Mayoralty candidate Naheed Nenshi was recently asked if Calgary is ready for a Muslim mayor. I thought when voters go to cast their ballots during an election, they look at the credentials and qualifications of a candidate, not his religion, which is not even mentioned on the ballot.
What voters should look for is the candidate’s ability for the job and then cast their ballots for the best candidate. Hence, what is wrong with being a Muslim and mayor of a city is beyond me. It’s interesting to note that none of the stories have mentioned religious affiliations of the two frontrunners, Barb Higgins and Ric McIver.
In Nenshi’s case, voters will have to determine whether he has the best qualifications to be the next mayor of Calgary versus other candidates running for the same office. It is sad that every time a visible minority candidate stands for office, the media bring his ethnicity and religion forward. Why would a Muslim mayor be different from a Christian mayor? Would a Christian mayor be better than a Muslim mayor? Are there any qualifications that a Christian mayor has and a Muslim mayor lacks? To me, the only difference is their religious beliefs.
To me the statement “if Calgary is ready for a Muslim mayor” implies that there is some special preparedness and readiness required if Calgary’s next mayor is a Muslim. What is a Muslim mayor going to do to the city — build mosques all over?
The issue of religion has also been brought up several times in connection with U.S. President Barack Obama. To some Americans, it has been a matter of great concern whether Obama is a Muslim or a Christian. Despite the fact that Obama has categorically stated he is a devout Christian, he has been described as a Muslim by political opportunists who want to tarnish his image.
And even if he were a Muslim, so what? Does it mean that he will be less able to govern? Is being a Muslim leader a lesser qualification than being a Christian leader?
It is unthinkable that in a progressive country like the U.S., there are people who would go to any extent to question a person’s credibility based on his religious beliefs. Obama should be judged not by his religion, but according to his performance in office. Those mischief-makers should keep his religious beliefs out of public debates.
Religion and faith-related issues are personal and should be kept personal. Religion is a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature and purpose of the universe, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
Most religions teach the same basic things, such as belief in God, respect for all human beings, generosity, peace and equality. These are noble sentiments cherished by most believers and should be regarded as excellent qualities for candidates. So a person’s beliefs in a particular religion should not be a bar to him or her seeking a public office.
If anything, Nenshi has been a breath of fresh air in a usually dull civic election. I wish there were more Nenshis in Calgary, and in every city and town in Alberta, standing for election and offering their services. It will be interesting to see whether the Calgary electorate has the maturity and foresight to put a Muslim in the mayor’s chair on Oct. 18.