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Canada: A Nation of Bigots?

dawah.jpgThis article in the latest issue of Maclean's magazine highlights the alarmingly growing trend of racism, bigotry, and prejudice in Canada… or, if you're to look at it differently, simply more public airing of these feelings.

Concentrating mainly on Quebec, the author brings up recent examples of blatant discrimination against immigrants – specifically, Muslims. Whether it be the soccer and hijaab controversy, the veiled voting drama, or the town of Herouxville's ridiculous set of bylaws, the average Canadian's feelings towards “us” are becoming more and more obvious each day: ignorance and intolerance.

Although it seems that it's older, and less educated, citizens who feel this way towards immigrants and Muslims in general, the statistics tell us that even younger and more educated Canadians are against reasonable accomodation and want immigrants to “fully adapt” to Canadian culture (leading to another question – what exactly is Canadian culture? I don't think you want to read my Social Studies assignment, though, so I'll spare you :P ).

But as with all articles revolving around statistics: how accurate is it? I, for one, was shocked by the results – growing up in the hippie-like atmosphere of British Columbia, the majority of non-Muslims whom I encounter seem to have a “Live and let live” attitude. Yet a friend of mine from Ontario said that she was shocked by the racism and prejudice she encountered when she first came to B.C. two years ago. Food for thought!

What does this mean for Canadian Muslims? It means we need action! More Da'wah, more outreach… knowledge is the cure for ignorance! The more (good) Muslims a non-Muslim gets to know, the more familar and comfortable they'll be.

Here are suggestions on how WE can do our part in “thinking globally, acting locally”:

  • October is Islamic History Month! Islamic History Month Canada is an educational and cultural project originated, developed and sponsored by the Canadian Islamic Congress. Go to the “Events” page to see what you can do. Share this information with Muslims and non-Muslims alike! (Check out the Gallery page, and submit something!)
  • Street Da'wah: To tell the truth, I'm not exactly sure how it works! I figure it has something to do with setting up a table with a bunch of pamphlets and talking to non-Muslims about Islam (no, reaaaaalllllyyyy? *Sarcasm at self*)… but this might be a problem in some places where they may be bylaw issues. Check it out with your city hall first. If it's okay, go for it!
  • Invite an imām, sheikh, or someone else knowledgeable in Islam and who has good communication skills (very important!) to come to your school and give a short talk on Islam.
  • Myth-busting! Set up a workshop or class open to everyone (and free of charge), with the subject being busting myths and stereotypes about Islam. Publish ads in your local newspaper to reach a wider audience.
  • Volunteer at a community centre, senior's home, hospital, etc. This works especially well if you're a hijaabi sister (or a bearded, thobed brother :P)… don't forget to casually mention how helping those in need is a part of Islam!
  • Street/ park/ beach clean-up. Either organize one through your local masjid/ Islamic centre, or sign yourself and other Muslims up to join one already organized by non-Muslims. The sight of Muslims walking around with garbage bags and picking up litter is sure to rouse some curiosity!
  • Write a short story, poem, nasheed about Islam or being Muslim – and submit it to non-Muslim newspapers and magazines! You'll be surprised at how open they can actually be… and if they aren't, don't be discouraged!

There are a 101 one ways (more, actually) that we Muslims can up the Da'wah level and inshā'Allāh lower the hatred and intolerance level amongst non-Muslims. So yallah! Up and at it, people!

May Allāh grant us tawfeeq in all our endeavours for His Sake, āmīn!

allah ameen imam insha'allah masjid

About Zainab (AnonyMouse)

Zainab bint Younus (AnonyMouse) is a young Canadian Muslimah, originally from the West Coast of Canada. She writes about whatever concerns her about the state of the Muslim Ummah, drawing upon her experiences and observations within her own local community. You may contact her at anonymouse@muslimmatters.org She is is no longer a writer for MuslimMatters.org.

56 comments

  1. I don’t think there are a lot of Candian MM readers

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  2. FyI not to detract from the article, but Maclean’s magazine is pretty much a right wing publication. I wouldn’t take it too seriously.

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  3. MR – I guess I’m going to have to start bringing them in, then, eh?

    SrAnonymous – yes, I know, but it’s a pretty popular magazine and many Canadians read it… so I like to keep my eye on it and see what they’re up to.

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  4. There are lots of Canadians here!

    I wouldn’t hold the few cases in Quebec to be representative of the overall population. The issues in Quebec have largely been relegated to the small cities that are trying to feel important. Honestly, why else would anyone care about what’s happening in a city like Herouxville?

    Larger cities are still doing okay, even in Quebec. Montreal has an amazing Muslim community masha-Allah, and with the exception of overt bigotry at McGill University, they seem to be doing very well for themselves.

    Above all, having travelled throughout North America and the world, I still feel that Canada is one of the easiest places to practice Islam and be accepted as a Muslim, and I think we should appreciate the rights and freedoms we have. The veiled voting thing was just silliness that, again, isn’t very representative of the population at large. The soccer thing, again, was just Quebec silliness that the media chose to focus way too much time on. In the end, it really wasn’t a big deal.

    I’ve spent time in most of the major cities in Canada, and honestly I’ve never felt out of place or targetted in any of them. Even my run-ins with CSIS were polite and courteous. So I don’t think the problem is really that bad yet, that we should be labelling Canada as a nation of bigots.

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  5. That’s why question marks always come in handy… ’tis a question, not a statement ;)

    “So I don’t think the problem is really that bad yet, that we should be labelling Canada as a nation of bigots.”

    I agree that it’s certainly not as bad as in other countries, al-Hamdulillaah, but I was surprised to find that there are quite a few people out there (Muslims) of the opinion that things aren’t as good as we think – as I mentioned in the post, my friend from Ontario said she’s seen a lot more racism and prejudice against Muslims than she’d ever thought she would experience in Canada.

    BTW Faraz, how would you feel about helping us round up a few more Canadian readers?

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  6. As an ontario resident i havent experienced any direct racism, even when i wear my thawb. The bigotry thing is over exaggerated in this article, and the quebec instances is just one of those newspaper selling themes. I believe ontarians in general are repectful of different faiths and the lineup of masajid in scarborough should be a proof of it.

