Skip to comments.'Fear of Unknown' Leads to Culture Clash
Posted on 01/28/2002 12:44:55 PM PST by Loyalist
'Fear of unknown' leads to culture clash
A mosque is under construction in the hills around Wilno.
It's causing concern in Canada's cradle of Polish Catholicism
The Ottawa Citizen
Monday, January 28, 2002
In the newly fallen snow, along Old Barry's Bay Road, the sacred sentinels are freshly cast in white on the edge of the woods, silently expressing a people's weathered endurance.
There is a plaster Jesus, encircled with plastic lilies and sheltered in a wooden hollow, and Mary, a giant silhouette in steel, and, farther along, Mary and the baby Jesus together, in a locked glass case.
Crosses, some of them holding rosaries, seem ever-present, however unexplained. Behind the trees, down snow-covered summer roads, lie outdoor chapels. There is also the starkly beautiful memorial to the Warsaw uprising of 1944, honouring 10,000 young people, mostly Boy Scouts and Girl Guides, who died trying to push the Nazis out during the Second World War.
The mid-winter woods, meanwhile, are as quiet as a church on Monday.
This is Kaszuby, not far from the first Polish settlement in Canada, the place they crossed an ocean for in 1858, bringing part of Poland with them and uncrating it in this hilly countryside around Wilno.
A little farther along, up a steep hill on Stanley Olsheski Road, there is another religious sign, colourfully painted on plywood: Welcome to Hasanville.
This is not a Polish, Roman Catholic enclave but a small Muslim community. It has existed peacefully for at least five years, until several events last year sparked an open struggle that could only happen in a cultural mosaic like Canada, with its history of ethnic entitlement.
Last fall, the community, which numbers between 30 and 40, began construction of a mosque. Rumours went through Barry's Bay like a rocket, chiefly that the building would hold 1,700 worshippers.
Where would they come from? Would they be bused in? How many trailers or mobile homes would be added to the 120-hectare property? Why had construction stopped after Sept. 11? How long would it be before Kaszuby was a hotbed of Islam?
Why didn't the Hasanville girls go to area schools? Why, why, why?
George Mierzynski, a Toronto resident who has summered near Kaszuby for more than 40 years, wanted answers more than most.
"Can you imagine building a mosque for that many people, in the middle of cottage country, on an old farm, and not going through any public information process to advise people this was happening?"
Mr. Mierzynski, a retired public servant, threw the issue into a public arena earlier this month when he approached the council of Madawaska Valley Township with a list of 16 questions.
He demanded an explanation about the issuance of the building permit and wanted to know what provisions had been made for water, sewage, and the subdivision of property.
Where there was once one mobile home, there were now five civic addresses, an iron gate and what appears to be a guard hut.
Neither is he afraid to address the issue of cultural clash, even at the risk of sounding close-minded, even prejudiced.
"They are a different cultural mix to what has existed in the area and has been built up gradually for 150 years. In one fell swoop, the township approves a totally different ethnic mix, including a religion mix, totally culturally different and nobody knows what's going on."
The council, meanwhile, says everything at Hasanville has been done above board.
"I believe it's the fear of the unknown," said Reeve Bill Schweig, who was clearly unsettled by the thrust of Mr. Mierzynski's arguments.
There are other religious communities nearby, such as Madonna House, the reeve argued. And, he pointed out, didn't the Polish-Canadians set up Boy Scout camps, outdoor chapels and other structures using the same planning rules, however slim?
It has also become apparent that Mr. Mierzynski does not speak for the Polish-Canadian community in the area, many of whom are reacting with a 'live-and-let-live' attitude.
(Predictably, there is not one monolithic 'Polish community' or voice, since there were several waves of immigration: the first during the 19th-century, the second in the early part of the 20th, and after the Second World War.)
Mr. Mierzynski, in the flurry of label-tossing, has been called an "out-of-towner" who does not speak for anyone but himself.
