Muslim Day at Canada’s Wonderland

Muslim Day, Canada's WonderlandWhat a grasping, conniving friend Facebook is! In a bid to win my heart, thinking it knows my mind, it’s been showing specially tailored adverts in my newsfeed sidebar. This is nothing new, but something caught my eye the other day. Among the urdu car ads, and the muslim package holidays (never in a million!), I’ve been exhorted to enjoy Muslim Day at Canada’s Wonderland.

As “Canada’s premier amusement park” with the most roller-coasters anywhere outside of the US, it boasts over 200 attractions, and it’s making these available almost exclusively to muslims tomorrow – with the added sweetener of discounted tickets. Us muslims like a bargain as much as the next person. The 11th incarnation of this annual event promises performances by muslim musical artists, lectures from a shaykh, a halal food hall and places to pray.

Acceptance or separatism?

This reminds me again of the high level of acceptance shown to all races and religions by Canada, and for that I’m grateful. But at the same time, it annoys me. Why do muslims need a day all their own to go to the amusement park? What’s wrong with going along with everyone else? I can deal with choosing the vegetarian dish at the restaurant, although availability of halal food would demonstrate the kind of acceptance that REALLY makes a difference. I’ve managed to sort out my own prayers all these years. If I need some guidance about my religion, I have friends and mentors I can turn to. As a muslim, I don’t need help to accommodate my “special requirements”, any more than I require constant religious reminders or the spurious solidarity of people whose views may well be as far removed from mine as if I were a different religion altogether.

Helping muslims after 9/11

Muslim Day founder, Toronto-based community organiser Asad Dean, has always been unflinching in his condemnation of fundamentalist Islam, so why initiate such a separatist event? In the year following 9/11, in an effort to uplift his local muslim community and celebrate the positive elements of his faith, he staged an event that would allow “Toronto youth to enjoy a very Canadian summer experience without sacrificing their needs as Muslims.” I can see how his idea was borne of positivity, but the obligations (not needs) of the muslim faith don’t exist independently from the world we live in. We have to find ways to incorporate them into everyday life, not by cutting ourselves off from it.

Part of society

There is more to all of us than the label of our religions/beliefs. Is it only muslims who seek out this strange kind of exclusive inclusion?

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“Yay! We’re accepted by society, they’re letting us have Muslim Day at Wonderland”, “Fantastic, but it’s muslims only though, right?”

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If we fancy some fun of the roller-coaster kind, we’ll be going along with the rest of the hoi polloi…

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14 Comments

  1. I really enjoyed reading your post – you make some very good points, which can be applied to any faith, really. Did you know that Canada’s Wonderland also has a “Christian Day” (and probably other “special” days!)? I guess it all comes down to the fact that people usually like spending time with like-minded people. I’m with you, though – I’d rather go when it’s not a segregated-type of day (although I’d rather not go at all!).

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    • Hmmm, too much time spent with like-minded people means we set limits on our opportunities to develop our understanding. I didn’t know they had a Christian Day, but my feelings are unchanged. I have no wish to be segregated by religion, or any other qualifier. Thank for your comment and support.

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  2. Yes, I am sure I would feel just the same way… And I guess non-Muslims would likely not go, would they? A kind of segregation even in your relaxation and enjoyment. Yes, if they had halal meat at the restaurant on a regular basis, that’s the kind of thing that would make sense (to me) and really mean “acceptance.”

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  3. I did not know that this existed considering it is the 11th annual year. I’m not sure if I feel this leads to separation or acceptance. Considering it is one day a year probably neither is my guess. If people enjoy themselves though and is in any way positive sure, why not.

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  4. What happens if a non-Muslim shows up? Are they turned away at the gate? I think it is odd to have a special day for any religion at Wonderland. Let us all enjoy the amusement park together. Togetherness breeds acceptance in my book.

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    • My understanding is that they have a certain capacity and sell tickets according to that. On Muslim Day, 75% of the tickets are reserved for Muslims – but don’t ask me how they verify that someone is a genuine Muslim *shrugs*

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  5. I agree with you totally and have found this “Muslim Day” idea excluding of others. We came to Canada by choice so we can share our common interests – why is there a need for a Muslim day when Musilms are finding more freedoms here then they would in most Muslims lands.

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    • I’m honoured by the comment Raheel. I can’t think of any way in which a trip to an amusement park on any other day might make it difficult for a muslim to adhere to their faith. Muslim need to get out in their communities and communicate if we are to break down the barriers of ignorance and stigma that have hardened since 9/11.

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  6. In the UK there’s a Christian day for youth at Alton Towers once a year. The event is organised by a Christian group thus it’s supposed to be about the speakers and faith, and my guess is they stage it in a theme park simply to make it more attractive to young people (who probably view the talks as secondary to a cheap day at a theme park in the off season).

    If you go I’d be interested to hear whether, after attending, you think the day was organised to bring people together for faith reasons or if it felt like a normal day in the park where most attendees happen to be Muslim, with a few faith-based talks on the side.

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    • I won’t be attending Ruth – it smacks of separatism to me.

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  7. Interesting concept. Not sure what I think of it.

    But I do remember Canada’s Wonderland well. I also remember going on the world’s first ‘standing up’ roller coaster. I had never been so terrified in all my life. I think I closed my eyes for the duration of the ride and the only proof that I’d actually been on the thing was my new windswept hairdo and uncontrollably shaky legs. Good times.

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    • Our Wonderland experience may have to wait til next year. Ramadan will keep us quiet for the next few weeks and come August we have our road-trip to Quebec to look forward to…

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  8. I just came across this by chance and broadly agree with you but just have to say one thing… As a hijabi who lives in england,I can’t tell you how relaxing it would be to go somewhere for a day where I and , sadly too often,my child would not be stared at or spoken badly to by strangers just because of what I am wearing . If I visit a Muslim country I immediately feel my shoulders relax because no one gives a second look… That’s why although I know what you’re saying, I’d still possibly go to an event like this ..

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    • My eight-year-old daughter and I were talking last night and she shared how uncomfortable she finds it when everyone in class turns to look at her whenever England is mentioned. I told her it’s not possible to fit in everywhere so we need to accept there will be times when our differences make us stand out, and that people look because they are curious – you have something they don’t so be open and sharing with your knowledge and experience.
      While we can’t help where we’re born we can control the choices we make. You’ve made the choice to wear hijab and to impose that choice, and its subsequent effects, on your child. While that doesn’t give people the right to verbally abuse you, you can’t affect dismay when you have knowingly set yourself apart in this way.

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