Douglas Todd: Not much difference between Islamophobia and Christophobia

Or any other religious phobia.
In terms of hate crimes, official and unofficial statistics show a difference, as church burnings and attacks were virtually unheard of until the “discovery” of unmarked graves at former residential schools.
The extent of discrimination, bias and prejudice against Muslims and the Muslim faith is, as numerous surveys have indicated, is of course much higher than with Christians.
“Islamophobia: Dislike of or prejudice against Islam or Muslims, especially as a political force.”
“Christophobia: Intense dislike or fear of Christianity; hostility or prejudice towards Christians.”                                                    – Oxford Lexico

Is there a difference between Islamophobia and Christophobia?

The Oxford Lexico suggests subtle differentiations. But the similarities are more important: Both terms describe prejudice toward a religious group. And, tragically, in Canada there is now no shortage of shocking displays of both Islamophobia and Christophobia.

There have been assaults on Muslims, some deadly. There has been arson attack after attack on churches. Vandalism against sacred symbols is becoming the norm. Social media pours forth hate speech toward people of faith. Twitter doesn’t seem to care.

And this rising vitriol is not a result of animosity between Muslims or Christians. Something stranger is going on.Most Westerners are familiar with the term Islamophobia: Canadian politicians and others cite it often. As they do the scourge of anti-Semitism. Christophobia (which is also known as Christianophobia or anti-Christianity) is much less invoked: It’s virtually never named by Canada’s elected officials or commentators.

The extended definitions of Islamophobia and Christophobia, however, often refer to how the fear and dislike of these religions is “irrational.” That’s a crucial distinction, because there is little wrong with rational criticism of Christianity or Islam or any other world view, including atheism.

Any wisdom traditions that have been around for more than a millennia and which have so many followers (Islam 1.8 billion, Christianity 2.3 billion) are bound to have produced great things, but also deformities. Free expression includes the right to disapprove of a religion.But what we have been witnessing across Canada in recent months is something else: It’s violent bigotry.

A Muslim family was mowed down last month in a planned truck attack in London, Ont. Last week in Hamilton a Muslim woman and her daughter were openly threatened. These Islamophobic outrages come four years after a gunman killed six people attending a mosque in Quebec City.

And in the past month Christophobia has led to 25 Canadian churches across the country being burned to the ground, defaced or vandalized. In Surrey this week a Coptic Orthodox Church, frequented mostly by immigrants from Egypt, was destroyed by fire.

Journalists can’t keep up with the mayhem. And neither can the police, who are making precious few arrests. They’re silent about these being hate crimes.While brutal religious persecution has been common in many countries for centuries, the wave of attacks, arsons and vandalism in supposedly tolerant Canada is new.

Even though the arsonists aren’t revealing their motives, the church attacks appear to be a reaction to reports of hundreds of unmarked graves being found near government-funded residential schools, which began operating in the late 1800s.

There is now no shortage of rhetoric inciting the loathing of churches Ottawa hired to run many of the schools. But most of the online animosity is not coming from Indigenous people.

While many Indigenous leaders are angry at the legacy of the defunct school system, dozens of chiefs have decried the destruction of churches, including those on First Nations territory — given that a majority of Indigenous people are Christian.

Many “allies” of Indigenous people, however, are too ignorant and arrogant to listen to the chiefs’ messages.

Try inserting the term “Catholic church” into Twitter and see the casual contempt from non-Indigenous people. You’ll quickly find young influencers like @buggirl, who says, “if i don’t get to see the catholic church crash and burn to the ground within my lifetime i swear to f—ing god….”

Tragically, some so-called mainstream figures have fired off similar inflammatory comments. Harsha Walia, executive director of the once-venerable B.C. Civil Liberties Association, reacted to a tweet about the arson of two Catholic churches by remarking, “Burn it all down.” Which, her defenders say, is also a call for decolonization. At least she “resigned.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, despite diverting attention from Ottawa’s control of the schools by calling on the pope to apologize, has cautiously called the arson attacks “unacceptable and wrong.” But Trudeau’s long-time friend and former principal secretary, Gerald Butts, remarked on Twitter they are “understandable.”Meanwhile, Surrey’s Coptic Church leaders on Monday prodded B.C. Premier John Horgan to do more than blandly say earlier that burning down churches “is not the way forward.” Despite his meek statement on Twitter, many non-Indigenous activists mocked the premier for suggesting Christians deserve respect.

For some twisted reasons the burning of churches does not horrify a certain cohort.

It’s a cohort that would presumably be the first to say, rightly, it’s never “understandable” to attack a mosque — or a gurdwara, synagogue or Buddhist or Hindu temple.Do those who “understand” the torching of church sanctuaries forget Ottawa established residential schools in the first place? Would they support burning the Parliament Buildings? (I’m afraid to hear the answer.)

Maybe the rationale for believing it’s fine to hate Christianity and Christians is they represent the “dominant” religion of white Canada. The trouble with that is church attenders are a minority in the 21st century in Canada – and secular places like B.C. have never have been “Christian” provinces.

