Even I Am Surprised!
Pleasantly surprised, for sure. I may have to change my opinion of Calgary. The people of Calgary have just elected their first mayor who is a Muslim, Naheed Nenshi.
Calgary is Canada "Houston". It is the center of the oil industry. Alberta is also cowboy country. You might say Alberta is Canada's "Texas". Ever since the Trudeau governments, national energy program, a Liberal, or liberal, has not been able to buy a vote there. In short, Calgary and Alberta is conservative and Conservative country. It is the base of our present Conservative government lead by Stephen Harper. If there is one part of Canada that might welcome joining the United States it is Alberta, our most American -like province.
Now the first Muslim to be elected as Mayor of a major Canadian city is in Calgary. Who would have predicted it.
For a while, I have been interested in Muslims in Canada and how they are becoming part of the ethnic mix at all levels. I used to write to a Muslim woman blogger from Bahrain. who was studying at the University of Toronto, that the day will come when a Muslim woman, wearing her hijab would read the news on TV, and no one would comment on it. This has yet to happen. She was sceptical and did not think Canada would change Islam in any way or that Canada would be changed by Islam. For her Muslims would always be outsiders. It will happen. Such is the story of every ethnic and religious group in Canada. By the first or second generation of immigrants born in Canada they will have found a place as part of the cultural mosaic and become "Canadian".
I experience this myself. My grandparents came for England. My mother was born here and had a deep attachment to all things British. At a point I had to tell my mother I was a Canadian and not as interested in all this British stuff. I think she was a little disappointed in me. While my grandmother found great comfort in being part of the "British Empire". (An attitude she told me I should take comfort in whenever I felt down). I did not even think Canada should necessarily jump to Britain's defense in time of war.
I only recently was surprised (after improving the rabbit ears on my TV and getting a
network station I seldom could listen to ) when I watched a reporter with the last name of Housain reporting on a story, (How nice I thought. I bet she is a Muslim.) At the end of her piece she said, "Back to to you Mohammad." ( I didn't expect that.) The times are changing and I find myself (one who think he is progressive and on top of issues) trying to catch up.
In Canada, I find there are more visible ethnic minorities represented on radio and TV news and commentary shows, than in the United States. On radio, my favourite shows are hosted by first generation Canadians of Chinese and Iranian heritage, respectively. I think little of it until they occasionally talk about their immigrant families, or in the case of the Iranian,
Jian Ghomeshi, who identified himself as "not white" which could have fooled me. He sure looks white to me. It was his way of saying he did not identify first with Canadians of European stock. I don't doubt for a moment that he is Canadian, every bit as Canadian as a David Suzuki and any other prominent Canadian.
And now we have a Muslim mayor. Good for Calgary. In fact, he was not a Muslim seeking the office of Mayor. He is a Canadian citizen of Calgary who happened to be a Muslim seeking the office. How Canadian is this!. In Canada, a person's religion is not an issue in politics. Apparently, when it came up, as an "issue" in Calgary it was largely dismissed. In one Calgary paper they wrote it only became an issue when the media tried to make it one and people objected. There were some ethnic incidents but they were largely dismissed and ignored. In fact, it is hard to find anything in Naheed Nenshi's political literature any reference to him being a Muslim.
I tried to google more about his religious affiliation. I suspect he is an Ismaili Muslim, which is a shite group that is lead by the Aga Khan. This is perhaps the Muslim group which most easily can integrate in a culturally mixed society. They have a long tradition of being shop keepers and small business people in may countries they settle and adapted. Canada took in a large number of Ishmaili Muslims when Adi Amin forced them out of Uganda. They fulfilled this mercantile class role in that country. In my home town the local Unitarian Church made space available for the Ismaili communities mosque at the time and for several years. The Nenshi's came to Canada from Tanzania. Perhaps, Nadeem Nenshi is Canada's first African Canadian mayor, also.
To Calgary's credit they elected their mayor on the basis of his qualifications, knowledge of how cities work and should work, his vision of what Calgary could be, his specific criticism of the city administration and how it could be fixed. He is an intelligent, articlulate and charming person.
Here he is explaining his campaign.
Here is another video by his sister where she speaks of her brother and their family.
Congratulations to Calgary for having a young exciting Mayor with a vision for the future of their city. I hope he serves them well and successful so some day we might see him in national politics, where I might vote for him.