Armenian module should have been dropped entirely
TORONTO, June 12 /CNW/ - The Muslim Canadian Congress (MCC) expresses
deep disappointment at the TDSB decision to include the Armenian Genocide in
the grade 11 curriculum without any provision to teach students about the
ethnic cleanising of Muslims from the Balkans and southern Europe leading up
to World War One.
The mandate of the Muslim Canadian Congress (MCC) includes advocacy for
human rights and the integration of Muslims into Canadian society. We never
shy from criticizing our own community when we we feel they have acted against
Canadian values. Likewise, we are equally forthright about any public policy
issues that we feel will contribute to the further marginalization of Muslims
and inhibit their smooth integration into Canadian society.
In this context we feel that the Toronto District School Board (TDSB)
should have excluded the Armenian module from the Grade 11 history course
(CHG38M). We say this not because we deny the pain and suffering of the
Armenian community. In fact we recognise that hundreds of thousands of
Armenians were massacred and died in the war, but to call this a Genocide
committed by Muslims against Christians is a dangerous precedent and covers up
the horrendous ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Christian majority states
leading up to the war.
The subject of Genocide is an important one and should be discussed.
However unlike the Holocaust and Rwanda case which represent clear instances
of genocide, there is a lack of consensus on describing the Armenian deaths as
a genocide. We feel that in the absence of an independent and neutral legal
tribunal that would weigh the records of all sides involved in the conflict,
the label of "genocide" is improper and is a serious stigma that will stay
with young Muslim students in the TDSB school system.
The Western narrative on late Ottoman history has almost exclusively
focused on Christian suffering. Western education ignores the contemporaneous
Ottoman Muslim experience of ethnic cleansing from their homes. Hundreds of
thousands of Muslim civilians, at a minimum, were also massacred or died of
starvation and disease. This selective focus is in part a reflection of long
established bias in our Western education system, which mischaracterizes the
events circa 1915 exclusively as a classic case of Muslim oppressors and
Christian victims. Unfortunately, this course perpetuates that stereotype.
The TDSB could have included books by respected historians such as Justin
McCarthy, who wrote "Death and Exile: The Ethnic cleansing of Ottoman Muslims,
1821 to 1922," and others like him. But the TDSB appears oblivious of the
tragedies that befell Muslims of the time and region.
CHG38M has many worthy goals, among them to explore in depth, think
critically and debate, leading to understanding and empathy for all victims,
regardless of faith or tribe. But this learning process is only possible if
students receive a full historical context, not selective history. In its
present biased form, the Armenian module will ensure that the existing
stereotype of Muslims, as an inherently violent people, will be further
strengthened by a very one-sided view of events during the early 20th century
decline of the Ottoman Empire. If the TDSB cannot include in the curriculum
Muslim suffering at the hands of Christians during the early 20th century,
then the MCC believes the Armenian module should have been dropped entirely.
For further information:
For further information: Farzana Hassan, (905) 274-5650