Calgary Mayor Nenshi ‘shaken’ by racism in debate over refugee crisis

One of the best argued pieces on refugee and immigration fears:

“I don’t mind telling you that I have been shaken over the last four months by a tiny minority of the discourse,” the mayor said in an interview in his office.

“I haven’t heard stuff like that in a long time, and I think the really divisive rhetoric [around accommodating Syrian refugees] during the election gave people permission to say stuff that wasn’t polite to say in modern society. And that is absolutely different than it was six or seven months ago.”

Since becoming the country’s first Muslim mayor in 2010, Mr. Nenshi has been reluctant to wade into the often sensitive and difficult discussions that have taken place about followers of his religion. He says he is the mayor of a multicultural community of 1.2 million and not a religious authority who can speak on behalf of Muslims everywhere.

However, the current conversation in Canada and around the world seems to have stirred some genuine feelings of angst from within. He said he is “very concerned” when Muslims “are asked to apologize for Muslims everywhere.”

“Every one of the terrorists so far has been a man,” he said. “We don’t ask all men to apologize on behalf of all men when stuff like this happens. We certainly don’t ask Christians to apologize when there is a mass shooting involving someone who happens to be Christian.

“But, of course, it’s different, because these people [the terrorists] purport to be doing this work in the name of their faith. But the guy in Norway [mass murderer Anders Breivik] was also that way. But we didn’t ask every Lutheran to apologize for what he did.”

The mayor said Canada has a “tiny minority” of people who assume anyone who is a Muslim or an Arab “must be in cahoots with the terrorists that they are, in fact, actually fleeing from.” He also questioned some of the terrorists-will-come logic being used in an attempt to thwart the Syrian refugee plan in this country.

He said if he was organizing a plot to infiltrate Canada, he would consider the fact that terrorists were able to get people in France and Belgium to do horrible things inside their own countries. “If someone pulls out a French passport, they can be in Calgary in seven hours,” the mayor said, “without checks of any kind.

“So why would I want to embed bad guys, put them on leaky boats where they could die, have them sit in a refugee camp possibly for 18 months, in the hopes they might end up in a country where they might want to do bad stuff? It’s way easier to do bad stuff in other ways.”

The mayor said that when he hears about the racist behaviour that has taken place in recent days in this country, it hurts him as a Canadian.

Source: Calgary Mayor Nenshi ‘shaken’ by racism in debate over refugee crisis – The Globe and Mail

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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