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  7. My very uninformed 2 cents is that Ontario is different from the rest of the provinces by virtue of its great diversity. Quebec seems to be pretty frenchy arrogant… seems that the less diverse provinces follow that lead? It is like most other states/cities in other countries… the more the interactions/diversity, the more the tolerance.

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  8. I used to live in Ottawa and then I moved to the DC area alhamdulillah. I thought that I would experience more racism here in the US than in Canada but man was I wrong. I went to canada last summer and I couldn’t believe what ppl were saying and doing! subhanAllah, and of course I try to explain to my canadian friends that I dealt with more racism in one day in canada than in all my years in the US…no one believes me :-/

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  9. Up the dawah level?

    My good friend rode with a Muslim in a ride-sharing program from London to Sault Ste. Marie. This man he was sharing the car-ride with performed dawah non-stop for 8 hours. He never stopped except to take breaths. My friend was utterly flabbergasted and thought this man to be a fanatic.

    I don’t think you have to up the dawah levels, but actually tone them down, lest you seem to be a fanatic. Most people generally think it’s pretty crazy for anyone to go on about an obscure topic like theology to a person they’ve never met before.

    Not everyone who disagrees with Islam is merely uninformed. Some are informed but have nonetheless concluded that Islam is not right. And though I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily arrogant to assume they are uninformed in their disagreement, it’s certainly wrong.

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  10. “I figure it has something to do with setting up a table with a bunch of pamphlets and talking to non-Muslims about Islam…”

    This sounds like an excellent idea…if you want to be as despised as the Jehova’s Witnesses and Mormons. People don’t like having other people’s beliefs forced down their throats, especially when they’ve already demonstrated that they dislike those beliefs.

    Also, since when has not being nice to muslims been ‘racist’? Last time I checked, ‘muslim’ wasn’t a race – one had to make a conscious decision to become one. If you makes a conscious decision to do something, you deserve all the criticism you get if that decision sounds moronic to the rest of the world. In most cases, (eg. this one), this isn’t bigotry, this is rational discourse. The only people calling this behavior ‘bigotry’ are either the targeted group in quesiton, or overly politically correct people who quake in fear at the prospect of offending people.

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  11. Just lost my comment… gah! :(

    - Da’wah isn’t just talking, it’s also done in a subtle and casual way… living life the Sunnah way (example: smiling!) is an excellent way to give Da’wah.
    - Different kinds of Da’wah connect with different kinds of people. One person might think a Da’wah-booth volunteer to be a fanatic; someone else might be drawn to Islam through them. It depends on the person.

    “People don’t like having other people’s beliefs forced down their throats”

    Nobody is shoving their beliefs down anyone else’s throats. It’s like walking by one of those kiosks in the mall… the stuff is there, but you aren’t being forced to buy it.

    “especially when they’ve already demonstrated that they dislike those beliefs.”
    Half the time they don’t even know what those beliefs are… one of the reasons for which there is so much hatred for Islam is ignorance of what it’s truly about.

    “Also, since when has not being nice to muslims been ‘racist’?”
    I said racism *and* prejudice – and my friend was talking about both. Not only did she get negative comments because of her being Muslim, but she picked up racism in others’ attitudes (not towards her but to others, such as the Chinese).

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  12. Perhaps my description was a bit exaggerated, but I stand by my argument. Many people, myself included, dislike the idea of having people preach their delusions on street corners – especially when the antiquated beliefs being preached involve the listener burning in hell for all eternity if he or she does not subscribe to them.

    “Half the time they don’t even know what those beliefs are… one of the reasons for which there is so much hatred for Islam is ignorance of what it’s truly about.”

    I know more about Islam than you’ll be able to fit into a little pamphlet, and the more I learn about Islam, the more I dislike it. Most people know enough about Islam (eg. that it’s a middle-eastern Abrahamic religion with a cooler heaven and more dogma than Christianity, and all its participants believe that we’re going to hell, which is a pretty bad place to be in for all eternity) to have formed solid opinions about it. You may argue that it’s all about peace, love, worshipping a benevolent creator, etc. all you like, but so long as you also hold the negative beliefs, people will dismiss you as inconsistent religious fanatics.

    The ‘racism’ comment was directed more towards the other people commenting on this entry than you, ie. Seeker7 and talib. Depending on how one interprets your comments it could also apply to you as well – the sentence “she’s seen a lot more racism and prejudice against Muslims” is extremely ambiguous. (On a side note – if she’s shocked by the ‘racism’ against Chinese people in BC, she should try being a Chinese person in, say, Northern England).

    Finally, I think that prejudice, against people due to their religion is justified. As I stated before, you get to choose what you believe (the same way you don’t get to choose what race you’re born into), and these beliefs say a lot about you. If you would rather have a Buddhist baby-sit your kids than a Satan-worshipper, you agree with me.

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  13. Didi, Islamophobia is considered racism. Just like most accept antisemitism as a form of racism.

    In Journal of Sociology, Vol. 43, No. 1, 61-86 (2007) islamophobia is defined as anti-Muslim racism and a continuation of anti-Asian and anti-Arab racism.

    The publication “Social Work and Minorities: European Perspectives” describes Islamophobia as the new form of racism in Europe,[21] arguing that “Islamophobia is as much a form of racism as Anti-Semitism, a term more commonly encountered in Europe as a sibling of Racism, Xenophobia and Intolerance.”[22]

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  14. If we’re going to argue semantics here, the Merriam-Webster dictionary describes ‘racism’ as:

    1 : a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race
    2 : racial prejudice or discrimination

    It describes ‘race’ as:

    A category of humankind that shares certain distinctive physical traits

    And it discribes ‘Islam’ as:

    1: the religious faith of Muslims including belief in Allah as the sole deity and in Muhammad as his prophet
    2 a: the civilization erected upon Islamic faith b: the group of modern nations in which Islam is the dominant religion

    Therefore, Islam is a religion, not a race. People only equate ‘islamophobia’ with racism because the idea of racism provokes strong reactions with people, while the idea of judging people based off beliefs that they freely chose doesn’t have quite the same effect. The two are clearly distinct, and any attempt (including those by the Journal of Sociology) to equate them with each other should be rebuked.

    All this concentrating on semantics is, however, distracting from my main point – that there is nothing wrong with being prejudiced against people because of their religion. What a person believes gives very useful and deep insight into their character, and one should not have to ignore this source of information for fear of appearing bigoted. So, please. If you’re going to argue with me, argue with the points, and not over silly definitions.

