Monday, March 28, 2011

The Muslim community in Canada

The title there is a bit glib; what I am trying to get at is how Muslims as a whole are perceived in Canada.

I live in a very Muslim part of town.  There is a mosque right next to my building.  I am clearly an outsider in this community, yet no one has been anything but polite and cordial, or at the very least neutral, towards me.  I have felt slightly self-conscious about doing things like bringing home a case of beer to stock the fridge (and there's no hiding that), but no one has paid it any mind.  The women smile at me; we do our laundry alongside each other.  The children sled down the nearby hill when it snows and shriek and act like children do.  The men hold the door open for me, and I for them.  I even shared an elevator ride up with an imam tonight.

I think of myself as tolerant of other cultures and willing to try new things.  I wholeheartedly believe that a smile is universal in any language.  But I am clearly still at heart quite American.  I remember 9/11 very clearly, and I remember crying that day and in the days after.  My country has many, many problems, but it is still my country, and it was attacked.  A part of me, so ensconced as I have been in American society for 28 years, slightly flinches when I see overt signs of Muslim culture.  I will be the first to admit that this unconscious reaction I have greatly bothers me.  No one has ever done anything directly to me.  And it is the extreme minimum percentage of the population that desires to hurt my country.  Yet I think that there is an extreme anti-Muslim sentiment that is ingrained in America, despite efforts of some to downplay it.  So pervasive is it that it has even infiltrated the ranks of the most broad-minded and tolerant Americans.

What encouraged this post was the fact that I finally was able to catch I show that I've been wanting to watch called "Little Mosque on the Prairie."  This is a Canadian sitcom focusing on a Muslim community out in the middle of nowhere in Saskatchewan.  There is no laugh track, and the humor is clearly different from an American sitcom, but I was surprised at how delightful the characters were.  The main character, a liberal imam, even has a smart-ass Anglican priest as his close friend.  His wife (in the episode I saw, they were just married!  Aw!) is an Islamic feminist and a doctor, and her Canadian mother converted to Islam to marry her Lebanese father, etc.  The show is just very sweet, showcasing the camaraderie of the community, but also highlighting the hardships (the conservative pundits who aren't happy about the community being there).  When I first saw an ad for it in the subway, all I could think was, "Holy COW..... I am not in Kansas anymore!"  Having seen the show, I could only think that there is no way anyone would ever agree to run it on American television.  It's kind of sad, too; it's a lighthearted look at the everyday life of Muslim families, and it pokes fun at everyone.  Perhaps America is still a bit too sensitive for that yet, though....

1 comment:

  1. I appreciate the honesty of this post.

    It makes me a little homesick, though.