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Canada needs to step up its fight to end Islamophobia


Is Trudeau government waiting for another unfortunate incident like Quebec City Mosque Shooting, or Christchurch Scale tragedy to strike Canadian Muslims before it decides to act on the National Action Plan prepared by a distinguished Liberal Parliamentarian, Hon. Dr. Hedy Fry to fight Islamophobia and Religious Discrimination in Canada.

It has been sixteen months since Parliament’s Heritage Committee, after the Quebec Mosque Shooting tragedy, published the study on Islamophobia and religious discrimination in Canada for the government. To date, the Trudeau government has failed to respond to all its 30 recommendations.
The Trudeau’s Liberals got their two-minute sound byte as being a pro-Muslim party, and Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives got theirs as an anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant party.

The report called for the creation of a directorate to develop, implement and monitor a National Action Plan. The report is now probably sitting somewhere in Parliament’s library, collecting dust.

The least expensive of all recommendations, #30, “That January 29th be designated as a National Day of Remembrance and Action on Islamophobia, and other forms of religious discrimination.” The Trudeau government has not even bothered to take a simple act which would at least acknowledge the existence of Islamophobia, and other forms of religious discrimination within the Canadian society.

What is ironic about this report, which cannot be ignored. Although, the Trudeau government takes pride in being the most diverse party, with many Muslim parliamentarians among its ranks. While Majority of Canadian Muslims are of Sunni faith it seems the only other Muslim MP, besides Mr. Arif Virani, a Ismaili Muslim, who is the member of the Committee, Mr. Majid Jowhari was consulted.

It seems as none of the Muslim MP’s of Sunni Muslim background had provided any input. One would think that Muslim MP’s input, especially from 905 belt, amongst Liberals ranks with large Muslim constituents would provide valuable input. Nonetheless, the focus should be on trying to uncover the reasons why the Trudeau government is unwilling to act upon a National Action Plan to combat rising Islamophobia and Religious discrimination in the country.

Let’s face it. In Canada, hate crimes, particularly, Islamophobia is on the rise and there is no political will.

In 2017 Provincially BC Premier John Horgan along with Attorney General David Eby announced that British Columbia will re-establish the B.C. Human Rights Commission to address inequality and discrimination. The Attorney General tasked Ravi Kahlon, Parliamentary Secretary for Sport and Multiculturalism, to lead a public engagement process and provide recommendations. In May 2019 B.C. announced Lawyer Kasari Govender as B.C.'s new human rights commissioner — the first since the province's human rights commission was abolished in 2002 by the BC Liberals.

Its no secret, Conservatives victory posits on appealing to its base voters by stoking the anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant sentiments.

On the other hand the Liberals victory depends on the anti Conservative appeal among the Muslims.  Therefore, it benefits the liberals more to pay lip-service to tackle this menace – Islamophobia.

Henceforth, the real problem is not the rise in Islamophobia in Canada. The real problem is lack of political will, especially, on the part of the Trudeau government to put its money where its mouth is, and address the issue surrounding the rise in Islamophobia and religious discrimination in Canada.

Let’s face it. Fear of Islam and Muslims, terms like Islamic Terrorism and Sharia Law sells like a hot potato. It is the fuel political parties need to fuel their election campaigns. Thus, they continue to ignore it until around election campaigns when it becomes a hot subject.

It is this blatant, belligerent and wilful blindness by politicians and political leadership, especially at the federal level – the government – which sends a direct message to extremists, and bigots, within our society that it is acceptable to harbour anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant sentiments and commit hate crimes against other Canadians, especially Muslims.  

Both leading Canadian political parties’ election campaign strategy revolves around toying with Canadian Muslims and playing the “Muslim Card,” which ultimately will fuel more Islamophobia.

Clearly, both parties are guilty of playing good cop, bad cop.

One stoking the fear of Islam, Muslim, Terrorism, and Sharia law to appeal to its white supremist, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant vote bank.

The other one pretending or presenting itself as an inclusive and diverse – the knight in shining armour – to defend the rights of Canadian Muslims, and minorities. This despite, Trudeau government has repeatedly failed to put its money where its mouth is. Liberals know, when comes the election times, the voters, Muslims, immigrants, etc. would rather them elect them vs Conservatives as being the lesser of two evil.

Canadian Muslims are left wondering what will it take – hopefully not another mosque attack – for the government to act against rising Islamophobia, an increase of 253% reported crime, in this country between 2012, and 2015? This is the question every Canadian Muslim must ask this fall when Liberal candidates come knocking on your door seeking your support.

The bare-naked truth is, politicians care much about the rising Islamophobia or religious discrimination nor do they want to do anything about it. They are not the solution, rather the source of rise in Islamophobia and religious discrimination in Canada.
On one hand we have Quebec’s Premier, Mr. Francois Legault, who is in an absolute denial about the existence of Islamophobia in his province. Despite the statistics from Stats Canada point otherwise – 50% increase in reported hate crimes in Quebec, 26% of which directed at Muslims, especially in February 2017, immediately after the Quebec Mosque Shooting.

Conservative leader, Mr. Andrew Scheer has already made his position clear. He is Harper 2.0!

In February 2019, he had no qualms sharing a podium with white nationalist, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim groups. He also failed miserably to recognize Islamophobia, in his initial tweet, shortly after Christchurch Mosque attack in New Zealand.

It is beyond comprehension as to why the Trudeau government is not dragging its feet to fight Islamophobia. This even though back in March 2017, anti-Muslim groups came out openly protesting parliamentary motion condemning Islamophobia and other forms of discrimination, M-103. CBC reported, “But after Saturday's demonstrations, it became easier to gauge certain aspects of the far-right movement in Canada, and in Quebec in particular.”

The government is fully aware of right-wing, anti-Muslim groups, including the Soldiers of Odin, the Three Percenters and La Meute. In fact, the number of right-wing extremist groups in Canada grew by 20 to 25 per cent between 2015 and 2018. Despite this history of criminal incidents by right-wing extremist groups in Canada, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) had abandoned its investigations into such groups prior to the 2017 Quebec City attack.

It is now entirely up to the Canadian Muslims to find ways to address the issue of rising Islamophobia. We can neither depend on politicians nor the Trudeau government to do what is legally, morally, and ethically, their obligation, and the right thing to do – Act on the National Action Plan recommendations by implementing all its 30 recommendations.