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  15. Just as a clarification, Quebec is not lacking in diversity. Montreal is one of the most diverse cities in the world, and continues to attract immigrants from all over because of it’s diversity. It is home to some of the largest Lebanese and North African communities in Canada. Some say that Arabic is the third-most spoken language in Quebec.

    The problem is that, unlike Ontario, we’ve done very poorly in the media in Quebec. We haven’t done enough to combat ignorance. And by their nature, the Quebecois have always felt their identity to be threatened. Let’s not forget, this is a province that wanted to leave Canada altogether because it felt it’s status as a Distinct Society was threatened by English Canada. So it’s not just Muslims they’re after, they’re essentially afraid of anything that threatens their identity. They’ll soon learn, as France learned 30-40 years ago, that it is inevitable, however; they cannot continue to live in the past and expect everything to be “pure, white, and Catholic” forever.

    I still feel more at home there than I have anywhere else in Canada, though. And I still feel that we have it much better than our neighbours to the South, from the trips I’ve taken there.

    BTW Faraz, how would you feel about helping us round up a few more Canadian readers?

    I’ll do my best!

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  16. Its more than a question of semantics, Didi.

    And I trust the sociologists more than your google search…

    Would you argue then that antisemitism is not racism either? If you do, you’ll find that objections will come in waves.

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  17. It wasn’t a google search; it was several queries of the most respected English dictionary in the world. I would also argue that antisemitism is religious intolerance; not racism. If the objections come in waves, then the people driving those waves are wrong (as they often are). But all this is beside the point, as you have yet to demonstrate why this is more than a question of semantics. My point, that judging people based off their religion is acceptable, still stands, so if you could concentrate your efforts there instead of trying to attack a frivilous part of my argument, that would be much appreciated.

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  18. Didi, if you don’t understand the power of labels, banners, buzzwords, then I really can’t help you with this…

    Judging people “based off their religion” is acceptable only for bigots. You should judge people on their actions and statements. People can have different interpretation of the SAME religion they carry, so two people may claim to be Jews but one may be an ardent Arab-hater, land-stealing Zionist, while the other may be a peace-loving, fair-minded individual.

    One has to be careful about judging anyone based on one or two social identities. Rather, if you ever learn something about social identities, you will come to understand that many influences shape human identity and behavior. Judging by one or two will usually lead to prejudice (good or bad) and misjudgment.

    Also, learning comes with experience and age… and I reckon that you being a young person, have a way to go in both. But I also reckon that as a seemingly intelligent person, you may do well if you keep your prejudices at bay when dealing with life’s lessons.

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  19. “My point, that judging people based off their religion is acceptable, still stands”

    Perhaps I should rephrase: NEGATIVE prejudice against Muslims, of an ignorant and hateful type.
    That’s what we should be worried about, just as we should we worried about negative prejudice against others.

    This kind of prejudice is what leads people to carry out hateful acts, to make hateful comments, to make Canada a place less open and welcoming… and it’s that kind of attitude which we need to combat.

    “but so long as you also hold the negative beliefs, people will dismiss you as inconsistent religious fanatics.”

    I don’t think you speak for the majority of people, because if you did, we’d have no converts to Islam at all – yet a LOT of my friends are converts to Islam!
    These are people who were formerly atheist, with little to no religious background; these were people who lived a “normal” life just like any other Canadian… and yet, in the end, they were drawn to Islam and embraced it wholeheartedly. That, amongst other things, is obviously a sign that not everyone dismisses religion or religious people.

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  20. She or he never said that everyone in Canada dismisses religion or religious people only that people, being of some amout, will dismiss religion of religious people, in this case Islam and Muslims.

    And they do. Around 97% of Canadians aren’t Muslims. Many of those people are too young to make a choice and many just don’t care about the issue, and don’t make a definitive choice, either. But many do know what Islam is and they still reject it. Not because of ignorance, but because they disagree with it. Further than that, in moving beyond their own personal rejection of Islam, there are worries in Canada about growing Islamic identity in the public. According to Pew in 2005 (from http://pewglobal.org/reports/display.php?PageID=812 ):

    “In North America, 50% in the U.S. and 51% in Canada perceive a growing sense of Islamic identity; on balance, both publics see this as a bad thing for their respective countries, though sizable minorities disagree.”

    So a majority of Canadians not only reject Islam for themselves, but they see a growing Islamic identity as bad for Canada, according to Pew when they did that poll in 2005. It would interesting to see how things have changed in 2 years time, though; and things could have changed in any possible way.

    Non-Muslims in Canada aren’t just this passive group that is sitting around in ignorance, primed and ready for Muslims to be active and convert them. Many just plain disagree with Islam, and many are actively opposing Islam, on theological, philosophical, and political, grounds. And though I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s arrogant to assume they are such passive beings, it’s certainly wrong.

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  21. I disagree with Pim’s last comment. Canadians dont disagree with islam, how could they when the only information they have of this religion is terrorism or violence blatantly pursued by the neo-conservatist supported media i.e CNN and Fox. and yes we dont watch cbc or global media but more and more of CNN. Thats why its our job as civil muslims in north america to fight this negative presentation of our religion and to stand up against the secular capitalist ideologies forced down our throats through public schooling, which has obviously even effected the so called canadian culture. The turn out on sundays at the local church should be enough to proof it.

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  22. Well that’s an interesting point. I mean, in one sense, it’s trivially obvious that most Canadians disagree with Islam: in that the vast majority simply choose not to be Muslims!

    But you bring in another sense, saying that most Canadians don’t have enough information to adequately disagree with Islam, and so they can’t _truly_ disagree with it. Perhaps this is right, but this is not clear. And indeed one could say this about many other things.

    For example, most Canadians have not read Capital by Karl Marx. Does that mean that most Canadians don’t disagree with Communism? A dubious conception, I would say.

    Or, another, most Muslims have not read Nietzsche. Because of this would it be that they aren’t truly Muslims, because they haven’t looked at all the arguments against belief in God? Another dubious conception, no doubt.