However, Anna Zurakowski, a noted local historian in the area, has some of the same worries.
"We are not against other nationalities, but there are some questions about this big mosque," said Mrs. Zurakowski. "And why did they abandon the work after Sept. 11?"
Hasanville used to reside in the Township of Radcliffe, which was amalgamated at the end of 2001. A rural municipality of cottagers and country homes, it had neither zoning bylaws, nor a real planning regime.
Whenever residents wanted to construct something, they applied for a building permit, which was reviewed and granted by a township official.
In the fall of 2001, the community was given a permit to construct a mosque of 7,800 square feet, about the size of three average homes, on a foundation measuring 40 metres by nine metres. No one seems sure where the figure of 1,700 worshippers came from.
The community, which is fairly reclusive, does itself no favours with its public relations policy.
A Citizen reporter who visited the site was met by a man named Glen, who proceeded to offer a criticism of the modern media, then refer the reporter to their spokesman, for whom he would provide no telephone number.
Eventually, a call was placed to Hasanville's "spokesman," a Brampton, Ont., resident named Mohammed Jilany, 66, a retired businessman and mechanical engineer. He is the chief executive officer of the corporation formed to build the mosque.
He says Hasanville is nothing more than a collection of poor people -- mostly but not exclusively Muslim -- trying to escape the evils of urban Canada and follow the teachings of Islam.
"They couldn't survive in the city. So they've gone to the poor area to survive in a trailer. What is there to write about?" Mr. Jilany asked.
He was not forthcoming about the goals or long-term plans of the community, frequently answering a question with a question. (Sample. Q: "Why have they chosen to live there? A: "Why have you chosen to live in Ottawa?")
Mr. Jilany said the most vocal criticism of Hasanville, which is named for a young man killed in a car accident, is racially motivated. He was heartened by an outpouring of supportive letters in the newspaper, Barry's Bay This Week.
He said Canada's history is the story of newcomers establishing themselves in places where they may not be initially wanted.
"I think it's simply a colour bar, a prejudice," he said of the criticism from the Polish community. "Like any settlers in history, when they come into an area and someone else is already established, they always have a problem of bias of this nature."
As for fears that Muslims would swamp the hard-fought Polish identity, he describes such concerns as "nonsense."
He said almost all the residents of the community are converts to Islam, eking out a living. When he took over the corporation, he said there was 35 cents in the bank.
He denied there was a "guard hut" at the gate, video cameras or any connection to U.S.-funded Muslim organizations.
When asked about community life, he said the girls and young boys are home-schooled by mothers with university degrees.
"According to Islam, girls should not go to public school."
He said the community began by accident about 13 years ago when a Muslim man married an area woman and they began looking for property to buy.
"There is nothing hidden."
He said the mosque will be completed when enough donations can be gathered. He estimated it might hold 150 people.
On May 30, 2001, the community building the mosque incorporated itself as Muslims of the Americas Al Madrasah-lul Islamia. The name only added fuel to the mystery.
In the United States, a group called Muslims of the Americas has set up a number of small communities in isolated areas, often in trailers. However, law enforcement authorities say the American group has links to a terrorist organization called Jamaat ul-Faqra, which has been implicated in violent crimes during the last 20 years.
Mr. Jilany, however, strongly denies any link between Hasanville and the U.S.-based Muslims of the Americas.
He was unable to explain why the Hasanville group would choose such a similar sounding name, saying it had been chosen before he became involved with the organization.
The deep irony about a conflict between Poles and Muslims is that the Poles came to this area precisely because they were being so abysmally treated in their homeland and, once here, had to overcome their share of discrimination.
According to The Polish People in Canada by William Makowski, the first wave of Polish immigrants, the Kashoubs, lived in the northern part of Poland in the great plain that stretched to the Baltic Sea.
During the 19th century, the Kashoub homeland, in another round of Polish-German conflict, was occupied by the Prussians and the people forbidden to speak Polish in schools, offices or churches.
