Islamophobia in Canada undermines national mythology
Despite a recent and rather toothless anti-Islamophobia motion passed by the Canadian parliament in March (in the wake of the horrific massacre of Muslim worshippers at a Quebec City mosque), that was inevitably criticised by Islamophobes as a hindrance to "free speech", anti-Muslim hate crimes are on the rise in the true north strong and free.
According to data released by Statistics Canada last week, the number of police-reported hate crimes against Muslims jumped by 60 percent in 2015 compared with the previous year.
The new data reveals that there were 159 anti-Muslim incidents reported to police that year, up from 99 the year before. Hate crimes against Muslims in Canada have risen by 253 percent over four years.
|During a news conference on Parliament Hill last week, National Council of Canadian Muslims vice-chairman Khalid Elgazzar called 2015 'a difficult year' for Muslim Canadians
A week after 14 Muslims were shot and six killed by a white Quebecois man while praying in a mosque in Quebec City, a group of protesters stalked a Toronto mosque while people prayed inside, screaming their calls on megaphones for a "ban on Islam".
And a mosque in Quebec City was vandalised even as victims were being mourned at a memorial service. In early March at Concordia University in Montreal, police surveillance was stepped up after a bomb threat specifically targeted Muslim students.
During a news conference on Parliament Hill last week, National Council of Canadian Muslims vice-chairman Khalid Elgazzar called 2015 "a difficult year" for Muslim Canadians, citing terror attacks in France and inflammatory Conservative party rhetoric during the election campaign - that made the niqab a central, if somewhat improbable issue.
"The Canadian Muslim community bore the brunt of sinister political rhetoric surrounding the federal election which painted Muslims as terrorists or terrorist sympathisers as well as being anti-women," he said.
Amid calls for the often under-reported hate crimes (often under-reported for fear of further victimisation or due to an assumption of police indifference) came appeals for more funding for police investigations and data collection on right-wing extremists.
The very next day, VICE Canada published a story on the rise of US-style paramilitary anti-Muslim groups in the Canadian province of Alberta. Mack Lamoureux, who infiltrated the group, writes:
"Anti-Islam sentiment is the beating heart of III% Alberta. This worldview unites the group online and is/has been assuredly the driving force of recruitment. In the closed group, posts have been made about wiping all the Muslims off the earth, and there is frequent use of dehumanising terms like 'goat f**ker' to describe the religious group... Another post by a member, referring to a debunked story about Syrian youths in a Red Deer high school, indicated that they should round up Syrian children 'like animals'."
The next blow to any rose-tinted images of Canada as a multicultural idyll, came via a video of a racist rant by a mother at a clinic in Mississauga, outside Toronto, calling for a "white doctor" for her child. In the video, already watched more than 100,000 times on YouTube, she repeatedly asks to see a doctor who "doesn't have brown teeth" and "speaks English".
Then, on June 21, it was revealed via a public video posted on Facebook that far-right groups invited the Jewish Defence League to join them in marching in the Toronto Pride parade on Sunday. According to the video they plan to carry Islamophobic signs and "severed heads".
|In light of growing racism and Islamophobic hate crimes in Canada as well as in the US and UK, it's high time Canadian politicians step up to the plate
In the video, a group called LGBTory, claiming to represent LGBTQ members of federal and provincial conservative parties, invites the JDL to march alongside them in the parade.
A member of the JDL, the extremist group founded on the teachings of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane who called for the removal of Palestinians from Israel, and considered a terrorist group by the FBI, was charged with the assault of an employee of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression at an anti-Muslim demonstration at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto on May 6, 2017.
Another member in the US has been charged with a hate crime for the assault of a Palestinian professor in Washington, DC.
In light of growing racism and Islamophobic hate crimes in Canada as well as in the US and UK, it's high time Canadian politicians step up to the plate and commit concrete resources to fighting violence against Muslims in Canada.
We can no longer afford to be smug about such ugly realities in Canada, pretending that they only happen in other places. Just as we are on the verge of confronting the colonial legacy of ongoing violence against our First Nations, so too must we acknowledge the alarming rise in hate crimes against Muslims in our "kinder, gentler" nation.