    Again, I think there is the same assumption here that I mentioned at the end of my previous post. An assumption that Canadians are this passive group that just sits around and has propaganda and dawah determine what they think — as if if there was merely more performance of dawah then Canadians would, of course, become Muslims! That secular capitalist ideologies are forced down Canadians throats — this isn’t true. No one forces Canadians to believe anything they don’t choose to believe, and, further, no one even forces Canadians to listen to anything they don’t want to. If Canadians disagree with CNN or Fox, they can stop purchasing those channels for their television sets altogether. A Canadian parent doesn’t have to send their children to public school, but can send them to a private school, or home-school them. And further, indeed, Canadians have the right to choose what public schools teach. If public schools teach secular ideologies (as you contend), then that’s because a majority of Canadians have chosen so through a system of representative democracy.

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  23. i’m lost in the point pim is trying to proof. Are you saying that we as muslims dont have a good reason for giving canadians dawah. This is obviously an irresponsible understanding.

    We have to let fair minded canadians understand that if a muslim women wearing the niqab is not being oppressed by the male figures in her family, we should let them know that the beard is not a sign of extremism, and more importantly when we setup islamic schools, its not a form of jihadi training. These are the issues misunderstood by most non muslims living in the west and which we choose to address by the way of dawah.

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  24. Pim, I believe you are suffering from a form of cognitive dissonance in terms of what you are willing to believe about your country folk.

    Most Canadians like MOST populations of most countries are like SHEEP… you should read my post about people being like sheep.

    So, yes most people haven’t read Karl Marx or Nietzsche or much of anything. So, we can’t really say what they would have felt had they read it.

    Anecdotal evidence suggests that when various people are told about Islam, some in fact do accept it. I myself have seen many, many conversions. So, yes, I agree that we cannot say that if everyone hears about Islam, they’ll become Muslims, just like we can’t say for sure that if they hear the message given in the proper way without the stigmas and the misconceptions, that many wont accept it. But we can say one thing for sure… most Canadian lay people would know very little about the basics of Islam… and not much more about Christianity (other than the basic rituals). I think that is a fair contention for most lay people.

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  25. I didn’t really have a main point, but just a set of various thoughts.

    Whether wearing niqab is the result of pressure from male figures. This is a tough issue. Feminist theorists talk a great deal about pressure towards women and it’s very complex, and I don’t really know. I’m not sure what number of Canadians believe the wearing of the niqab is the result of oppression. Again, feminists debate the status of oppression of women and different feminists hold different views; indeed, oppression of women is probably the main topic of feminism and so they spend a lot of time defining it. So I think what you’re referring to is probably a feminist critique of Islam. That’s really lost on me. Feminism is a very mysterious topic to me, you could be right, or wrong, I don’t know.

    On beards. I think I can talk about this a little more clearly. Now beards aren’t just for Muslims, and non-Muslims in Canada have worn beards to varying levels throughout the history of Canada. Sometimes beards were very popular. In the 20th century there was a general trend that professional men in the work place should be clean shaven or have only a moustache. This became a standard, but in the 50s and 60s the counterculturalists (like hippies, for example) who went against the mainstream of society became known for not being clean-shaven, as opposed to the professionals who were clean shaven. And the professionals became even more staunchly in the “clean-shaven camp” as a reaction to the counterculturalists. And it’s been defined that way ever since the 60s.

    Now, Muslims only have recently grown to significant numbers within Canada. But many Muslims refuse to shave, even for work where many of them are professionals. This has left many non-Muslims miffed, because the standard has been that professionals should shave and they continue to shave because they think it’s their responsibility as a professional. When Muslims don’t shave but work the same jobs where non-Muslims are expected to shave, this creates resentment among the non-Muslims, because shaving isn’t exactly pleasant all the time, and a lot of people have trouble with it, leaving abrasions, irritations, and cuts and so forth. Do you see what I mean? Non-Muslims feel like they are responsible by shaving, and so many professionals shave every single day before they go to work to show that they care about being professional. But when they get to work, they see their Muslim co-workers with beards and yet being treated as if they were just as professional. Indeed, many workplaces require men to shave, unless they have a skin-condition or have religious reasons. Most non-Muslims don’t have either of those reasons to get away with not shaving. Do you see how that can create resentment?

    Now, add on top of that that some Muslims do shave just like non-Muslims, and those Muslims say, “well my interpretation of the texts imply that I can shave if society wants me to shave.” So you have some Muslims who do shave, and some who don’t. Then you have non-Muslims who resent that they have to shave every single day for 30 years of their lives while others don’t on the grounds that their religion says they can’t. So these resentful non-Muslims say to the Muslims that don’t shave, “Why don’t you be more like THESE Muslims?! Why do you have to be so extreme on your interpretations?!”

    I don’t know what number of Canadians think Muslims who insist on wearing beards, but I think you can understand why some non-Muslims would be put-off by this insistence and call it extreme.

    As for Islamic schools. I don’t think there has been a single case of an Islamic school being shut down in Canada. Certainly, to shut down a school is within the reach of “eminent domain” or the exporpriatory powers of the Government, or under some other set of legal powers. But even though the people of Canada have these legal powers through the Government, they’ve never shut down an Islamic school. So certainly the majority of Canadians don’t think Islamic schools are that much of a problem. But perhaps some Islamic schools have taught terrorist-sympathies to children, and for that they’ve criticised, but I don’t know whether any have actually taught such, or related, things ever. I don’t think teaching terrorist-sympathies to children, or any public display of sympathy of terrorists, would be tolerated in Canada though, that’s for sure. Indeed a billboard in Windsor this summer caused a furor because many people thought it displayed terrorist-sympathies. But I am sure very few Canadians think all Muslims are terrorist-sympathisers or terrorists themselves; I think maybe Muslims in Canada are too paranoid about that. Maybe it would be a good idea for non-Muslims to make a large statement to Muslims saying that they do not think being Muslim means being a terrorist or a terrorist-sympathiser. That may help Muslims be less paranoid about what non-Muslims think of them.

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  26. (Sorry if I double posted my last one to Talib, I got confused. Anyway…)

    To Amad,

    It’s funny how most people think most other people are like sheep. It’s like that old adage that more than half of people in a room full of people always say they are above average in intelligence. Anyway…

    I think you’re right though, that most non-Muslim Canadians know little about Islam. But you also rightly note that this doesn’t mean that dawah is going to convert Canadians in any particular amount. Just like a widespread reading of Nietzsche among Muslims isn’t going to result in Muslims giving-up belief in God in any particular amount. And, I would say, both seem just as likely.

