The story in the local news goes like this: "Islamophobia presentation offers safe space to ask questions and learn about Islam."
With an accompanying photo:
My question is: Have things changed so much from when I was a teenager? Because if I try to envision myself as a 13-year-old kid I can't help but think that I'd be mortified to be associated with this group of adults. I was embarrassed enough by my parents, as most kids were. I can't imagine how horrified I would have been if my dad wore a dress with running shoes.
Of course, you can unpack this pretty easily. The pressure to conform is probably a lot stronger in a place like Stratford where you stand out like a sore thumb. The Indian kids with a Hindu background on my street have essentially shed their ethnic origins. I'll never forget gushing once to the girl how much I loved Indian food. She frowned and said: "I don't eat Indian food," and it dawned on me just how patronizing I must have sounded to this preteen kid. Yikes.
Meanwhile, in a place like Toronto you've got a large community no matter what your ethnic origin, a situation that tends to inspire a complacent sense of belonging.
On the other hand, in the current global climate Muslims probably perceive themselves as being under siege more so than other ethnic minorities, so even here in Stratford I wouldn't be surprised if most of the kids of Syrian refugees would continue to have a firm sense of their identify as Muslims regardless of what their classmates are up to. Not to mention that Islam is generally a much more strident, aggressive religion that doesn't countenance wavering anyway.
Christians used to be like that (a lot in the U.S. still are), except that back when all the Dutch came over they simply set up their Reformed churches and didn't expect the non-Dutch to join in or care what they were doing on Sundays. Same with the Lutherans. And the Mennonites. Etc.
I guess the optimistic hope is that eventually Islam will blend in and be counted as just another of the various religions offered on the palette, and that there will be just as many cultural Muslims who are secular in all but name as there now are Christians. Somehow I suspect that photos like those above might play a role in moving the next generation of Canadian-raised Muslims away from stridency and toward mainstream Canadian society. At least out here in the provinces, anyway.
Or am I underestimating the hold that identity politics has on people?