US outreach to Canadian Muslims?
I’ve been thinking about this post since I wrote it last week. I thought about changing it or deleting it but I do want to hear what others think. Why am I worried about these apparently innocuous State Department activities? Here’s my answer:
The US government should be less concerned with reassuring Muslims that we like them and more focused on educating Muslim immigrants on life in America. Freedom of speech. Freedom of religion. Rights AND responsibilities. Rather than reassuring Muslims that we like them and that they are free to practice their religion, the government should teach them about the limits that are placed on religious practice. Basically, religious beliefs are not an excuse to violate the rights of others or to break laws.
While visiting the website of the US Consulate in Calgary for a completely unrelated reason, I found a home page article about the US Ambassador meeting with Muslim youth.
Ambassador David Jacobson participated in a discussion with ten students during an open house at the new Muslim Youth Centre in northwest Calgary. The Ambassador took questions from the students on a range of topics including human rights, U.S. relations with Pakistan and other Muslim nations, the U.S.’s position on political uprisings in the Middle East, coping with Islamaphobia and women’s rights. The youth were very excited to hear the Ambassador’s perspectives and even asked him about his favorite kind of pizza. “Meeting with young people is so great because it gives me hope,” the Ambassador said. “There are so many challenges that every young person has today, and when you overlay on top of that some of the stereotypes that exist about Muslims, and particularly Muslim youths, it makes it that much more difficult for them. I think it’s just very important to make it clear to them that we don’t believe those stereotypes, that we share far more values than we disagree about, and that we care.” Following his discussion, the Ambassador and other guests were introduced to the centre’s Smooth Transitions program by Mahdi Qasqas (pictured above), a certified counsellor and recent alumni of the State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program. The program pairs Muslim students with student mentors to help them successfully transition between school and social situations in a supportive environment. Others who attended the event included Lindsay Blackett, Alberta’s Culture and Community Spirit Minister, Senior Calgary Imam Jamal Hammoud, Dr. David Liepert, official spokesperson for Calgary’s Muslim community, and Calgary MLA Moe Amery.
Why does the US Ambassador need to reassure Canadian Muslims that Americans care about them? Does this have something to do with Homeland Security?
And what is this International Visitor Leadership Program? According to the link above, it sends “current or emerging leaders in government, politics, the media, education, the arts, business and other key fields” on short-term trips to the US which “support the foreign policy goals of the United States.” This program sent Imam Ayman Adel Al-Taher, Dr. Anthony Mansour, Mr. Mahdi J. Qasqas, and Mr. Omar Siddiqui to BYU. (Is this the same Omar Siddiqui who supports Sharia law including flogging?)
to discuss ways to promote interfaith dialogue and moderate discussion of religious differences; learn how federal, state, and local government agencies counter religious and idealogical extremism and promote diversity; explore best practices in integrating immigrants and Muslim groups into Western society; and meet with government, religious, and non-profit leaders that assist with promoting religious and cultural diversity.
Seriously? A foreign policy goal of the US is to make nice with specific religious groups in Canada? We don’t need to promote “religious and cultural diversity”; the US is already diverse. We need to promote integration and a encourage immigrants to become Americans.