Sunday, March 14, 2010

Dubai vs. Toronto: Part 3 - Living in Toronto

Part 1: The Myths of Dubai
Part 2: The Harsh Truth Facing Immigrants to Canada
Part 3: Living in Toronto
Part 4: The Islamic and Cultural Aspect
Part 5: Dubai or Toronto?

I have so much (controversial?) stuff to say for Part 4, but first, let me give you my reflections of Living in Toronto.

If you think about "arranged marriage" - it's the reverse of a tradition Western romance - first comes the ceremony of marriage, then comes the physical intimacy, and finally, as you get to know your spouse, love. Moving to a different city after living a long time in another can be compared similarly to an 'arranged marriage'. First, you move to the city, and then get to know the ins and outs of this city, the transportation, how everything works, etc. very well. Finally, given time, you fall in love with the city.

After all, I had just moved from this:

to this:

Living in Toronto is generally a very good experience. Let me give you some of the ideas that I had when I came here to Toronto, myths, if you will.

Myth 1. The society in the West is all about sex and “enjoying life”; they have no culture of family life.

I think we all watched a little too much Bold and Beautiful when we were in UAE. Yes, in college, there were drunken parties by some people where untold acts occurred, but on the whole people here have the same attitudes to relationships that we do – they are looking for the one to settle with. They may take a little longer to get there, and may play the field along the way, but once they get older and are married, it’s not that everyone is having affairs right and left. I have worked with people for ten years and have yet to hear of a marriage breakdown. Meanwhile, divorce rates in UAE is touching 50%, and Saudis are the ones looking for sex on the internet.

Myth 2. People in the West have no culture and this is a very materialistic society.

So proud of I was of my Eastern origins that the first time I went fishing with my classmates in university, I remember thinking, 'what do they know of fishing - Bangladesh is the land of many rivers' - as if somehow being from Bangladesh automatically taught you how to fish! I remember feeling somewhat foolish when they were catching fish left and right with their artificial bait while my worm-laden hook was being ignored.

I have learned long since that while cultures vary, universal human values remain the same wherever you go. And Canada upholds a lot of the same values we are so proud of in Islam – caring for your fellow humans, charity, giving, respect towards minorities and those oppressed, freedom, etc. When I traveled to the US, I was astonished at how materialistic a society that was, compared to Canada. Here was one country where people OPPOSED giving other people help with health care, because it could raise their taxes. Every time I come back across the 49th parallel back to Canada, I feel at home.

Myth 3. Toronto was a buzzing city full of work.

It’s a buzzing city all right, but no work! As I said in my last part, the work you do will be very different.

Myth 4. Toronto is a very cold city.

Weather is no doubt much better elsewhere - Canada is a very cold country. But I have noticed one fact amongst immigrants here.

Those who complain most about the weather and how cold it is here are often most depressed, inactive, lazy, fat and sick. Then there are those immigrants that learn how to ski, how to skate, how to go for drives and learn about fireplaces and make hot chocolate and maple syrup and attend hockey games - those adapt to the culture and thrive. Toronto is not Antarctica!

Concluding, the biggest thing about living in Toronto is that it has something for everyone. Indeed, one of the lovely facts about Toronto is that every immigrant group thinks it is the dominant group in Toronto. Not only that, people feel about this city. I guess that is a consequence of citizenship. I could have lived elsewhere for years but if that city never considered me as one of their own, I could never have belonged.

In part 4, I want to discuss Islam and culture. I have heard from many people that in many ways Canada is more of a muslim country than Islamic countries, while other people have said you can only live as a true Muslim ONLY in an Islamic country. To me, that is a fascinating topic to explore.


Farah said...

Er, take a look at 60s vs 90s

Women had an average of 5.65 sexual partners by the time they were 24. Almost one in 10 of those asked claimed to have slept with more than 10 partners.

Anonymous said...

You know, when I went back home for my vacation. I was asked if there was *religion* Islamic to be specific in Canada. I was so surprised why someone would ask me this. Everyone thinks that when you live in the west, there's no religion, people walk around practically naked with bottles of booze! I have actually found myself closer to my religion that I have ever been in my life! I find that people respect who you are, well, that's my experience so far. And no one stares at you!! The only thing I miss is being close to my family. sf

Anonymous said...

Liked the bit about 'arranged marriage':)

So many assumptions are made of people who live in the west simply because their country is upholdidng the islamic law which is = God's law.And therefore their superior status.Only if they see more closely to what they follow.

Muslim Girl said...

Ooh sounds the next part sounds interesting, especially the "Is it easier to be a Muslim in the West" part.

I think I once heard/read that Hamza Yusuf said that it is.. and he got a lot of slack from Islamic countries for saying that... but I think he may be right!

Suroor said...

This is so interesting! Thanks a lot for sharing your opinions.

I was reading a *private* report which claims that by the age of 17 years at least 80% of the girls in KSA and UAE have had lesbian encounters. Sex is sex, whether it is with a man or a woman when you segregate genders this will happen, that doesn't make Muslim countries better than the West. IMHO.

Nadia said...

'liya was asking last night about updates on your Dubai vs Toronto series :)

She and V haven't read this post yet, but they mentioned the same things about Toronto as you have mentioned here.

Can't wait for the next part!

Dave said...