    How about this as a proposition: Just as most non-Muslim Canadians know little about the worldview of Muslims, most Muslim Canadians know little about the worldview of non-Muslims. Equal ignorance in both camps? Or do you contend that one group in more ignorant than the other, in total?

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  27. “But you also rightly note that this doesn’t mean that dawah is going to convert Canadians in any particular amount.”

    We do hope, however, that the Da’wah we do will be a source of learning and benefit for others, and that at the very least hateful attitudes towards Muslims is lessened.

    “most Muslim Canadians know little about the worldview of non-Muslims.”

    I’d have to disagree on that one – considering that most Muslim Canadians today have been in Canada for quite a long time, have been/still are a minority in this country and so are more exposed to the non-Muslim worldview than non-Muslims are of Muslims.
    Myself and my friends are all growing up here in Canada, going to school and watching TV and reading books that come from a non-Muslim POV, and so we KNOW that we know more about “them” than they do about us.

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  28. I had to look up ‘niqab!’ And I see it is something that covers women’s faces, and that it is a matter of dispute whether it is required or not.

    As a western woman, my first impulse on seeing a woman in L.A. in a burqa was that she was oppressed – removed from ordinary life, perhaps forbidden to mingle with non-muslims.

    I have learned since that many women choose it – so it is not my place to decide they are oppressed. But I still find it off-putting. For instance, often at a bus stop I have asked someone if they had the time. But I wouldn’t ask a woman wearing a complete face covering. The inference is that she does not mingle with the rest of us and doesn’t care to.

    Many professionals – engineers, psychologists, writers – wear beards. Some men really look much better with one! Covers up a weak chin.
    But it doesn’t hide a smile or turn people away – which a face covering does, it seems to me.

    That doesn’t take a way from a woman’s right to wear such a thing, but it does get in the way of outreach, doesn’t it?

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  29. Pm, kind of agree with Mouse, not because Muslims are more “informed” about world-affairs than those who don’t share the faith, but rather minorities tend to pick up more stuff about the majority. So Christians in Pakistan, for instance, would probably know more about Islam than most Muslims there would know about Christianity. Just how society works, not because of some deliberate action on the part of some.

    At my corporate job, whenever I talk to Christians, it is obvious to them and to myself, that I do know a lot about their faith, sometimes more than them! On the other hand, there is usually a high level of ignorance about Islam, even among the educated professionals. They may not be bigoted, they just don’t know.

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  30. We could divide both people and topics that can be known about into either Islamic (Muslims and Islam) or non-Islamic (non-Muslims and non-Islamic things) categories.

    So if Muslims know more non-Islamic things than non-Muslims know about Islam, as you say, there are two possible and mutually exclusive cases. One possible case is that Muslims know more than non-Muslims in total. The other possible case is that non-Muslims know more about non-Muslim things than Muslims know about Islam.

    I don’t know, neither of those cases seems possible. In the first, we’re saying that Muslims know more than non-Muslims. That non-Muslims are uneducated and ignorant in comparison to Muslims. But in the second case we’re saying that Muslims don’t have as much expertise as non-Muslims do. That non-Muslims have better perfected their field of knowledge than Muslims have of their’s; that Muslims don’t understand Islam as well as non-Muslims understand non-Islamic things. Both of these situations would seem to be false to me, so I may have to disagree that Muslims know more about non-Islamic things than non-Muslims know about Islam, as you say.

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  31. Pim, if you read my comment carefully, it has nothing to do with being Muslim or not that defines what you know about the other faiths in your society. I mentioned specifically the minority factor and that goes both ways. So, the whole logical argument is moot.

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  32. I think Mollyfurie summed up my point in non muslims not knowing much about islam..her comparing the niqab to the burqa is a perfect example. I mean an assumable intelligent woman from california should be educated enough to determine the difference between the niqab (a face only cover) and the burqa ( a loose garment covering body head to toe)

    Back to the argument with Pim. The counterculturalist era of the 60′s is not relevant in our main argument of canadians being uninformed about islam. However the issue of beard should be a point in which its a religious mandatory for muslims and the corporate environment should adhere to this issue and it should not effect the position the muslim male is applying to and its a clear discrimanation towards the applicant if its a religious issue he is not being hired for. Totally goes against the canadian muticultural multi-faith tolerance and respect ideology.

    The 1982 canadian charter of rights clearly address this:-

    2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:

    (a) freedom of conscience and religion

    (b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other means of communication.

    As muslims in canada its our duty to address issues that matter to our faith. The observance of the beard and hijab in all professional entities, the right to public funding to faith based schools whether islamic or others. This issue is underway to be addressed because of the clear discriminatory action of funding catholic schools and not others. We have to let it be known to non muslims, not to be put off by the simple constitutional rights we ask for as muslims and different racial and cultural groups ask for too.

    Whats underway in ontario specifically is the issue of sharia law in certain issues the secular laws dont solve, also funding islamic schools, woman with religious attire not being discriminated against in the workplace, plus many more other faiths are demanding whether the sikhs or jews. And all this would not be addressed except through dawah and spreading the message of understanding different perspectives and why we should not allow the secular laws to be forced against us.

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  33. Pim, I think you are putting words in Amad’s mouth. No where did he say Muslims know more just becuase they are Muslims. He was stating that muslims who live in Western or christian majrity countries know more about the dominant religion in that country than do no muslims who live in USA or Canada. Anonoymouse sums it up when she refers to her daily life. Amad also pointed our that christans in pakistan probally know more about muslims than non-mulsims who live in USA or Canada. I think this is pretty obvious.

    Bigoty is a pretty intersting topic as most people (at least in Canada and the US) have learned to disguise or hide their bigotry in public. Well look at the term Islamo-fascist…”we’re not against all muslims…just fascists”….or “we’re not against muslims, we just feel woman shouldn’t be oppressed”. I believe the bigotry is just more hidden, so it doesn’t surprise me that Canada faces this.

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  34. Sequoia… thanks again for the common-sense rescue!

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  35. Sequoia, I think you hit the nail on the head: “most people… have learned to disguise or hide their bigotry in public.”

    Perhaps that’s where the statistics came from: those who wouldn’t express their feelings in public (by saying nasty things to random Muslims, pulling at hijaabs, etc.) but who have those feelings anyway.
    So while the outward attitude is generally pretty positive, the fearful/ ignorant mindset is still there.

