Canada: A bright hope for liberalism

Canada: A bright hope for liberalism

When I heard the children’s choir in Canada that welcomed the Syrian refugees, I was really moved. They were singing Tala al-Badru Alayna (The Full Moon Rose Over Us), the very tune that was sung to welcome the Prophet Mohammad upon his arrival in Medina from Mecca in the year 620. The Muslim Prophet was then a refugee who barely survived slaughter in his home town. Similarly, the Syrian refuges survived slaughter in their country, and have found peace and comfort thanks to the good people of Canada.

This initial group of refuges to Canada was a small group, but a total of 10,000 Syrian refugees will be accepted this month, and at least 25,000 by the end of March, as the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau refreshingly declared. 

We should all be very thankful to Canada for this warm welcome to the Syrian refuges, who are, unfortunately, refused and even demonized by some bigoted politicians in other Western nations. Moreover, we should be very thankful to Canada for the bright hope it is now offering in a bleak world that is growingly defined by populist politicians and their illiberal constituencies. 

I call today’s world bleak because it has become a far cry from the liberal heaven famously prophesized by the academic Francis Fukumaya in the early 90s. Seeing the end of communism, Fukuyama had then predicted an “end of history,” in which all societies would gradually move to the liberal democracy the West had invented and proved to work well. What we had, however, was the rise of new challenges to liberalism, such as religious fundamentalism in the Muslim world, the far-right in the West and nativist authoritarianism almost all around the globe. 

Hate and fear mongering politicians such as Donald Trump indicate how many inroads this alarming wave has made into key liberal societies such as the U.S. Or in Holland, as seen with Geert Wilders or in France, as seen with Marine Le Pen. 

Of course, this far-right wave in the West is not taking place in a vacuum; it is, at least in part, a reaction to terrorism stemming from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or al-Qaeda, and the threats to the “Western way of life” in general. However, this reaction is doomed to make everything only worse, eroding the very values the West claims to believe in and only feeding reaction on the other side of the civilizational divide.

That is why we need outliers to take the world out of this vicious cycle. And that is why Canada’s political line of today, under the leadership of the Liberal Party of Justin Trudeau, is a hope not only for its own society but for the whole world.

Trudeau defines Canada as “the first post-national state” that has “no core identity, no mainstream.” He shows he means this by his very cabinet, which includes 15 women, three Sikhs, a Muslim, and two disabled people. As he underlined in his welcome speech to the Syrian refugees:   

“This is something that we are able to do in this country because we define a Canadian not by a skin color or a language or a religion or a background, but by a shared set of values, aspirations, hopes and dreams that not just Canadians but people around the world share.”

Those values, aspirations, hopes and dreams are indeed universal. And as someone who shares them from a faraway society, let me thank Canada, once again, for showing that they are alive. They might not bring the “end of history.” But they may at least stand firmly in the face of history’s dark forces.