Roughly one-third of the population eventually emigrated. Once in Canada, the Poles had to settle for land not already snapped up by the Scots, English or Irish.
"Poles were always brought up as big patriots," said George Burskie, a vice-president of the Canadian Polish Congress and a long-time seasonal visitor to the area.
"When they got here, they did everything possible to help the old country."
Mrs. Zurakowski, head of the Polish Heritage Institute, Kaszuby, said roadside chapels and outdoor Roman Catholic icons are very common in Poland.
Mass is celebrated every summer at the outdoor chapels, usually attracting hundreds of people. Kaszuby is also the site of a large Boy Scout camp, attracting boys and girls from all over Canada for several weeks every summer.
"This area is very close to all the Polish hearts," she said.
Mr. Mierzynski, meanwhile, says he won't be satisfied until he gets some firm answers, including an idea of how large Hasanville will eventually become and how its growth will be governed in the new municipality.
He also intends to involve the government of Ontario in a possible review of environmental concerns dealing with wells, sewage and other infrastructure.
"There are all kinds of rumours and speculation. Those rumours lead to more questions and some people are actually afraid because they don't know who these people are."
© Copyright2002 The Ottawa Citizen
Muslims of the Americas (MOA) is a virulently anti-Semitic, Islamic extremist group with ties to Al-Fuqra, a terrorist organization that has carried out firebombings and murders in the United States. MOA claims to have offices in six U.S. cities and Toronto and maintains secluded residential communities in New York, Virginia and California. The group's Web site and e-mails have featured writings by notorious anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers, including Michael Hoffman and former Klansman David Duke.
MOA was founded and is led by the radical Pakistani cleric El Sheikh Sayyid Mubarik Ali Jilani (commonly known as Sheikh Jilani or Sheikh Gilani). Based in Lahore, Pakistan, Jilani established MOA in 1980, after arriving in the United States for the first time. In the 1980s, Jilani, who claims to be a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, actively recruited American Muslims to fight against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. MOA claims to have offices in six U.S. cities and Toronto, and it maintains secluded residential communities in New York, Virginia, California, and possibly other states. The group also runs a Web site and an e-mail mailing list.
The available evidence strongly suggests that MOA has served as a corporate front for another group founded by Sheik Jilani, the terrorist organization Al-Fuqra, which has committed firebombings and murders on U.S. soil. Both Sheikh Jilani and MOA officials deny that Al-Fuqra even exists, and MOA claims to be a "peaceful" group. Though relatively few members of MOA have been arrested for criminal activity, two residents of the MOA community in Virginia were recently arrested for firearms violations, and a resident of the MOA community in California was recently arrested for the murder of a Sheriff's Deputy.
Muslims of the Americas: In Their Own Words
Here are examples of anti-Semitic, anti-Christian,anti-American, and homophobic statements made by MOA, as well as comments that promote violence:
"Jews are an example of human Satans. This is why Jews are the founders of Satan worship and Masonic lodges, and are now trying to take over the entire globe in which the global religion is to be Satanism .In the US there are now thousands of temples where Satan is worshipped. This Satanism has now become the ultimate tool in the hands of Zionists. "
...see more at link.
He denied there was a "guard hut" at the gate, video cameras or any connection to U.S.-funded Muslim organizations.
Taquiyya and the race card. This is the public face of Islam in the West today.
Have relatives from there.
That's called a history. Some dudes work hard on it and later they don't have to worry about dangers you described and have more time for tasty Slivovitza.
We learned also (costed millions of lives and about 60 years of totalitarism of both colors) that nothing's more destructive than blind hatred (check the nice developments on Moscow-Warsaw-Berlin axis).
Bought me several flashkas of Zywiec and Okocim beer (nice 0.5 liter flashkas) and kabanosy and brushed up on my pidgin Russian with nice Russian babes in Russian Gourmet yesterday.
Russian Gourmet ...Is some restaurant in some city somewhere? Maybe babes in Polski land more friendly? Who knows?