Any day of the week a newspaper reader can see accounts relating to the court roster of any Canadian city. Invariably, a substantial proportion of cases involving murder, illegal possession of arms, drug dealing, break-and-enters, violent physical attacks, domestic abuse, have names linked to them that are readily identifiable with Muslims. With people who came to Canada as immigrants or whose parents did, from countries in Africa and the Middle East where Islam is the majority religion.
Because of the rise of militant Islam and the threat to world stability from international jihad, non-Muslims have become increasingly aware of the growing Muslim community within Western society. Defenders of Islam always point out, defensively, that Islam is a religion of peace, charity love and tolerance. And without doubt it represents all those emotion-grabbing superlatives in human relations for most of its adherents.
But it is never the majority of people who represent as normal, moderate and interested in making the most of their lives in advancing social well-being and individual aspirations toward success that represent society's problems. It is the minority who declare themselves through their actions and their values to be variants who cling to an ethos that rejects what we think of as the social contract, and who bring conflict and chaos to order and justice.
The readily-identifiable Muslim names that speak of geographic origin, heritage, tradition and religious adherence and which present as disproportionate in the incidence of criminal activities and apprehension by lawful authorities inform the interested that there is a problem with the religion of peace and the migrants to Canada who bring with them elements of an alien culture that does not transplant well within the welcoming country's values and priorities.
Some comparison can be made with large communities from the West Indies that have settled in the Toronto area, where single mothers traditionally raise their abundant young on their own, bereft of a male figure. These are families that live on welfare or who represent the working poor needful of extra social services. Theirs are communities deprived of male authority figures upon whom boys can focus and who can have a guiding influence.
Women raising large numbers of children, living in poverty-stricken areas with their own special culture of welfare and dependency where children run amok because their mothers are too busy either trying to earn a living for their brood, or unable to maintain discipline because they are continually distracted with life's burdens, seem unable to instill in their boys a grounding in law-abiding virtues.
The boys, the teens, the young men, become embroiled in gangs, in drugs, in violence. A similar situation exists in the Somali community of which there is an estimated ten thousand in the city of Ottawa alone. The mothers of young Somalis who have seen trouble with the law because of their involvement in crime - from mayhem to murder - have formed a self-help group, the Canadian Somali Mothers Association.
This activist group of mothers thought to organize themselves as spokeswomen for their community, after having become aware themselves of the reality that their sons represent a major portion of criminal malefactors, out of proportion to their statistical presence in the community. But rather than looking within their community to try to understand what they may be doing wrong in raising their young, they look at the wider community to blame it for low expectations of their sons, and the labelling of them as social misfits.
If they are social misfits it is because they have placed themselves in that category, refusing to fully integrate, to accept the prevailing social values and verities, clinging instead to the very tribal and social customs that they fled when they left their country of origin, mired in incessant violent struggles for dominance. These mothers insist their sons need support not condemnation.
But the community does offer support in many ways through many agencies, inclusive of the education system. Their sons have not been encouraged to view education as a means of striving toward a future. Social services agencies and some Somali community groups themselves have come to the realization that additional support is needed to steer young people toward acceptance of the effort to self-actualize, to commit to being educated, to aspire toward success.
It is one thing to collectively advocate on behalf of their children, it is another entirely to abrogate their own responsibility to imbue in their children respect for authority and for hard work to advantage themselves and their community. That they act as interlocutors to influence and educate the police and social service agencies about their culture has its limits. It is incumbent upon them and their offspring to merge their values with that of the prevailing society.
These are women who are courageous enough to come together for the purpose of representing their children's interests. But they are directing their energies in the wrong direction by seeking to alter perceptions and behaviours and outcomes of others, while ignoring the need to do so for themselves and influence their children in more positive modes of behaviour.
These mothers appear to have rejected outreach programs by other members of the Somali community anxious to counteract the appeal to young Somali men of global jihad. To teach them to resist the recruiters for Islamist
jihad that targets vulnerable young men who find themselves attracted to the message of hatred, revenge, dominance and violence toward others.
Ignoring the very real problem of youth radicalization will not result in its defeat. Ignoring their personal responsibilities in teaching their children to respect the law and the need for those young people to acquire an education while immersing themselves in the values and social mores of the greater society of which they have become an integral portion helps guide their children toward the continuing path of legal difficulties.
One of the Somali mothers instrumental in organizing the mothers' group insists she left her native Somalia to spare her children from the "endless horror of fighting in Somalia." She has not found the safe harbour she insists she was looking for: "...here there is another kind of war, where they are marginalized and they have to fight so many labels."
That 'marginalization' stems from the situation they have placed themselves in. The family unit is as vital in Islam as it is in any religion; as important to any culture to sustain a society where the needs of children are ideally seen to by two responsible adults, as parents. Single parents always face an economic and social struggle, as society attempts to pick up the slack. People living in poverty can live in as much dignity and self-respect as any others.
With a failure to adapt to the welcoming society, its culture and socialization and mores through the influence of a concerned parent whose responsibility it is to encourage children to adopt those values, a social aversion to them results in a greater acceptance of outlawed behaviour. Parents have an especial obligation to steer their children on to the pathways of social normalcy, and receiving an education is the first of those paths.
The labels, of social deviance and criminal records, of divorce from the values that speak of Canadian social imperatives and respect for the law, are a matter to be confronted first by the mothers raising impressionable children, to steer them in the right direction, to support their decent futures as equally endowed members of Canadian society.
Labels: Canada, culture, Human Relations, religion