This past Tuesday, President Barack Obama delivered his farewell address stressing the threats to national unity to come during Donald Trump’s reign after he is sworn in next week as America’s 45th President. While this is a very scary idea to most of us, especially as Muslims, on the other side of the border in Canada, a different kind of change is making headlines: Somali-born Muslim Ahmed Hussen, MP for York South-Weston, has been appointed the nation’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship.
A breakthrough for Muslim representation especially amidst the recent violent outbreaks toward Muslim males these last few months in the West, Hussen’s appointment will serve as an inspiration to Muslims – male and female – that anything is possible.
The result of hard work
Hussen’s humble story represents one of many who have struggled and came to Canada for better prospects. Originally a refugee from Somalia, Ahmed came to Canada at the age of 16 and graduated high school in Hamilton. He would eventually work in a gas station to pay his tuition at York University and later complete law school at the University of Ottawa, following which he would advocate for the impoverished in his community and even revitalize a housing project.
Regardless of individual positions on the Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau’s handle of the economy, one thing is for certain: His party is open to diversity and immigration. Hussen repeated this message shortly after the news of his appointment. “The story of Canada is the story of immigration, and I’m especially proud and humbled that the prime minister would task me with this important role”.
Despite challenges Muslims face with immigration policies in the United States, Canada has defied these trends, accepting early 40,000 Syrian refugees this past year alone. In 1972, Prime Minister Trudeau’s father, former Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau and his government began accepting Ugandan Asian refugees, many of whom were adherents to the Muslim faith. By the end of 1974, nearly 8,000 of them made Canada their home.
Hussen’s personal story, experience and knowledge of these matters will bring a new better-informed perspective to this position. Outside the House of Commons in Ottawa, Hussen said: “I am extremely proud of our country’s history as a place of asylum, a place that opens its doors and hearts to new immigrants and refugees, and I’m especially proud today to be the minister in charge of that file”. By the end of 2017, his ministry plans to admit over 300,000 new permanent residents to Canada.
This article is written by Alykhan. Alykhan is an African British-Indian & Iranian born and raised in Vancouver. He is a technology aficionado promoting innovation in mental health and neurodegenerative disease currently completing his undergraduate degree. He can be found on Twitter at @alykhans.