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  36. well i don’t think you need me Amad…just common sense that if you are subject to more of other cultures everyday that you would learn more….. Pim..it seems you have already made up your mind what Amad thinks without even reading or listening to his points. Excuse me if I am wrong, but I don’t know how I could come to any other conclusion.

    You stated “That non-Muslims are uneducated and ignorant in comparison to Muslims.”

    This is either intentionally misleading and trying antogonize or it is a horrible mis-reading of Amad’s post and points. Once again, he was refering to Muslims who live in Western countries or countries they are not the majority. I believe you either expected or you assumed that Amad holds the view that non-Muslims are ignorant. I believe you would be surprisd if you frequented this site more, the various viewpoints and the respectable debates that occur within this community. But its hard to have a respectable, honest debate when you come into the dialogue with your mind alrady made up what your conterparts feel or think..even if it is unwarrented.

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  37. To Sequioa and Amad:

    I never meant to say “That non-Muslims are uneducated and ignorant in comparison to Muslims” or that Amad’s post said that. I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear enough, though.

    I think I’ve been fair in my reading and I am willing to admit any mistakes. If you see any mistakes in my reasoning, please, just show me. I will not be offended by anything you say as that is not in my character.

    And I assure you, I have not made my mind up regarding any of those things. The thought never even crossed my mind until you mentioned it. I don’t know how I could gain your trust on this issue other than to express that I’m fond of our conversation so far.

    What I did say was that that was one of the two _possible_ cases resulting from Amad’s premise that Muslims in Canada know more about non-Islamic things than non-Muslims in Canada know about Islam.

    And, yes, as you quite rightly point out, we are only speaking about these people within Canada. We never jumped to referring to the whole world or anything larger. I apologize that I didn’t always say “those in Canada” when referring to groups — it was my intention for this meaning to be clear.

    Perhaps we can run through it again.
    Amad says that Muslims in Canada know more about non-Islamic things, then non-Muslims in Canada know about Islam. Is this correct that Amad says this?

    If that’s true, as Amad says, then either Muslims in Canada know more than non-Muslims in Canada altogether, or non-Muslims in Canada would have to know more about non-Islamic things than Muslims know about Islam. Is there another possibility that I have left out? What do you think?

    But, if those are the only two possibilities, I would say that Amad’s premise is wrong. Because neither of those two cases seem true to me.

    The first case implies that Muslims in Canada are more educated than non-Muslims in Canada. This seems false, and you would seem to agree with me? The other case implies that Muslims are not as experienced in Islam as non-Muslims are in non-Islamic things. I don’t think this is true either, do you?

    But if both those cases are false, and one of them must follow from your premise, then your premise must be false. Don’t you think?

    (Here’s an anaology. For example: if I went to the store, then I must have either left my house, or, there is a store in my house. But if I didn’t leave my house, and there isn’t a store in my house, then I obviously didn’t go to the store. Don’t you think?)

    Do you think this is either wrong, or that I have misread Amad?

    I _would_ like to read the site and your respectable debates more. And I humbly thank you for inviting me to investigate the website more. I merely stumbled upon this thread, and became interested in it. I hope you can accept that my interest may not necessarily extend beyond this thread at the moment. Perhaps in the future when I get more free time I may take up your invitation, though.

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  38. Pim, I don’t think you understood us properly – we clearly stated that as a minority group, we do know more about the majority than they know about us. That goes for EVERY minority group. When you’re surrounded by something different, how can you not know about it? It’s a part of our everyday lives. The majority, however, are rarely as aware of the minority and of their lifestyles.
    Really, you’re just repeating yourself and you don’t seem to have read and understood our comments properly.

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  39. To Talib:

    Sorry, Talib, on a couple accounts.

    One, I didn’t think, when I was directing my post to you, that I was addressing any argument, I was just saying some random stuff. I guess it can be annoying when you are expecting some substantive argument and you get a ramble.

    And I would like to continue talking to you about some of the issues you raise in your new post. The issue of freedoms in Canada is an issue that’s really close to my heart at least.

    What do you think about freedom of association? Do you think people should have the freedom to make the final choice as to who they associate (work, play, live) with? Or do you think the government should limit this freedom?

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  40. Anonymouse:

    I’m not saying that you’re not saying that it doesn’t go “for EVERY minority group” as you say I hear you on that on. That’s fair. It’s just that that it applies to every minority group is irrelevant to the argument I posted. All I’m looking at is the implication for Muslims and non-Muslims in Canada. But you could just as well extrapolate the argument for all minority groups as you quite rightly point towards. That’s fair.

    So, I haven’t misunderstood you on that point at least. Is there somewhere else where I have misunderstood you? Could you answer any of the questions I raise along the way of the argument? For example, do you agree that those two cases I point out are the only two possible cases that speak towards the levels of knowledge for non-Muslims and Muslims in Canada, assuming your premise to be correct?

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  41. The freedom of association is already within the canadian charter of rights, but obviously its within the limits of the law to join any group a person choses. However what i dont like about canadian courts whether provinicial or federal is the broad sense of the laws and how the judge can use constitutional laws an adapt it according to his opinion in the specific case. I believe they called it judicial independence. Whats your take on that issue Pim.

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  42. Pim,

    Just to reiterate what Mouse said, I believe Amad and Mouse were talking about knowing about non-mulsim culture or dominant culture in that country/area they work in. It is why Amad also said Pakistani Christians probally know more about Islam/muslim culture thank Pakistani mulims know about Christianity…because they are confronted with it everyday. It really doesn’t have anything to do with education or intelligence. And Pim, if I came off I apologize. I have no stake or repsonibility to this site, other than i read it almost everyday. I guess when you do spend so much time, you do sort of view some people here as cyber/friends if that makes sense. The regulr posters here are subject many times to people who come on and either insult their religion or make derogatory remarks. This has happened repeatedly, and yet almost all of the posters and moderators have handled themsleves with class. So for me I am very inclined to defend the moderators from what I feel are unjustified comments or attacks..and maybe I misread your intentions…and if I did ..I appologize.

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  43. Pim…….. let me give you my example and see if this is what you are understanding…coz i still tink you are misunderstanding what they are saying….

