Acknowledging the Indigenous land we have settled on
By Muneeb Nasir
Seeking forgiveness and repentance are essential practices of a believer in God.
The principles and pre-requisites for repentance that we practice to redress violations of the rights of God and against someone else are important principles.
These principles that include truth telling (sincerely acknowledging wrongdoings and having remorse; reconciliation (seeking to redress wrongs); and restitution (compensating for wrongs we commit) should also apply to how we deal with injustices in our society.
Canada is commemorating 150 years of Confederation, the passage of the British North American Act that approved the union of 4 provinces in 1867.
However, some Indigenous people and others felt a sense of indignation at the recent celebrations – how can the country celebrate a history which has been one of colonization for them, and a destruction of their culture and possession of their land.
The reason for this response is understandable.
The arrival of settlers in this land led to the near destruction of the Indigenous civilization and people who had lived here for thousands of years – wars, disease and starvation nearly wiped out the Indigenous people.
Treaties were abandoned and Indigenous people were confined to small reserves; they were regarded as “savages” whose souls needed to be saved, and whose children were taken away and put into residential schools to be civilized.
Although this country today has become an open and inclusive society for immigrants, it has not been so for the original peoples of this land.
We are all settlers who have migrated to this land.
We or our fore-parents came, mostly from developing countries – the ‘third world’ – to live in this developed land – the ‘first world.’
However, the indigenous peoples of this land continue to live in ‘third world conditions.’
They have undergone injustices brought on by colonization and centuries of successive immigration.
The tragedy of children and young people wishing to commit suicide, boil water warnings on reserves, and indigenous women being killed remind us, every day, of the conditions faced by the First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples in this land.
We are now settlers in this land and, as a significant religious community, we must now find ourselves on the right side of history.
Justice is a defining moral virtue in our religion.
God calls us to enjoin justice.
This call to justice requires us to search out the injustice in this land and be on the side of the unjustly treated.
We would be morally compromised when we speak about the injustice of occupation, settlements and open-air prisons in other parts of the world, yet we are silent about similar situations in this country.
We must move to a position where we acknowledge the historical and current injustices of our Indigenous sisters and brothers, educate ourselves about their histories and situation, and become their allies.
Today, we acknowledge that we are praying in this mosque on the sacred territorial land of the Indigenous people.
We acknowledge and recognize the contributions to the essential character of this country of the First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples.
And we pray for the understanding and peaceful resolution of issues affecting Indigenous communities and people.
(Excerpts from a Friday Sermon delivered by Muneeb Nasir at Masjid Toronto on Friday, July 14, 2017. Muneeb Nasir is a Muslim religious leader, interfaith activist and writer. He is the Managing Editor of the online magazine IQRA.ca).