts at recognition are bound to create bad blood.

In the case of Manitoba’s 9,000 Muslims, it isn’t clear why they deserve special acknowledgement; the announcement does not get past bromides about diversity. A few years ago, a dozen Muslim families in Winnipeg made national headlines for demanding that their children be excused from participating in two mandatory primary-level school programs: music (not part of their culture, they claimed) and physical co-education (not morally acceptable). The same Chair of IHMC, Shahina Siddiqui, then executive director of Islamic Social Services in Winnipeg, was quick to point out in interview that these are a minority of Manitoba’s Muslims. Some Muslims do have a problem with co-education at the higher school levels, she confirmed, and accommodation has been made for them. But there should be no problem with co-education “under the age of puberty.”

Come again? Why should accommodation be made at any time?

And here we get to the heart of the matter: the demand that Muslim cultural traditions and doctrines—even those that run directly counter to Canadian values such as gender equality—take precedence over Canadian laws. Rather than accepting and seeking to become a part of the society to which they have chosen to immigrate, Muslims such as these demand special accommodations and rights—for halal food, single-sex swimming times, special worship spaces, and so on.

And now their own month too.

Hovering behind the Immigration Minister’s embrace of Islamic History Month, of course, is the Muslim claim to special victim status. In an article entitled “How Islamic History Month Canada Came to Be and What It Means to You,” the President of the Canadian Islamic Congress, Wahida Valiante, complained in her first sentence that “Over the past decade, Muslims in Western societies have been pushed into the harsh spotlight of negative discourse. This trend has been particularly evident in academia, among mainstream media, and in prevailing political rhetoric; but has not escaped other segments of Canadian society, including the general public.”

Even if this assertion of negative coverage were true, which it most definitively is not, its sleight of hand is astounding—as if some dastardly external agent has brought Muslims unfairly into the spotlight. There is no hint that the repeated, horrific acts of violence committed by Muslims in the name of Islam might have played some role in tarnishing the Islamic brand. In fact, it is the very silence of large segments of the mainstream media about Muslim violence that allows Valiante to make such ridiculous claims, not only that her people have received unjustified negative press but also that special compensation is now necessary to make amends for Islam’s bloody image.

What will Islamic History Month have to say about the Muslim heritage of child-rape, polygamy, honor killing, female genital mutilation, forced marriage, wife abuse, and anti-Semitism that Muslims seem to bring with them wherever their numbers reach sufficient levels (see Raymond Ibrahim’s analysis of the Rule of Numbers). These matters, presumably, will not figure at all.

In fact, if dealt with honestly, it might take an entire month to highlight Muslim atrocities on the world stage—they are so numerous and so bloody. Perhaps Muslim immigrants worldwide could aim for one month in which they left their non-Muslim neighbors in peace? And maybe on even one day of that month, they might practice a little healthy self-criticism, asking themselves why Muslims so frequently commit violence in the name of their religion, perhaps even for that one day extend apologies to the host cultures that have taken them in, supported them financially, given them shelter and educational opportunities, and provided refuge from the dysfunctional and violent places they have left.

That’s probably too much to ask.

One can’t blame Muslims in Manitoba or elsewhere for pushing for an Islamic History Month: who doesn’t want one’s culture and religion officially sanctioned, even if the praise comes long before it can, by any reasonable measure, have been earned?

But what do non-Muslims get out of Islamic History Month? Do the members of Manitoba’s provincial legislature really believe Muslim contributions to the province so outstanding? I doubt most could name one not spoon-fed them by Ms. Siddiqui’s organization. Many provincial politicians probably believe they are doing a great thing in affirming Muslim culture, thus showcasing their own credentials as fighters against Islamophobia, that Muslim Brotherhood-manufactured thought crime applied to anyone who recoils at the record of the religion of peace.

And for any amongst the Manitoba ruling elite who might secretly feel uneasy about this record, Islamic History Month is surely a self-protective gesture, a special tribute by non-Muslims in the hope that they may be spared the Muslim “days of rage” that are fast destroying many European cities. Will it work? Ask the Christians in Egypt, in Syria, in Gaza, in Pakistan, in Iraq—tiny oppressed minorities who constitute no numerical or political threat to the Islamic dominance of their societies. No mercy has been extended to them. Why should Islamic History Month guarantee inter-ethnic harmony? One thing is for sure: other Canadian provincial assemblies will be receiving visits from delegations eager to see Islamic History Month declared in their provinces too.

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