    I lived In Turkey for almost 3 years. I was a religious minority in that country. Everyday, i was made aware of some forms of Muslim or Turkish culture. Religious Holidays, Iftar, Hazan call, difference between Aleivis and Sunnis, ect ect. I saw this or interacted with this culture daily. Therefore I feel i was much more aware of the Turkish practice of Islam (obvously this is not monolithic or the same across the board), than maybe most Turks were of Catholicism. This has nothing to do with my education or ohers… its just what you interact with on a daily basis.

    Or another non religious example…… I believ Pakistani Americans know much more about American football compared with Americans about Cricket. Again, nothing about education or inteeligence in general…. just about minorities probally knowing more (not everything) about the majrity than the majority knows about the minority…….does that make sense? or am I am babbling :)

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  44. Thanks Sequoia, I think you said it perfectly! :)

    No need for me to respond directly… Pim, just read what Sequoia said and take everything within it as agreement from me.

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  45. Talib:

    Yeah I think I agree with you. That freedoms as enshrined in the fundamental texts of the law should be delineated better and not require as much tweaking by individual judges.

    Sequoia:

    You don’t have to apologize as I never perceived any injustice done to me, and I don’t feel that I require apologies even if you do do injustice towards me.

    And you’re quite right to distinquish between levels of knowledge and levels of intelligence. I never meant to speak of intelligence. And I used educated as an antonym for ignorant (the word I used from the very beginning), because that’s what thesaurus.com gave me, and I thought it a good one. And so I don’t mean educated as referring to formal education either, but as merely the opposite of ignorance. I’m not trying to refer to intelligence or smartness or dumbness, just levels of knowledge.

    Really what I’m trying to do is account for the difference between Muslims and non-Muslims. Because the opinion of the board here is that, in Canada, Muslims know more about non-Muslims than non-Muslims know about Muslims. The board seems to take this as self-evident. But that belief has implications, and it is those implications I’m looking at with my argument. That belief is saying that, on the one, single topic of each other’s cultures, Muslims have more knowledge. So on that one, single topic, Muslims have more knowledge. That’s what people on this board are saying. The implication of this is that in order for Muslims and non-Muslims in Canada to have the same amount of knowledge IN TOTAL, non-Muslims would have to make up for what they lack, on the one topic just mentioned, by having more knowledge about non-Muslims things than Muslims have about Islam. If non-Muslims didn’t have this, then they would have to be more ignorant in total than non-Muslims. That’s the two possible cases as I see it: either non-Muslims are more ignorant than Muslims, or non-Muslims have better learned non-Muslim things than Muslims have learned about Islam. But, to me, neither case looks true! So if the implications of a premise are false, then the premise must be false, even if at first it appeared to be true.

    I don’t think you either want to say either one of these cases, and because of this I think you should reject your belief that Muslims know more about non-Muslims than non-Muslims know about Muslims. Not only does it seem more reasonable, but it has pragmatic value as well, because it puts everyone on equal footing in this regard, and you don’t have worry about some imbalance in the social order, for whatever that’s worth. Even if you meet some non-Muslims which know so very little about you and that makes you worry that they may make ignorant choices, you can be assured that there are others that are just as informed about Islam as you are about non-Islamic topics, and that these people can counteract the ignorance of their fellow non-Muslims. Surely that is worth something!

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  46. Sequoia:

    We could apply my argument just as well to your example Turkey but with non-Muslims instead of Catholics. But we can’t refer in true analogy just to Catholics, because Catholics and Muslims aren’t the totality of people, and neither is Catholicism and Islam the totality of topcs that can be known. Whereas Muslims and non-Muslims are the totality of people and Islam and non-Islamic things are the totality of topics that can be known. Surely every person in the world is either a Muslim or a non-Muslim. But not everyone in the world is either a Muslim or a Catholic. Do you see from these considerations how your example of Muslims and Catholics in Turkey is not a perfect analogy to the example of Muslims and non-Muslims in Canada?

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  47. Pim….. ok………you are still misunderstanding the point…. fine forget catholics…..make it non-muslims…the point still remains the same. Minorities know more about the majority usually…because the focus is more on them (media, entertainment and news). It is impossible for Muslims in Canda and USA to not know about Christams or easter. But what percentage of Candians and/or Americans know about Eid el Fitir or Ashura? Its not because most Canadians are ignorant, its just thats its not celebrated in most Canadians homes. Same with Hannuka or Roshashanna or any non-Muslim religious holiday if you would go to Somalia. And its not just holidays..how about entertainment. Televesion programs or movies.

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  48. I think I understand what Pim is getting at and it took me 10 times reading it. And the argument is still false.

    What Pim is saying is that there is an average level of knowledge for all people, say “K”. And lets say the knowledge of Muslims on average is a, and the knowledge of non-Muslims on average is b. So, Pim is saying that in order for avg K = avg a = avg b, it does implies that if Muslims have some knowledge of non-Muslims, say “X”, so then the non-Muslims have to have an equivalent “Y” knowledge about Muslims, so that X=Y, in order for our relation of K = a = b to be true.

    And the conclusion it seems to be imply is that if X > Y (i.e. Muslims have more knowledge about non-Muslim customs than the reverse), then non-Muslims are henceforth deficient in some way! That is quite ludicrous.

    First of all, knowledge is not something where you can apply analytical formulae because it is made up of a million different things with different groups possessing different ideas. Secondly, even if we assume that on average non-Muslims and Muslims have equal knowledge ceteris paribus, and that Muslims have greater knowledge about Christians than the reverse in Western nations, this does NOT imply superiority or a greater desire for knowledge by Muslims. This is just how the society works… minorities always absorb more about the majorities than the reverse. I am also curious as to why, if this indeed an inferiority argument, it does not apply to minorities in Muslim countries?? It is EXACTLY the same.

    So, if I were to apply Pim’s logic, I can expand the bubble around the whole world. In that case the knowledge levels would balance each other (and I am talking about religious traditions, because we will be naive to not admit that the Western secular knowledge is far ahead in terms of sciences, social studies, etc.).

    Pim, if you don’t get what I said or if you disagree, I think we will just have to AGREE to DISAGREE, otherwise we’ll give folks a headache :)

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  49. PIM: If you ever read Qur’an, you will realize that most of it is about Jews and Christians, Muslims believe in their Prophets, Moses and Jesus (pbut). So by default Muslims end up knowing more about Judaism and Christianity simply because we ‘have’ to learn about them when we read Qur’an.

