Canada appears as well to havevirtually no elected Muslim politicians--federal, provincial or evenmunicipal.
Why don't Muslims receive these kinds of honors and fill these kindsof positions in Canada? asks Aziz Khaki, a leader of the new CanadianMuslim Federation.
It's not right that Muslims aren't given such recognition, Khakisays, especially since Muslims now constitute the country's secondlargest religion after Christianity.
A new voice wants a more prominent role in Canada's multiculturalchorus.
At the same time the country's more than 600,000 Muslims marked theholy month of Ramadan by fasting during daylight hours until Wednesday, they also began to come together to change the face ofCanadian society so it will better reflect Muslim aspirations.
Muslim groups across the country are stepping up efforts to gettheir message out on politics, education, health, crime, immigration andforeign affairs. They're championing positions that are conservative onprivate morality, but liberal on government intervention.
Canada's Muslims, whose numbers are doubling every decade because ofhigh immigration, have largely avoided the public spotlight until now.They've been concentrating on setting up businesses, said BritishColumbia-based Khaki, as well as building mosques and Muslim privateschools. Some have also kept low profiles to avoid being stereotyped asfundamentalists or terrorists.
But now they're flexing their political muscle. They're followingthe lead of other minority groups--women, homosexuals, Jews, Sikhs --and trying to emerge from what they feel has been anonymity.
This new battle for attention and influence has been sparked in partby Muslims' fast-rising numbers in Canada, but also by this year'stroubles in Israel, where Jews are caught in increasingly violentconflict with Palestinians, most of whom are Muslims.
Canadian Muslims realize they haven't been as effective as Jews ingetting out their concerns to the North American public. In response, acoalition of Muslim groups ran newspaper advertisements in Ottawa, thenation's capital, during the federal election campaign, calling onCanada to urge Israel to withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
"It's about time for us to be seen and to influence politicalpolicy," said Ontario's Mohamed Elmsmasry, chair of the Canadian MuslimCongress.
Another way for federal and provincial governments to startrecognizing Muslims is by honoring those who are outstanding, saidKhaki. That means government must begin bestowing national titles suchas the "Order of Canada" or provincial honors such as the "Order ofBritish Columbia" on Muslims who contribute to society.
It also means federal and provincial governments must startappointing some of the country's many Muslim lawyers as judges, saidKhaki, who is also vice president of the Muslim Communities of Canada.
Realizing that Canadian Muslims' lack of recognition has been partlycaused by their own insular attitudes, Muslim groups are beginning toencourage Muslims to vote for receptive politicians and enter nominationbattles for civic, provincial and federal office.
Muslims want changes in numerous arenas of Canadian life:
-- Education. Muslims would like public schools to provide Muslimstudents with a place to conduct their noon prayers on Fridays, which isthe Muslim sabbath. They also want Canadian companies to grant employeesan extended lunch on Fridays to attend mosque. Muslims are alsobeginning to lobby Canadian colleges and universities that teach courseson Islam, asking them to make sure the instructors are Muslim.
-- Health. Muslim leaders want a national policy that will ensurethe country's hospitals are able to serve food that is preparedaccording to Muslim dietary codes, which parallel Jewish kosher laws.Muslims also want hospitals to provide patients withgovernment-subsidized Muslim spiritual guides similar to the wayhospitals currently subsidize some Christian chaplains.
-- Crime. Since Islam forbids all intoxicants, Muslim groups seekstricter laws forbidding young people from using drugs or alcohol. Theyalso want stiffer sentences for anyone who abuses young people.
-- Social services. Despite their get-tough-on-crime approach,Muslim leaders believe the best way to prevent crime is for governmentsto come to the aid of economically marginalized people, Khaki said. Thatincludes providing proper housing, income supplements and communityservices for the less fortunate.