Friday, November 19, 2010

Multiculturalism in Canada: Mayor Nenshi debates Tarek Fatah on Al Jazeera English

Just yesterday, recently-elected Mayor of Calgary Naheed Nenshi (for those unfamiliar, the first ever Muslim mayor elected to lead a major North American city) and so-called "secular muslim" activist Tarek Fatah, who is a well known critic of Canada's multiculturalism policies, engaged in a debate on Al Jazeera English's Riz Khan Show. The premise of the debate was "With Islamophobia on the rise in the US and Europe, has Canada set a different example by electing that country's first ever Muslim mayor?"

I think that Nenshi has successfully exposed Tarek Fatah for the idiot that he is. It doesn't take long for one to clearly see that Fatah truly isn't a very smart man, and that when put up against an individual who is well versed in the realities regarding Multiculturalism in Canada and the circumstances of Muslim-Canadians in particular, he has no choice but to continue throwing out as much alarmist rhetoric as possible to pursue what I see as nothing less than an anti-Canada smear campaign in the name of self-promotion. Fatah has been able to build a considerable base of followers on the political right, precisely because he says exactly what they want to hear.

Not only has Fatah, as Mayor Nenshi correctly pointed out, made a career out of making things seem worse than they actually are, but he brings up alarming and unusual isolated incidents, and even goes so far as to distort facts (just to point out one example, Africville--the district of Halifax in which Tarek Fatah claims that Black-Canadians continue to live segregated from the rest of society, was evicted in the 1960s, and the Government of Nova Scotia has officially apologized for its existence and the untimely eviction, which involved moving the entire population out of their homes (in garbage trucks, no less) to make way for the construction of a suspension bridge. If you plan on visiting the province, there is an exhibit about it on display in the Black Heritage Centre in Preston, NS).

Fatah is right on one thing: Nenshi won the election because he was the best man for the job. He is one of the most competent politicians I have seen come out of this country in a long time. Not only that, but he speaks French, used to work for the United Nations, was a debating champion with Ezra Levant (lol), and holds a degree in Government from Harvard University. His campaign, which used the internet and social networking to mobilize an impressive voter turnout for municipal elections, and got unusually large segments of young people and visible minorities out to vote, is reminiscent of another, much more well-known, politician. Looking to the future, I have high hopes for him.