Given that June 20 is World Refugee Day I want to take the opportunity to share some observations and opinions that may ruffle some feathers, but urgently need to be stated, especially by Muslim immigrants in the west. 
Part I. An Encounter With a Syrian Refugee
The other day I met a Syrian refugee family that had recently come to Canada. They moved next door to some friends of mine and I said hello to them in Arabic when I saw them sitting on the porch. The wife, a bubbly hijabi woman named Amira who is around my age, was overjoyed to meet someone that spoke Arabic and quickly struck up a conversation with me.
In a matter of minutes I learned that the family had left their small Syrian village three years ago for neighbouring Lebanon and lived there till they were approved to come to Canada as refugees, just three months ago. I also quickly learned that Amira and her husband, like many Syrian refugees, are ardent haters of Bashar Al Assad and critics of secular culture. Amira told me (in Arabic) that, while it was hard for her to leave her family back home, it my be fate that they ended up in Canada so that they can “spread the Muslim faith.” Uh oh…
To a secular Muslim—or, more appropriately, someone that can be described as culturally Muslim, since I was raised by Muslim parents in a Muslim immigrant household but do not practice religion—this set off some alarm bells. This woman left a secular Muslim country—yes, for all the supposed concern over radical Islam, the west is currently trying to destroy a secular Muslim country, with a very open and tolerant mixed society—for asylum in a western secular country and hopes to spread her religious beliefs here? Is that what we’re dealing with, Muslim missionaries? Amira seemed excited about the prospects of spreading the faith and told me that she felt Canadians were far more accepting of Muslims, and receptive to Islam, than Christian Arabs in Lebanon. She also offered to give me “religious advice” in exchange for English lessons in the future.
While Canada is a multi-cultural country that prides itself on religious tolerance and diversity, as a secular or non-religious person, I should also be tolerated and respected, and not subjected to religious peer pressure or attempts to make me “more religious.” During my conversation with the newly arrived Amira, I was asked why I do not wear the hijab (Muslim headscarf), if I practice Ramadan fasting and if my husband was a Muslim. While she was very friendly about it, the conversation quickly digressed into a religious guilt trip and interrogation. This is something I have experienced many times from “deeply religious” and rather prying Muslims that are “concerned for my soul” for one reason or another. As she talked, I could see her looking me up and down with a judging smirk, as if to evaluate my holiness, or lack there of.
I do not tolerate religious sermons from my own family members, even when I am visiting family over seas. And I should not have to experience it from a complete stranger that has been here for mere months, and is my age if not younger. Now before any apolitical liberals or fake lefties—who fail to see the connections between certain segments of the Syrian refugee population and western sponsored political Islam and Wahhabism—accuse me of being Islamophobic let me remind you that a) I am Muslim and b) I would not tolerate religious lecturing or “shaming” from someone of any other faith as well.
While some might assume that Amira felt comfortable lecturing me in this way because I am Arab and Muslim, and, that she likely would not submit non-Arabs and non- Muslims to the same pressure and religious guilt trip, let me remind you that she specifically told me that she believes that she was destined to end up in Canada so that she “can spread the faith.” While all Syrian refugees probably do not think this, the fact that even some do, is worrisome in a secular country such as Canada. Practicing one’s faith is one thing, pushing it on others is another thing altogether. While non-Arab or non-Muslim Canadians may be too afraid or polite to say this, I believe that I have a responsibility to say it as a secular Muslim.