March 17, 2011
Much of the response to the story of a man’s plea for religious accommodation in the AA program at New Life Mission is, sadly, what I had predicted: if he doesn’t like it, he can go back to where he came from.
Actually, the favoured phrase is: he knows where the airport is — implying that because he’s a Muslim, he can’t possibly be Canadian. Another comment even tries to link him with terrorist groups — fulfilling another of my cynical predictions.
Honestly, it’s at times like this when I feel like heading for the airport myself. Where would I go? I might pay a visit to Huntingdon, Quebec, where the mayor is going out of his way to attract Muslims with the promise of a mosque, a halal abattoir and a Muslim cemetery. He’s gone to Montreal and prayed in mosques there as part of his recruitment drive. Why? Because the population of this small town has been plummeting, and immigrants are desperately needed to keep it viable.
Can you imagine our own mayor, Peter Milobar, doing such a thing? There would be lynch mobs.
But Kamloops is not so different from Huntingdon. We hope to attract students to TRU from Saudi Arabia. We try to bring in badly needed health care professionals, many of whom are Muslims. There may come a time when incidents like the one at the mission will have to be met with some sort of compromise. Because it will be in our best interests to make Muslims — not to mention people of all religions — feel welcome in our city if we want it to grow and prosper.