Muslim cemeteries opening in Canada

The Globe and Mail – June 21, 2012

After years of planning and work, developers in two cities are set to meet a burgeoning need by opening two cemeteries – the Toronto Muslim Cemetery and the Ottawa Muslim Cemetery. While there are currently five Muslim cemeteries in Ontario, as well as a few others scattered across the country, the new additions are the first to cater to Muslims in Canada’s largest city and its capital. According to the Pew Research Center, the number of Muslims in Canada is expected to almost triple over the next 20 years, from about 940,000 in 2010 to nearly 2.7-million in 2030.

Work on the Ottawa Muslim Cemetery began in the early 1990s when Abu Nazir, now the president of the group behind the project, started talking with the community about the need. Until that point, most of the Muslim community had been focused on establishing itself by building mosques and schools, he said.

The Toronto Muslim Cemetery, located just north of the city in Richmond Hill, is bigger than its Ottawa counterpart – a $10-million partnership between the area’s Sunni and Shia communities with a capacity of about 40,000 graves. Close to 5,000 plots have been pre-sold, according to Sabi Ahsan, a local developer and chairman of the cemetery’s board.

Survey finds deep mistrust for Muslims in Canada

News Agencies – March 26, 2012

A new poll shows that more than half of all Canadians distrust Muslims. The nationwide survey indicates that as many as 52 percent of Canadians feel Muslims can be trusted “a little” or “not trusted at all.” The poll showed that 48 percent of respondents said Muslims can be trusted “a lot” or “somewhat.”

What’s more, 42 percent of Canadians said discrimination against Muslims is “mainly their fault.” Muslims registered the lowest levels of trustworthiness of the religious groups asked about in the survey. Overall, about 70 percent of respondents expressed high levels of trust in Protestants, Catholics and Jews, while 64 percent trusted aboriginal Canadians and 63 percent trusted immigrants.

Among French Canadians, only 30 percent said they trust Muslims, compared with 57 percent of English speakers who said they felt that way.  The online poll surveyed 1,522 Canadians on attitudes toward religions, multiculturalism and sources of racism. The survey was conducted for the Association for Canadian Studies in Montreal and the Toronto-based Canadian Race Relations Foundation as part of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on March 21.

Creator of “Little Mosque on the Prairie” Describes Canadian Post 9/11 Context

The Toronto Star – August 6, 2011

 

Zarqa Nawaz, creator of the television hit Little Mosque on the Prairie, reflects on the situation of Canadian Muslims in this feature article about her family during the month of Ramadan. The freelance filmmaker and TV comedy writer worries when the extended family comes home about the “way things look.” “You can’t make a mistake — you will be judged.”

As for Muslims in Canada, life is not perfect, says Abdul-Basit Khan, a Toronto lawyer and past chair of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Canada. But, adds Khan, if you look at the experience of co-religionists in Europe and some parts of the U.S., “there isn’t a better country in which to be a Muslim.” Nawaz says 9/11 forced Muslims, and other religious minorities, out of their “bubble” world and to engage the greater community as never before. In charity work, for example, they moved beyond supporting only Muslim causes. “Never was there a time in history when it was so important to be active and prove to the world that we care,” says Nawaz. She also pays tribute to Canadian tolerance. “I believe that Little Mosque on the Prairie could not have been made in any other country,” says Nawaz, 43.

Ismaili leader Aga Khan files lawsuit against Toronto lawyer

The Aga Khan, spiritual leader of Ismaili Muslims, is suing a Toronto lawyer and Montreal businessman for copyright infringement. The 10-page statement of claim filed in federal court alleges the two men and other unnamed parties infringed on his copyright by selling “literary works and readings” he wrote. The document alleges the defendants engaged in commercial ventures using unauthorized reproduction of material.

The material in question consists of a collection of written messages and speeches delivered by the Aga Khan between 1957 and 2009. The suit names Toronto lawyer Alnaz Jiwa and Montreal businessman Nagib Tajdin, and unnamed other persons and/or companies that have also sold what it deems infringing material. The lawsuit says he has operated a website that promotes the sale of a book and MP3 without the Aga Khan’s knowledge or authorization.

No interest credit cards aimed at Canadian muslims

The iFreedom Plus MasterCard is tailored to meet the religious requirements of Canada’s Islamic community and was recently launched by Toronto company UM Financial. The card meets the requirements of Shariah law, which prohibits usury, by being prepaid and therefore interest free. About 100 people are testing the card, which can hold up to $6,000 and 10,000 will be made available to the general public this month. Activating the card for two years costs $50. Benefits include no monthly fee, no transaction fees, one per cent cash back on purchases of more than $100, and discounts on flights with Etihad Airways.

UM Financial launched a Shariah compliant mortgage in 2005 through a funding partnership with the Credit Union Central of Ontario. The project started in 2005 and ran until 2007, with a funding line of $120 million.
At least one major Canadian bank has attempted to offer Sharia complaint products. RBC tried unsuccessfully to launch a Shariah-compliant equity-linked note investment product a few years ago. Walid Hejazi, an associate professor of international business with the Joseph L. Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, said there is confusion about Islamic finance. The products are “just a financial instrument with a different set of characteristics,” said Hejazi. There is a huge demand for compliant mortgage products, he said.

