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Sociology professor Abdie Kazemipur suggests that creating same-faith ghettoes prevents Muslims from adapting to Canada

Multiculturalism helping Muslims adapt to Canada

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Canadians’ belief in multiculturalism is helping Muslim immigrants and others adapt to their new country.

But the current federal government isn’t providing much support for that ideal, a Lethbridge audience was told Thursday. And there’s danger that racist and anti-Muslim attitudes from Europe may spread to this nation.

To increase understanding, sociology professor Abdie Kazemipur suggested, the onus is on Muslims as well as their non-Muslim neighbours to learn about each other. Creating same-faith ghettoes, he told the Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs, Thursday, prevents that from happening.

“Both Muslims and non-Muslims have responsibilities,” he said. “We need a two-way process.”

Kazemipur, a University of Lethbridge social sciences researcher, recently completed a book on the subject, “The Muslim Question in Canada: A Story of Segmented Integration.” It outlines how Muslim immigrants have been incorporated in – or excluded from – mainstream life in various nations.

Muslim immigration to Canada is a relatively recent trend, he adds, and some newcomers have not adapted readily to their new situation. It may not be until the second or third generation that families really integrate into their chosen community.

In the process, he said, they need to “abandon some traditional ideas” and re-interpret their theological understandings.

Through one-on-one conversation with Canadians from other faith backgrounds, Kazemipur added, Muslim newcomers will learn “how much they have in common.”

Responding to questions, he said multiculturalism has been a cornerstone of Canadian life. But that legacy is seemingly “not appreciated” by the federal Conservatives today, as it shifts Canada’s policies on immigration – and Canadians should be watching carefully.

“It’s crucial to pay attention to small changes,” he warned. “They can have drastic implications.”

Maria Fitzpatrick, the newly elected MLA for Lethbridge East, voiced a similar concern.

“Fearmongering is showing up politically right now,” and Canadians should reject that mentality.

Canadians have shown their support for a multicultural nation though such actions as electing and re-electing Naheed Nenshi as mayor of Calgary, Kazemipur said.

“He has been a phenomenon,” celebrated by many as a symbol of Canadians’ acceptance of leaders whatever their ethnicity or faith.

It shows multiculturalism succeeds, he said, “if everything is done right.”

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