How many roads?
Bob Dylan wrote the lyrics; Peter, Paul and Mary recorded it in the early 1960s and I, coming of age as a young civil rights supporter and believer, always found the song “Blowin’ In The Wind” as evocative, emotional and energizing as the fight for equality and social justice took hold in the U.S. and Canada, including the whole new awakening I witnessed in Quebec.
I was very proud to be part of the generation that sought and demanded freedom and equality for all–and that, to this day I hope, has been reflected in my reporting and my blogging.
But yet, I am still so often so disappointed in the world we see: in Afghanistan, in Syria, in the Middle East in general, in China, in much of Asia, in Russia, in Africa, in Cuba, in the U.S.
And in Canada.
Hard to believe, but a nationwide poll of Canadians just a few weeks ago showed more than half of those asked believe Muslims can’t be trusted at all or only a little. And to make it worse, 42 per cent of us felt discrimination against Muslims “is mainly their fault”.
How can this be! How can so many Canadians still condemn an entire religious group–or the vast majority of them–for the disgraceful actions of a very TINY, TINY minority of violent extremists in their midst, well under 1% of the Muslim population here and around the world?
Readers of this blog know I am a proud, strong supporter of Israel; I often have condemned strongly radical Islamists not just for their disgraceful hate-filled violence against Israelis and Jewish institutions around the world, for their barbaric middle-ages beliefs regarding women and gays; for their intolerance against Christians and other faiths; and for the damage they’ve done to the quality of life for millions of innocent people and families–including Muslims–around the world.
But surely we should be educated enough and tolerant enough to realize and understand that NO ENTIRE PEOPLE OR NATION OR FAITH should be condemned or distrusted or isolated or discriminated against because of the actions and idiocy of a small minority!
I know many will say these poll results show the Muslim majority should therefore speak up more often and more loudly to separate themselves from the extremists, terrorism-supporters and plain old racist idiots in their own midst.
Perhaps they are right: I believe the poll shows most Canadians don’t like their silence, some questionnable fund-raising and may even see all that as complicit support for the radicals.
But whatever the cause, clearly Canada’s Islamic community has an image and PR problem amongst their neighbours.
But the poll was also disappointing to me in other areas the pundits regarded as “good” news.
Reportedly 70% of respondents reported high levels of trust regarding Protestants, Catholics and Jews, and 64% said they trust Aboriginals while 63% would trust immigrants.
That’s good news? Maybe I expect too much, but in the year 2012,, in an educated society like Canada, can it be really “good news” that 35% of the population still distrust people … not because of their individual remarks or their actions … but just because of their religion or ethnicity that most of them just happened to be born into?
And it gets worse.
How ironic that just a few weeks ago, I wrote about Canada’s largely unaddressed and hidden racist society: Quebec. In a blog entitled “STOP Giving Quebec a Free Racism Pass” I pointed to a new study/news reports that exposed Quebec’s continuing backwardness in welcoming, accepting and integrating as full fellow citizens Quebeckers who weren’t white, Catholic, Francophone.
Of course, that did not sit well with some, as the Comments section reflected. But this latest poll shows I was quite correct, almost to a disappointing extent!
More than 70% of French-Canadians openly said they have “little” or “no” trust of Muslims, just because they are Muslims.
Doesn’t that do “les Quebecois” proud!
Just think about the implications of that in terms of what Muslim children face in schools, what Muslim residents experience in residential choices or finding jobs or social acceptance in Francophone communities.
“How many roads….?”
When the openly expressed distrust hits 52% among Canadians generally and 70% among Francophones, the federal and provincial governments (or federal NDP Opposition) should speak up, condemn loudly and act … but won’t.
The votes of the racists among us are clearly more important than the principles of justice and equality in a little song.
Harv Oberfeld is a blogger and retired journalist. This column originally appeared in his blog, Keeping It Real. Reprinted with permission.