Dr. David Farmani
(Dr. David Farmani is full-time professor at Seneca College and adjunct professor at York University)
Voting is a right of all eligible Canadian citizens and it is imperative for all members of Muslim community to take this right seriously. There are over a million Muslims in Canada and this community can make a significant difference in all elections through participation. Their participation may set direction for government policy. On the contrary, Muslims who refuse to vote would easily give up their rights and responsibilities to make a difference. Further, a poor Muslim voter’s turnover would send a message to the politicians and community leaders that Muslim community is a passive one and has no desire to participate or take a lead in setting policy that affect the interest of their community.
In order to protect our civil rights and our community interests, we must be involved in every step of the political process. This requires us to build a collaborative relationship with non-Muslims and share leadership with other communities in shaping different policies in Canada. Such active integration in Canadian Mosaic will also afford us the opportunity to promote the teachings of Islam as a religion of peace, harmony, tolerance, justice, respect and equality across different sectors of Canadian nation. It will also help us protect our human rights and guarantee the fulfillment of our community’s collective rights such as protection against sweeping generalizations about Muslims, prejudice against their rituals and appearance, and unrealistic expectation that immigrant Muslim communities should abandon their faith. Muslims’ involvement in the Canadian politics will also empower the community to take a more active role in the improvement of living conditions of all Muslims and non-Muslims in Canada. Finally, we will be able to extend our support to our fellow Muslims around the world and set an example for Muslim minorities living in other non-Muslim countries that Muslims can shape their social destiny by participating in their country’s political process.
I believe whatever helps us to achieve these noble goals becomes obligatory. Our participation in political process in a peaceful manner is an obligation in Islam, and not merely “a right” that we can choose to forfeit at will. As Muslims, we have the duty to command good and forbid evil. Elections can provide us with the means to exercise such duty as it gives us an opportunity to actively integrate in the structure of Canadian society and take part in formulating those policies that promote peace and equality while eliminating discrimination, hate, division and fear.
Raising awareness about certain issues may not always be fully realized through marching on the street or boycotting certain business sectors. If we really want to change the status-quo, then we need to have representatives among those who walk the corridors of power. Muslims need not only to vote, but put forward Muslim candidates in all the mainstream and serious independent parties. We also need to support, politically and financially, those non-Muslim candidates whose beliefs and values are most compatible with ours and who are willing to address and support our causes and issues. This way, we will be represented or be present at the tables around which policies are discussed, made and agreed. As a result, we will actively integrate in the political fabric of Canada and become an integral part of in the policy-making process.
Do not forget that the provincial election in Ontario is on horizon and we can make a huge difference in the government policies. All eligible Muslim voters in Ontario are urged to take their civic responsibility of voting as an issue of utmost concern and not underestimate the importance of a single vote. In order to use our vote wisely and make the best possible decision, every voter must acquaint themselves with the candidates running in their ridings and educate themselves about their platforms and policies. Further, all are encouraged to acquaint themselves with the available alternative ways of voting, such as advance voting and voting by mail. We must be prepared to make an informed decision that will help our province in general and our community in particular.
In conclusion, I urge all young people to volunteer their time to ensure all members of Muslim community are registered and ensure on the election-day, the entire community cast their vote. The two steps are together an essential part of the electoral process. They provide us with one of the most effective solutions to establish ourselves in Canadian political landscape, exercise our civil rights and make sure our voice is being heard loud and clear.