Home away From home: Challenges and rewards of a Canadian life for the Muslim community

Sometimes in Greater Vancouver, you might get the feeling you are in a Muslim country. The number of Muslims in Canada is now about three per cent of the total population, which makes it the second largest religious group in Canada, after Christians.

According the 2011 census, there are almost 80,000 Muslims living in Vancouver alone, which accounts for 3.5 per cent of the population.

There are many reasons why the Muslims immigrate to Vancouver.

“Some people come to improve their lives, economical reasons. Some people for political reasons, refugees. Some people come just to study to detach. Once they finish their studies, they get a job, the life continues and they don’t go back,” said Hisham Ramadam, specialist of criminology at Kwantlen Polytechnich University.

Ramadam is from Cairo, Egyp,t and he has been living here for 19 years. For him, in Canada, there is freedom of beliefs, but not in the practice of his faith.

“For example, in Muslims dominant countries, they take Friday off because Friday is a day that they get for the prayers. It is like Sunday for Christians. Here, Friday is a working day and they would not be allowed to miss their work to pray,” said Ramadam.

Being Muslim in a country with Christian majority can be hard, especially for women such as Sarah Abo, 19, also from Cairo, Egypt.

She has been living in Vancouver for more than 12 years. She came here when her father wanted to complete his master’s degree at UBC, and then, they decided to live here.

“First, I love the diversity of people in Vancouver along with the easy lifestyle and its beautiful nature. However, I will always love my beautiful home city; where my parents were born and raised,” said Abo.

For her, these reasons compensate for the challenges of living here, being a Muslim women. But still, it is hard. One example of the challenges is the head scarf that the majority of Muslim women wear.

“A lot of people tend to, of course, feel the need to ask what is that you’re wearing on your head and why? A lot of them also judge you wrong before even getting to know you,” said Abo.

“The meaning of the hijab for me is modesty and devotion to God. From my experiences, I always felt that it kept harm away from me and any disrespectful behavior from people.”

People say that Canada is a multicultural place, but a lot of the people here are not able to deal with the differences.

“In my opinion, you can encounter a lot of cover discrimination against Muslim people. All over Canada,” said Ramadam.

Despite all of the cultural differences that surround the Islamic presence in B.C., the Muslim community is strong and growing. BCMuslims.com is a website developed by second-generation Muslims who want to unify and strengthen the community in the province.

Isabela and Gabriela

Exchange Students in Canada, from Brazil.

1 Comment

  • Avatar
    Reply December 6, 2013

    Cindy St-Laurent

    This article was very interesting to read. It’s interesting to see that even though at times being a white person in Vancouver community I feel that I am a minority, yet it seems that most people of different cultures feel the same way. I believe that Canada does try hard to include different cultures but we might not always hit the mark. Guess we have to keep trying 🙂

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