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AlameenPost One on One with Minister Maryam Monsef


On Augiust 27th, Alameen Post Editor Jafar Bhamji sat down with the Honourable Maryam Monsef -Minister of International Development and Minister for Women and Gender Equality during her campaign stop with Federal liberal candidate Ronald McKinnon MP for Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam.

MP Maryam Monsef was elected to Parliament in the last Federal election. Monsef is the first MP to have been born in Afghanistan. As a rookie MP she was named Minister for Democratic Institutions in the new cabinet of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

While addressing the members of the community earlier she had stated, “A lot of events she attends, the brothers are there and representing, they are involved in election campaigns, our sisters- not much yet. But you know what, you are the most powerful generation of Canadian Women who have ever lived and your Prime Minister is your Number One Champion, You have the most to gain this election and you have the most too loose this election.”

Picking on this theme, with limited time on her busy schedule I spoke briefly with Minister Monsef about Muslim participation in Canadian political affairs.

The interview started with a reflection of her remarkable and inspiring story and how her journey has been so far as an immigrant from Afghanistan.

Monsef replied, “There's an election in 8 weeks and people like me and ordinary Canadians get to serve in Parliament because of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms because of our Constitution.

This election there is a lot at stake and there are a lot of stories like mine waiting to be written in every Community across this country and there are forces at work that are working really hard to prevent that from happening.

I was raised by single mom and I went to a place called Peterborough Ontario when we moved to Canada and the community welcomed us with open arms.

They showed us the way, they showed us around they made us feel welcome like we belong and that support for my neighbor's is what motivated me to run for politics and to give back to my community.

I see people who are motivated because of their love for this country to keep serving and I really hope there's a lot of us Muslims in Canada and more Canadians step up and vote in this really important election so that more Stories like my own and like yours and so many others could be made possible.”

Talking about the hurdles facing the Muslim community in getting involved in politics she said, “I was in the Alberta a couple of weeks ago and there Muslims in Alberta who been there since 1800s and it's Muslims in Canada like Muslims around the world who have been contributing to their neighborhoods in countries and communities in which they live.

I think it is legitimate for people to be busy with their day-to-day lives, between getting to work and getting back home and picking up the kids and taking them to after school programs, there are people looking after their elders and their loved ones and there's a lot happening in people's lives.

I know speaking about immigrants who are newer to Canada, they have always had a positive relationship with governments, as some of the people coming from typically countries that have governments who have been the ones persecuting and harming us.

I also think that very few know and not everyone always realizes that one vote makes the difference.

So we have conversations like we did here tonight, the more people like you talk about how important it is for people to vote, for more volunteers show up and get people to go out and vote on Election Day the more likely we are to see greater participation from Muslims and from all Canadians.”

At this moment in the interview, we did raise the issue of the most important question facing the Muslim community, which is the role of Mosques in furthering the Political Participation of Muslims especially women’s.

“I've had the privilege of being at all places of worship. Brothers and sisters have been very kind to me and I can understand that isn't the case for everybody.

My message to the leaders and places of worship especially to Muslim Brothers and Sisters is that if for a moment you are thinking that how politics happen and it does not affect you I'm afraid to say you are mistaken.

The way Muslims particularly have been other’ed and stigmatized and discriminated against, the way that the word islamophobia, became a trigger that led to our conservative colleagues fighting hard against our government, I hope you know Iqra Khalid, a young Muslim woman who is liberal MP stood up in the House of Commons to defended and what they did to her on social media was painful she stood her ground and Prime Minister Trudeau had her back,  she was able to get 40 + million dollars for an anti-racism strategy.

That's a really good example of how politics and the realities of Muslim are interconnected and I don't want to go back to the days where you know a neighbour was pitted against another neighbour,  I don't want to go back to the days where weather a Canadian was a Canadian.

So open your doors and do not be afraid. Politics is everywhere and engaging in democracy is healthy.

Make the playing field even and equal  if you're afraid of choosing sides so that everybody has an opportunity to have a couple of minutes at the microphone after Friday prayers out your Masjid.
Let the people decide but if you don't engage in the political process then our needs and our concerns and our aspirations won't be as represented in politics.

Monsef acknowledged that Islamophobia has been a major issue with the rise of hate crimes in Canada but that is not the only issue to vote for.

“Like any Canadian we all want a good future for our kids and grandkids, we all want to make sure that we have a safe roof over our heads that our water and air and our environment is protected that we are ready for the jobs of the future that we are doing our part on the international stage that we as newcomers to this country know how important it is to be part of the reconciliation with the First Peoples of this land.

Getting involved in politics is about making sure that all those things we love about this great country that we all get to call home that we protect those and we go forward and we make things better.

What's happening this election is all those things that we love about this country are at risk of losing, the hard-won gains are sliding back unless people rise and stand up for those issues that they care about whether it is economy, climate or Islamophobia or housing, they are not going to be addressed.

I really hope that everybody is able to vote, call your local candidate or Google who your local candidate is and make sure that on October 21st you put an “X”, next to somebody's name so that at least you exercise your right to vote and when you wake up on October 22nd you don't regret what has happened.”

Finally she had a special message for our sisters.

“Every single day we wake up thinking about you and thinking about how we're going to make the world a better place, you want to get involved in politics with local candidates and show up to the office and say I want to volunteer and I promise you that you will be met with a lot of love and a lot of hospitality and a lot of excitement because your country needs you.”