Islamic Education and Multiculturalism: Engaging with the Canadian Experience

Faisal Ali, Carl Bagley

Abstract


Canada has a long history of immigration by diverse ethnic minority groups arriving in the hope of establishing economically successful – yet socially and culturally distinct – communities based on particular values and beliefs not necessarily shared by the ethnic majority. In recent years however the arrival of new immigrants whose values differ from the mainstream has intensified the multicultural debate, as the aspirations and needs of ideologically-motivated minorities feel current policies and institutions marginalize their values and beliefs (not dissimilar to that historically encountered by Canada‘s indigenous people). As a result of these social divergences, the secular state and orthodox religious groups often compete for the hearts and minds of children. Consequently as Muslim communities in Canada seek to protect their children and youth from perceived negative outside influences so Islamic schools have been established. Such schools face particular challenges in negotiating the tensions between their aspiration to preserve Islamic values and wider socio-political pressures to integrate into Canada‘s multicultural society as a whole. This article engages with this tension to uncover and explore the nature of Islamic education and its potentially contested relationship with Canada‘s multicultural ideals. In concluding it reflects on possible ways in which multicultural-Islamic education tensions might be ameliorated.

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