[Marxism] Equality - what it means, how it works

Macdonald Stainsby mstainsby at resist.ca
Tue Jun 15 19:19:35 MDT 2004

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: [R-G] Equality - what it means, how it works
From: shniad at sfu.ca

Equality - what it means, how it works

The following is a very powerful letter from Itrath Sayed, the New Democrat
candidate for the Delta - Richmond East riding and active member of the
StopWar.ca antiwar coalition. Since Itrath stood for nomination she has 
been receiving a lot of criticism from the local Muslim community. Because 
of her beliefs in equality for all Canadians, she and her elderly parents 
were effectively excommunicated from the Richmond Mosque her parents help 
build and that she has been attending since her youth.

   -----Original Message-----
From: Itrath Syed [mailto:itrath at shaw.ca]
Sent: Sat 6/12/2004 9:52 AM
Subject: Equality - what it means, how it works

Saturday June 12, 2004	9:53 am - Vancouver

Equality – what it means, how it works

Assalamu alaikum everyone,

There has been lots of discussion about my position on gay marriages. I am
writing this open letter to clarify my position, so that people can
understand my position before delivering khutbas [sermons] about me and
writing me hate mail.

I should first state very clearly that this is my position, not the position
of my family, and that any discussion about these issues should not involve
them in any way.

My position is very clear. I support the principle that all human beings in
Canada must be equal under Canadian law and have the same rights in Canada.
Every single person.

This is a critical principle that insures the protection of every minority
community in Canada including the Muslim community. Without this principle
we are all vulnerable to having our civil rights eroded and our safety

In the last few years since 9/11, the Muslim community has watched, and
largely stood silent, while our civil rights have been attacked, while we
have been targeted by CSIS, while we have demonized in the media, while we
have had our personal lives invaded, while many of us have been arrested or
detained for questioning by police. Not to mention how one of us was
kidnapped by the U.S. government with the cooperation of our own government
and sent to a torture prison. There has been fear and silence in our
community. Our overwhelming response has been to be quiet in hopes that if
we keep our head down no one will notice us and attack us individually.

When we have spoken up, we have done so based on the principle of equality.
We have said that we are Canadian too, that we are equal to everyone else 
in Canada, that our rights must be protected and that our lives must be secure.
And those who have been more brave than our community and have organized
demonstrations and mobilized a resistance for us to protest our loss of
civil rights in Canada, have also done so on the principle of all Canadians
being equal.

Canada is a very large and very diverse country. It is held together by the
Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This is the document that protects all of
us, every single one of us, and enables us to all live together in Canada
and to form Canadian society together.

It is the Charter that protects our rights as Muslims and that enables our
communities to develop and prosper. It is the Charter that protects our
right to believe what we choose to believe and to organize our communities
based on those beliefs. It is the Charter that protects our right to define
marriage according to our beliefs and it is the Charter that will always
protect our right to continue to do so.

The legal decision by Canadian courts to extend the rights of marriage to
include gay and lesbian couples does not override the Charter’s protection
of religious freedom. The court decision has absolutely no implication on
the Muslim community at all.

The allegation that Imams will be forced to recognize and perform gay
marriages is absolutely ridiculous and is obviously based on complete
unfamiliarity with Canadian law. The Muslim community and all religious
communities will always be able to define and conduct marriages according to
their own beliefs and traditions, with no interference from anyone.

Muslims in Canada must be clear that we can not demand our own equality in
Canada, our own rights to be who we are, while also calling for the rights
of others to be restricted. If the principle of equality under Canadian law
is compromised, it will be compromised for all minority communities.

I am not running for leadership of the Muslim community, I am running for a
position in Canadian government. I am not asked about my religious views, I
am asked about my views on Canadian law. These are 2 completely separate
things. As we all know because we make those distinctions every day of our

We all live as Muslims in Canada. We know the difference between Canadian
law and our own religious law. We believe that alcohol is haram [forbidden]
yet we live in a society where it is available everywhere. Does that mean we
drink alcohol? No. Does that mean we serve it in our homes or our Mosques?
No. Does that mean we think it is halal [permissible]? No. Do we tell our
children to go out and get drunk? No.

I am a Muslim, not because I was born in a Muslim family, not because I was
raised in a Muslim community, not because of any one else in the world. I am
a Muslim because that is what my heart and soul demand of me. I am a Muslim
because of what I know in my core to be true.

I am a Canadian because this is my home. My Canada includes everyone in
Canada. I believe that my ability to be Muslim in my country is completely
and absolutely connected to the ability of everyone else in Canada to live
according to their own beliefs. That is how equality works, that is how a
country as wide and diverse as Canada continues to be home for everyone in
it. That is how we all can be safe here.

I would think that this principle of equality is one that Muslims would
understand powerfully. I would think that as a targeted community we would
cling fiercely to this principle and stand up for it. But no, not so.

I would have thought that there were many issues that Muslims would care
passionately about. I would have thought that we might be concerned about
civil rights, about equal citizenship in Canada, about the war and
occupation of Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan, about the move to link
Canadian foreign policy closer to U.S. foreign policy, about the new arms
race of weapons in the sky, about losing public healthcare without which
many of us could not afford to be healthy, about racist immigration
policies, about easing the burden of Third World debt, about racial
profiling at airports and borders, about funding education in Canada so that
we don’t have young people each with $30,000 of interest bearing debt, about
the destruction of our environment which we believe is an ammanah [trust]
from our Creator.

But no. I am clearly wrong. There is only one issue that the Muslims are
interested in. There is only one issue that the community can become vocal
about. There is only one issue that can rise our emotions and our political
voice. Let the rest of the world and the rest of the country be damned. The
Muslim community can care about only one thing.

We have sat in our homes while others took to the streets to protest wars
and occupations, and we have sat silently in our homes while others took to
the streets to protect our rights in Canada. While Palestinian towns were
being demolished, while Iraqis were being tortured, we stayed home and
watched the news.

This may be the kind of Muslim life that the majority of our community
believes is good. But this is not what I believe in. I have always fought
for justice, and I believe I have done so with courage and integrity. I am
proud of my life as a Muslim and I am proud to be Canadian.

And indeed the journey is always to return to Allah, who is the only One who
will judge each of us.


Itrath Syed

ps. This is an open letter to the world - forward this as far and wide as
you like.

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Macdonald Stainsby
In the contradiction lies the hope

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