By Tony Norman / Pittsburgh Post-Gazettte
Tony Norman: Door-to-door Muslims, only in Canada
While Canadians have a reputation for being among the most tolerant and least xenophobic people on the planet, even they aren’t immune to the kind of soft and hard bigotry that constantly oozes up from their southern border.
A poll by Forum Research conducted across Canada in December unearthed what can only be described as an un-Canadian attitude. According to the poll, 4 in 10 Canadians said they had “unfavorable feelings” against identifiable racial groups. Muslims topped the list of groups that scared nearly half of Canadians.
On Jan. 29, a boyish-looking French-Canadian student walked into a mosque in Quebec and began shooting. The accused gunman, Alexandre Bissonnette, 27, was immediately charged with the murder of six worshippers and the attempted murder of five others.
Instead of waiting for the next iteration of Bissonnette to arrive on the scene with guns blazing, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association decided it was time to move proactively against the forces of paranoia and xenophobia conspiring to undermine peace in their society by painting Muslims as scary monsters worthy of slaughter as they prayed.
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association had already embarked on a campaign within Muslim communities to counter radicalization of young people by those seeking to foster a sense of alienation among Muslims with Canada.
While looking critically at radicalization within, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association has begun reaching out to non-Muslims across the country with a tactic used by other religious groups for decades — a door-to-door campaign explaining who they are.
But instead of proselytizing, young Muslims knocked on doors, handed out literature and engaged in conversations meant to explain who they were and why they had the same values, hopes and dreams as their fellow Canadians. They made themselves available to their fellow citizens in the hope of disabusing them of common misconceptions.
The young Muslims fanned out across 65 cities. Non-Muslim Canadians welcomed the opportunity to ask actual Muslims questions about their religion and politics. In typical Canadian fashion, despite thousands of opportunities for misunderstanding, there were no negative incidents reported.
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