The Committee of Progressive Pakistani Canadians (CPPC) is alarmed at the findings of a survey commissioned jointly by the Association for Canadian Studies, Montreal, and the Race Relations Foundation, Toronto. The results of the poll reported by the media, including The Ottawa Citizen and The Vancouver Sun on March 21, 2012 disclose that “more than half of Canadians mistrust Muslims,” and another large proportion of them believe that discrimination against Muslims is “their own fault.”
There is no doubt that these findings represent what sociologists call stereotypes which are defined as distorted pictures in mind, not based on correct and verifiable information. Yet it is disturbing to note that so many Canadians (52 % according to the survey) hold negative views of Muslims which can generate hatred and even violence against a minority group identified on the basis of religion. Needless to say that such negative stereotypes also pose a serious threat to Canada’s long standing policy of multiculturalism aimed at promoting national unity and social harmony.
Stereotypes are known to be social constructions that serve the interests of those who create and promote them. As such it is important to know why a particular stereotype was created, by whom and for what purpose?
Muslims in North America have been increasingly subjected to such negative stereotyping since 9/11 when the powerful US administration decided to wage its ill-conceived global war on terror. This global war was launched with President George W. Bush declaring famously that “you’re either with us or against us,” thus pre-empting any rational assessment of its objectives and consequences. Today, a decade later and untold thousands of lives lost, mostly those of men, women and children in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan who had nothing to do with 9/11, the war has produced little by way of peace or security but a lot of angry and frustrated individuals.
The most recent example of this anger and frustration is represented by the actions of Frenchman of Algerian origin, Mohamed Merah who is reported to have shot dead a teacher and two students in a French school along with a few soldiers of his own ethnic background, and the American Army Staff Sgt., Robert Bales, who went on a killing rampage earlier on March 11, shooting to death 17 Afghan farmers including several children.
What is obviously common in the brutal actions of the duo is the malaise of post-9/11 times poisoned deeply by the war on terror. Yet one is astounded by the portrayal of the stories of Roberts and Mohameds of our blighted times in the form of two very different narratives by the world-dominant Western media. Whereas Robert Bale’s killing spree is invariably attributed to his possible suffering from PSTD (Post-traumatic stress disorder) with no reference to his religion or that of his victims, there is rarely a report that fails to identify the religion of Mohamed Merah and four of his Jewish victims. This is stereotyping at its meticulous best aimed at making sure that the connection between the villainous act of Merah and his religion is not lost on anyone.
We at the CPPC believe that the best way to promote peace and harmony in Canada’s multi-ethnic society and to prevent social phobias, including Islamophobia is to abstain from making stereotypical invidious distinctions between people on the basis of religion, colour, class and gender no mater in what situations they are caught.
The Committee of Progressive Pakistani-Canadians (the CPPC) is a non-profit organization of the Canadians of Pakistani origin who are committed to the values and ideals of socialist democracy, pluralism, and peace.