Policeforce in Quebec issue statement: remove veil for mugshots of face further charges

Police forces in different parts of Canada claim charges will be laid against anyone who refuses to remove religious face-coverings such as Muslim niqabs when being booked after an arrest.

The RCMP and the Montreal police forces, who outlined the policy in interviews, laid down one notable caveat: such a case has never actually come up in either of their jurisdictions.

“This is getting absurd, really,” said Wahida Valiante, national president of the Canadian Islamic Congress. “There are only, in the entire Quebec province, 25 women who wear the niqab so they can’t be in the highest number of criminals expected to be arrested.”

The RCMP and the Montreal force confirmed that to their knowledge no one wearing a niqab has ever refused to remove it for a mugshot. In fact, they can’t actually recall arresting anyone with a full veil either. While Montreal police sought legal advice on the issue a year ago, the RCMP say they’ve always followed the Identification of Criminals Act, part of the Criminal Code of Canada.

Interest-Free credit card available for Canadian Muslims

A new interest-free credit card, the first of its kind in North America, aims to reconcile Islamic canonical law and Western consumer culture. Until now, observant Muslims have been precluded from owning credit cards on which they pay interest, a violation of shariah law.

The iFreedom Plus Master-Card, set to be available in the coming days, promises no bills, no interest and no credit card debt. With the iFreedom Plus MasterCard, holders load up their card with cash in advance, up to $6,000. Each purchase draws down on the account without accruing interest.
Because the new product doesn’t actually involve credit, applicants are approved without a credit check. The card, which is primarily aimed at younger newcomers, was launched at the inaugural conference of the Usury-Free Association of North America in Toronto.

Quebecois Premier Jean Charest proposes bill limiting public services for niqab wearers

Quebec will refuse all government services, including education and non-emergency health care, to fully veiled Muslim women under legislation tabled yesterday in the National Assembly.

Jean Charest, the Liberal Premier, said the bill establishing guidelines for the accommodation of religious minorities is aimed at “drawing a line” to demonstrate that gender equality is a paramount Quebec value. The bill applies not only to government departments and Crown corporations but also to hospitals, schools, universities and daycares that receive funding from the province.

The proposed guidelines in Bill 94 follow an uproar this month over the expulsion of a niqab-wearing woman from French courses after she insisted that male students in her class not see her face. Quebec’s Immigration Department tracked her to a second college where she was studying French and had her expelled again because she would not remove her niqab, a veil that leaves open a slit for the eyes.
Quebec, which for more than three years has been grappling with the issue of accommodating religious differences, is the first province to take such a stance against the niqab and burqa. In Ontario, women wearing a full veil can make special arrangements to receive government services without exposing their faces to male bureaucrats.

Mr. Weinstock said Quebec is addressing head-on issues that are being ignored elsewhere in Canada. “This is a very good thing,” he said. “Whatever happens as a result of the debates in the National Assembly over this bill, and whatever the final form of this legislation is, we are having a very interesting societal debate here in Quebec that has to do with issues that are not specific to Quebec.”

Polls suggest majority of Canadians agree with proposed bill 94 limiting niqabs

Most Canadians agree with a proposed Quebec law that would refuse all government services to women wearing the niqab or burqa, an Angus Reid poll has found.

Ninety-five per cent of Quebecers support the proposed law, which would bar the face veil from government offices, schools and other publicly funded institutions, said the poll, conducted for The Gazette. In the rest of Canada, three out of four people agreed with Bill 94, which was tabled on Wednesday by the government of Jean Charest. The bill would require all public-sector employees to have their faces uncovered, as well as any citizen using government services, such as someone applying for a medicare card.

Mario Canseco, vice-president of public affairs for Angus Reid, said the survey shows an unusually high level of support for a government measure. “It’s very rare to get 80% of Canadians to agree on something,” he said. The poll showed that outside Quebec, Albertans are most likely to support the veil ban, with 82% approving the bill, followed by Ontario with 77% support, the Atlantic provinces (73%) and British Columbia (70%). Support for withholding government services from those wearing the face veil was lowest in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, at 65%.

Bloc Quebecois supporters favored the bill most (95%), along with Conservatives (86%) and Liberals (81%). Three-quarters of NDP supporters agreed with the bill.

Quebecois academics support dueling manifestos on religious accommodation

A new type of warfare – albeit perfectly peaceful – has taken form in Quebec, as intellectuals and academics weigh in on the issue of accommodating religious minorities. The debate has been reignited recently with the “ niqab ” incident, in which a woman who refused to show her face to her language teacher and disrupted the class with her many demands was finally – after months of attempted compromise – expelled from French classes for immigrants.

On one side are the “pluralists,” who call for more openness to immigrants, and for what is called in French a “ laïcité ouverte ” (a secular regime that allows for some compromise with religious fundamentalists). The initiators of their manifesto, “for a pluralist Quebec,” are mostly professors of philosophy.

The authors of this second manifesto, eager to dissociate themselves from those who use the concept of secularism to cover up their dislike of the recent waves of Muslim immigration, argue that “ laïcité ” has always been part of Quebec history, an argument that is a considerable exaggeration.