A story in the Toronto Star tells us there is a proposal to build a Muslim complex of two 17-storey residential towers, retail space and 61 townhouses. This is on an 11-hectare property near the Jaffari Centre mosque in a low-density neighbourhood.
I am of two minds about this. On the one hand, we have long had religious and cultural groups living nearby who wish to carry on their lives separately from ours.
Take a short trip northwest of Toronto and you’ll be in the midst of a quaint community that dresses differently, spurns motor vehicles for the horse-drawn variety and lives quite apart from their more familiar-to-us neighbours in cities like Waterloo and Kitchener.
Far from being a problem, the Mennonite communities near places like St. Jacobs, Ontario have been net contributors to the culture of the area and would be sorely missed if they were to suddenly disappear.
On the other hand, I’ve heard alarming stories about Muslim communities in the United Kingdom, East London, for example, where:
Muslim extremists are patrolling the streets of East London, publicly targeting gays, drinkers and women who aren’t dressed modestly, in an attempt to enforce Sharia law.” [Daily News, Feb 2, 2013]
Furthermore, in 2011 there was a story on Mail on Line telling of Islamic extremists declaring Britain's first Sharia law zone in Waltham Forest, North London.
And another report, this from Denmark:
In some suburbs in Copenhagen there exist ‘no-go-zones’ which are domains ruled by Muslim gangs and where non-Muslims do not dare to go. Even local police are afraid to enter.” [Source]
Moreover, similar no-go-zones seem to exist throughout northern Europe, where Muslim extremists impose radical laws of dress and other cultural behaviour, and intimidate those they disapprove of from entering their zones, which they treat as if they were separate countries.
To be sure, many moderate Muslims and their leaders speak out against this extreme, anti-social behaviour. Yet these situations seem to be worsening, not improving. There does seem to be some elements of Islam that cannot/will not reconcile with western-style democracy.
Life is difficult enough as it is without the additional stresses of cultural silos growing up in our midst.
Multiculturalism is fine, but with reasonable limits. (If we can impose reasonable limits on as fundamental a human right as free speech—as our Charter of Rights and Freedoms does—certainly we can afford to have limits on multiculturalism.)
I’ll repeat here what I’ve said several time before:
I believe immigrants should assimilate and become Canadians, not remain in economic, religious or social silos. While multiculturalism in diet and generally accepted cultural practices should be tolerated, it should not be officially promoted. Reasonable accommodation of foreign cultural practices should be applied with caution so as not to adulterate Canadian norms, values and practices.”
Worrying too is that this is not the first community of its sort in the Greater Toronto Area. There is another Muslim community in Vaughan, known as the Ahmadiyya “Peace Village,” which has 150 semi-detached and detached houses, apparently, built to accommodate the religious needs of Muslim immigrants.
So my conclusion is we should tread very carefully here and not dismiss opposition to this proposal as bigotry.