Muslims and Indigenous Peoples Share Values


By: Shahina Siddiqui

As we celebrate Islamic History Month, some have asked me about the theme Know Each Other and why the emphasis on the indigenous community? My response as chairwoman of this project is to look inwards. To me, the spirit of multiculturalism is best served when we step out of our comfort zone to take advantage of the amazing opportunity we have here in Canada to learn, experience, grow and broaden our horizons.

We may have come as settlers, or from war and conflict seeking relief; many of us came as economic immigrants looking for a better life. Some of us are refugees seeking sanctuary. Regardless of the why, I believe it is essential we learn of the indigenous history, the challenges and achievements of the First Nations of Canada. Muslims have so much in common with indigenous peoples, but we also unfortunately have stereotypes about each other that must be dispelled.

Both indigenous and Canadian Muslims are propelled by our traditions to look at humanity through the prism of the Creator's gift of compassion, mercy and humility. We can take the strengths and excellence of our various traditions and cultures and blend them toward an evolving Canadian culture that is truly just.

We, the new Canadians, need to remind ourselves the keepers of the national soul are the indigenous peoples, who are the original custodians of this land. We must preserve the core of indigenous values and seek to complement that with our cultural diversity, thus enhancing the spirit and heart of Canada.

How can we appreciate and contribute to Canada if we do get to know the original custodians of this land -- the mothers and fathers who so generously accepted wave after wave of immigrants from foreign religious orders, social customs, languages and races? How can we not learn and recognize the early immigrants, instead of appreciating their indigenous host, had inflicted cultural and social injustices that resulted in untold misery and pain that still continues?

Canadian Muslims have to open their hearts and their minds and welcome indigenous communities in our homes, centres and places of worship. Based on our shared core values of human dignity, human rights and justice, and as stewards of all of creation, we should collaborate on issues of common good, defeat racism and help our families, and especially our women, to flourish.

Poverty, addictions, domestic abuse, sexism, racism and religious bigotry are serious challenges facing Canada. Once we find common grounds by interacting at both the personal and communal level, we will set the stage for collaborations on issues and projects. Let us form citizens' groups in our neighbourhoods, identify common goals and start working on them. We can draw on each other's strengths and inspire our youth to be torchbearers of justice and truth.

For starters, we must vote and thereby recommit to protecting the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms from the politics of fear and racism that is threatening our social cohesion.

Shahina Siddiqui is the chairwoman of Islamic History Month Canada.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 13, 2015 A11