    Whereas, Christians and Jews don’t believe in our Prophet neither do they ‘have’ to learn about Islam. So they don’t know as much about Islam as Muslims do about Christianity and Judaism.

    Since Christianity is the main religion of both US and Canada, Muslims know more about their religion. This will not be the case with other religions like Taoism, or Budhism, etc. because Muslims don’t believe in their leaders/prophets etc.

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  50. Back to the topic at hand – I’m not the only one thinking about bigotry in Canada! Our local radiostation is having an entire week devoted to the subject… this morning they were discussing experiencing “both cultures” – original ethnic culture (desi, Arab, Asian, whatever) and “Canadian” culture (basically, mass-media brainwashing).

    I just remembered something that, while not exactly bigoted, was annoying nonetheless: my youngest brother was put into ESL without my parents even being consulted, simply because he’s a visible ethnic minority (he looks 100% desi) – ESL, of all things! English is the only language we speak at home!
    Anyway, when my parents found out about it they were pretty mad… the school didn’t even bother asking them, they just put little Z. in ESL ‘cuz he *looked* like he didn’t speak English!

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  51. in ESL ‘cuz he *looked* like he didn’t speak English!

    It must be the gujarati accent :)

    just kidding… that is quite an example of stereotyping… I mean they could probably have just asked him or spoken to him in English to figure out whether he needed ESL.

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  52. “And the conclusion it seems to be imply is that if X > Y (i.e. Muslims have more knowledge about non-Muslim customs than the reverse), then non-Muslims are henceforth deficient in some way!”

    No, I did not make that conclusion. I said that, if the premise is true, EITHER that is the conclusion OR the conclusion is that non-Muslims aren’t deficient because they make up for X > Y by having more knowledge of themselves then Muslims have of themselves. You only listed the first half of my conclusion as if it was the whole thing!

    I don’t think I’m applying analytical formula any moreso than you are when you say that X > Y, which is what you were the first to contend. In that relation you say that knowledge can exist in amounts and so can be bigger or smaller than other amounts of knowledge, which is all that I’m saying. If knowledge can’t exist in amounts then certainly X cannot be greater than Y, as they are defined here!

    Let’s continue using symbol systems because actually I like symbolic logic, even if it is not formal.

    Let’s keep the X and Y you have. So X > Y.

    Say M is the average knowledge that Muslims have in total. Say N is the average knowledge that non-Muslims have in total. Say P is the average amount of knowledge that Muslims have of themselves. Say Q is the average amount of knowledge that non-Muslims have of themselves. And, as you defined, X is the average amount of knowledge that Muslims have of non-Muslims and Y is the average amount of knowledge that non-Muslims have of Muslims.

    So M = P + X. And N = Q + Y. Would you agree?

    But, you say that X is greater than Y. In that case wouldn’t you agree that in order for M and N to be equal, then Q would have to be greater than P?

    That is:

    If M = N and M = P + X and N = Q + Y and X > Y,
    then Q > P. ?

    Could you possibly contend otherwise? And that is what I’ve been contending.

    But we can agree to disagree, that fine with me. Obviously any discussion has its expiry date.

    Umm Reem: I do believe you, but Judaism and Christianity aren’t the entirety of non-Muslim topics which is what we’re comparing Islam with here. I don’t know Arabic, but certainly quantum mechanics, fugue, computational theory of the mind, Esperanto, and many other non-Muslim topics, which are central to the lives of many non-Muslims, aren’t mentioned in the Quran or Hadith? I would say in Canada there’s more involvement with topics like gadgets, cars, movies, television, celebrities and video games than there is with Christianity, but none of those things are talked about in Islam are they?

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  53. M and N don’t have to be equal.

    It is possible that in some countries M is > N and in others the reverse because of the majority/minority issue. I also agree with UmmReem that part of being a Muslim teaches you a lot about Judaism and Christianity, not all of it or remotely close to that… just more than the reverse.

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  54. Okay, so you hold that Muslims in Canada have more knowledge than non-Muslims in Canada (M > N).

    Which was one of two positions I was trying my darndest to wrench out of this board. I feel like I’ve gotten what I wanted, and I’m very happy now.

    I’ll just say in ending that I don’t suspect that this is true, though. I suspect that both peoples have equal knowledge, though differing types, and that neither is ignorant. But I guess I could be wrong.

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  55. “Okay, so you hold that Muslims in Canada have more knowledge than non-Muslims in Canada”

    That we have more knowledge ABOUT non-Muslims in Canada, than non-Muslims know ABOUT US.

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  56. Just happened to read through the comments of this old and dead thread, but I really think PIM brought some very interesting points.

    I would argue his conclusion B is correct actually. That is Non-Muslims know more about Non-Muslim things/culture than Muslims know about Islam.

    This is actually quite obvious (but PIM not being Muslim didn’t think so), Muslims themselves know more about Non-Muslim things than they know about Islam. Many Muslims can name more celebrities than they can name Sahaba for example. Since a Muslim is living in a non-Muslim society he is forced to learn a great deal about that society, but as he maintains his own identity and religion he still does not have as much in depth knowledge and experience with the non-Muslim society as a Non-Muslims would.

    Let me put it into Islamic terms because that describes it best. Knowledge I will say is of 2 forms, Dunya (this world) and Akhirah (afterlife, but more generally islamic for our purposes).

    Total knowledge = Dunya + Akhirah. So the equation is simple, the non-Muslim knows more Dunya than the Muslim because the Muslim spends more time on his akhirah than the non-muslim. However, non-muslims spend more time on Dunya than Muslims spend on Akhirah because Muslims by necessity need knowledge of Dunya to live , but non-Muslims need not seek knowledge of Akhirah to live.

    I think this conclusion is obvious yet profound. However the more profound thing is I would say the vast majority of Muslims nowadays know more about Dunya than they know about Akhirah (which is something within our control unlike the conclusion that Non-Muslims will always know more “dunya”)

    I will end my post with this Hadith from Sahih al Jami that illustrates why Muslims knowing less about dunya is not a bad thing, but in fact good (although not sure if anyone will read this thread anyways…).

    1879: “Verily, Allah the Exalted hates everyone who is knowledgeable of the worldly life, but ignorant of the Hereafter.”

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