Danielle Paradis explores what makes Edmonton a great city.
A reminder that Muslims suffer because of Islamic extremists like ISIS
There's always conflicting pressure among Muslims in Edmonton to vocally censure Islamic terrorism
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Edmonton’s Al Rashid Education Foundation's scholarship awards, held Friday, should have been a celebratory night. For the most part, it was. A dozen local Muslim students who’d earned outstanding marks and made significant community contributions were awarded.
But the gala was held mere hours since the first explosion had rattled Paris. So, while the event recognized the city’s best Muslim youth, the world was busy condemning its worst. And too often in this condemnation, the Muslim world’s most vulnerable, Syrian and Iraqi refugees, bore the brunt of the blame.
It was also just a day after similarly orchestrated attacks in Beirut that killed 43 Lebanese, whose lives the world's lack of attention showed mattered less than the French's. Even in a ballroom filled with Lebanese heritage, there was no pause for "Paris of the Middle East." Only for Paris.
The speakers, some of them relatives, did what was necessary and acknowledged the 100 and counting deaths of the horrific attacks.
There's always conflicting pressure among Muslims in Edmonton to vocally censure Islamic terrorism. On one hand, events like the scholarship awards offer a chance to highlight the best example of Canadian Muslims and remind all that extremists don't represent the vast majority of Muslims.
On the other hand, do people really need a reminder? The only thing this fringe movement shared with the event guests is a (warped) version of a faith belonging to a quarter of the world's people. Public speaking Buddhists and Jews, for instance, aren't expected to denounce their extremists. Further, only when Muslims murder non-Muslims are they thrust into public relations, but not when Muslims are the victims—and they overwhelmingly are.
But a reminder was necessary Friday. So speakers twice reminded an audience almost entirely of Muslims something they already known, that all but a sliver of Islam's people come in peace and that the extremists don't represent the vast majority. And then the show went on, culminating in a $5,000 award for Mim Fatmi, a psychiatric medical student aspiring to end the stigma of mental illness in her community. It was coincidental, but given what we know about mental illness's links to radicalization, it felt all too appropriate.
It was especially inspiring for me, sitting near the front, because the scholarship was given by my surrogate aunt, in memory of her mother, an uneducated but audacious Lebanese woman who immigrated as a child to a Saskatchewan homestead in the 1910s, before arriving in Edmonton. Throughout the gala, I was reminded of other pioneering, enterprising Lebanese Muslims who helped make Edmonton what it is today, including, of course, those who established the Al Rashid mosque in 1938, Canada's first mosque and the foundation's namesake.
The irony of my own people confronting a tragedy in the White world but not our own world didn't occur to me until Saturday, when it was announced that in solidarity for France the High Level Bridge would be illuminated with the colours of the French flag. Would they add a streak of green to acknowledge the deaths in Beirut a day earlier? After all, the two nations already share red and white in their flags, plus the grief in their hearts.
Unsurprisingly, that's not what happened. But it was a lost opportunity to acknowledge Edmonton's deep Lebanese heritage and that the vast majority of ISIS's victims are other Muslims—precisely what Canada's thousands of incoming refugees are escaping. Sometimes you need a reminder.