Mezba, another fine post making for interesting reading.

I look forward to reading the next one as I believe it will provoke some interesting online responses.

youngMuslimah said...

well, i have never been to canada but my family there keep telling me how it's so much better than the US.

im looking fwd to part 4. my own opinion is - be the best muslim you can no matter where you are. i usually tend to avoid east vs west topics. not all people make the same choices. and not all of them have the same consequences.

youngMuslimah said...

where's my comment?

Musa said...

I can probably write a thesis on practising Islam in East and West, however in a summary:

1) Its easier to practise Islam in some parts of the West than in most parts of the Muslim World. Toronto and most British towns would fall under that "easy to practise Islam" category.

2) Apart from some places with whackjob regimes like Tunisia, Turkey, Uzbekistan, it isnt that difficult to practise Islam in Muslim countries.

3) However, many Muslims in Muslim countries do have a huge chip on their shoulders and like to go on rants on the "immoral west" and the "land of Kuffar" and "the West with its decadent values" as opposed to "Dar al Islam" where everyone can practise Islam perfectly well.

'liya said...

It may be cold here, but Dubai is oppressively HOT, I'd take the cold over the hot any day. Now I know why there's so many malls there, there's nothing you can do outside comfortably in that kind of heat!

iMuslim said...

I like Canada. I could see myself living there quite happily, if I ever had to. Allah knows best. :)

I agree that every human population has its own culture. Saying that, I think British culture is much harder to identify with nowadays. Many 'folkish' stuff is seen as sad and embarrassing by the youth, who would rather live like Americans. Comedy is probably the only thing we have going for us that is truly 'unique'. :)

mezba said...

I had a lost pet to take care off, so couldn't get to replying soon.

Farah, yes I think it's pretty common for people here to have multiple sexual encounters because they don't believe in that chastity till marriage any more (for the most part), but that's mostly the young age. Once they have a family, it's about the family.

Sf, I too have found similar "religious arrogance", shall we say, when I go back there. It's going to make for an interesting next post.

Lat, in the West I feel you have more freedom to be you whereas in the East it's much easier to assimilate. However, it sucks to be a bit different.

Muslim Girl, yep, I think one of the Western sheikhs said it, and I think he was just being patriotic! Although I have heard Dr Suwaidan of Kuwait say it too.

Suroor, wow, that's certainly an eye opener. Although you have to think, the Saudi model of segregation isn't really healthy. It's quite perverse.

Nadia, iA I will have it soon. Just been a bit down due to our missing cat.

YM, true, I have been to both places and I feel much more at home in Canada than the States.

Musa, you should get a blog bro... you sound like you have lot of thoughts to share!

Liya, yup.. summer there was quite boring... we would all head out! But er, this is March, and still hoT?!! wow...

iMuslim, even the Swiss has better fish n chips now than the Brits! :-)

mezba said...

Dave, thanks for the comment!

luckyfatima said...

Salaam Mezba,

I can't comment on the Toronto thing because I have never been there. I eagerly await your post four. I will say that in the US I was part of an active Muslim community and attended functions and learning events and so forth. Here, there are some active Muslim organizations for English speakers, but they are very ultra conservative and encourage men to wear Arabic thobes and women to wear niqaabs and all (lots of desis here go for this stuff), all the Salafi hard-liner stuff. The "middle ground" Muslim people are just going about their business living, but we don't have welcoming Islamic community activities. I felt like I did a lot more Islamic learning and socialized and felt like part of a community in the two cities I lived in as a Muslim in the US.

I agree with your main premise in this post that ultimately people have similiar values despite our superficial differences.

Ilham said...

I think in the Eastern countries especially the Middle Eastern countries, there are a lot more so-called wilder experiences going on, because of the overt conservatism, the subjugation of human sexuality and desire, all in the name of assimilating everyone and making everyone like each other. Differences aren't accepted and are barely tolerated.

Whether the laws of the land or the culture and tradition require assimilation or not, one can't ever stamp out a person's individual desires and wishes, be they sexual or non-sexual.

Moreover, with globalization now, people in the Middle East & other Asian countries are seeing the lifestyles in the West, even for immigrants and visible minorities in the West: they are perceiving (perhaps incorrectly) that the West is a too liberal, sexually open & permissive society, where one gets to do what they want; thus the youths in other countries want to emulate that & even surpass it.

mezba said...

Luckyfatima, I have heard from many people who lived in Houston, Texas that they enjoyed being part of a vibrant Muslim community there.

In Toronto, especially after I attended the first few RISs, I felt a sense of connection and that finally - someone is speaking the Islam that I practice. I have always found the Middle Eastern approach to Islam as too material specific and "letter of law over spirit". Plus, most of the stuff used to be in Arabic anyways.

Ilham, there was a lot more "secrecy" in the Middle East, that's for sure. Here, everything is out in the open.

For example, everyone says it's easy to be Muslim in UAE, but only if you are Sunni, do not oppose the government, accept Wahhabi practices, etc. etc. How about Ahmadiyyas? Shias? Isnahsharis? How are their separate Islamic practices tolerated?

Even culturally, to me it seems UAE is confused now. While encourage free tourism from the West, now they are trying to clamp down on some of the wilder practices.

Clamping down isn't necessarily bad (it's their culture after all) but you have to be open about it. And the people have to want it.