That’s not to mention two out of five immigrants to Canada are Christians. And a large proportion of Canadian Christians are people of colour: More than 120 Chinese churches, for instance, are peppered throughout Metro Vancouver, serving roughly 100,000 ethnic Chinese people. There are now 600 million Christians in Africa and 400 million in Asia.

The new Canadian brand of Christophobia seems most linked to those who trumpet decolonialization. The term originally meant “the process of a state withdrawing from a former colony.” But with almost no one leaving Canada, it’s now a fraught vision for the “removal or undoing of colonial elements” from throughout the land.

What that exactly means is hard to figure. But we are seeing signs of how this once-academic term is being understood by a dangerous fringe who would presumably condemn an Islamophobic attack but adopt a double standard on Christophobic arsons.

“All outbursts of anti-religious violence have at least one thing in common: They convey an ugly intolerance of difference and a refusal to recognize the humanity of an individual or a community,” says Ray Pennings, of Cardus, a Canadian think tank. “I fear church burnings could be an indication that Canadians are losing the ability to discuss faith publicly, using the vocabulary of civility and respect.”

We might never find out what’s going on in the fevered minds of the arsonists. But it’s clear there is tension between Canada’s decolonization movement and the ideals of truth and reconciliation.

For instance, when vandals on the weekend used a metal saw to cut down a decades-old cross overlooking the Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island’s Indigenous leaders again expressed their distress.

Some of the social-media crowd, however, urged replacing the eradicated Christian cross with a totem pole. Which sounds more like rewarding vandals’ criminal behaviour than reconciliation.

Canada is becoming increasingly filled with division and distrust. It’s hard to think it’s going to get better.

Source: Douglas Todd: Not much difference between Islamophobia and Christophobia

Antisemitism and Islamophobia summits: Side-by-side commitment comparisons

For reference, the side-by-side comparison, showing a common approach.

I don’t understand why opposition leaders were not provided speaking opportunities, the Harper government did so when it hosted the Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Anti-Semitism (ICCA) in 2009:

Ottawa is holding separate summits on anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. Should it have tackled them together?

Yes, they should have given some of the commonalities and the need for all Canadians, whatever their origins, religions or other characteristic have to work on reducing bias, discrimination and prejudice together.

Otherwise, more for show and signalling than the longer-term work required:

As two anti-hate summits grappling with a rising tide of hatred against Canada’s Jewish and Muslim communities get underway, could both groups forge a stronger path forward if they were to convene as one?

That’s a question being posed by Bernie Farber, the chair of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network and former CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress, who will be attending both events.

“These are two groups, two faith communities, that have travelled parallel roads but have rarely intersected. And they are two communities that face the same form of hateful, violent targeting,” Farber told the Star.

“Wouldn’t it have made maybe a little bit more sense, in my view, to have had a summit … that would focus on both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia instead of having two separate ones, which has a tendency to not bring us together but to keep us apart?”

On Wednesday, the federal government will host a virtual summit on anti-Semitism, bringing together municipal and provincial political leaders to hear how the Jewish community would like to see hate, discrimination and harassment stamped out on a national scale. Former justice minister Irwin Cotler, now Canada’s special envoy for preserving Holocaust remembrance and combating anti-Semitism, will take part in the event.

Just one day later, the same task will befall members of Canada’s Muslim community, many of whom are still reeling from a targeted attack in June that killed four members of a Muslim family in London, Ont., as they were out for an evening walk. MPs unanimously voted in favour of a motion to hold a national summit on Islamophobia in the aftermath of the violent incident. 

But as political tensions over the conflict in the Middle East began to boil over earlier this year — leading to clashes and police intervention at several rallies between pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian demonstrators across the country — so did hateful acts targeting Jews and Muslims.

“Once you’ve targeted people here in Canada for something that may have happened in the Middle East … it is either Islamophobia or anti-Semitism,” Farber said.

The tensions also trickled down to two leading Jewish and Muslim groups in Canada.

In May, the Centre of Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) sent an email to members of the federal government laying out the groundwork for an emergency summit to combat “a shocking wave of anti-Semitism” in Canada.

In one paragraph of the email, which was viewed by the Star, the organization called on Ottawa to “engage directly — and privately” with the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), to “challenge them to recalibrate their rhetoric and activities in a way that ensures the safety of the public square for all.”

NCCM, which released its list of priority policy recommendations on Monday ahead of Thursday’s summit, would not comment on the email.

The remarks referred to NCCM’s call to the federal government to “denounce in no uncertain terms Israel’s deliberate attack on the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” a compound in Jerusalem’s Old City that is part of a site revered in both Islam and Judaism. 

In a statement to the Star, CIJA CEO Shimon Koffler Fogler said such language has been used to “foment anger” and violence against Jews in the past.

“We have communicated these concerns — in particular, the need for all civil society groups to engage with the issues in a constructive and respectful manner — directly to the NCCM as well as our government,” the statement read.

Farber, who has worked closely with Jewish and Muslim groups in Canada, told the Star he has worked “for years” to bring the groups together to jointly tackle hate.

“We can’t battle hatred from different outposts. There is strength in numbers. And I would say eventually, wouldn’t it be nice if we could actually bring all these targeted groups together under one umbrella, to share ideas, to share strategies?”

Mustafa Farooq, CEO of NCCM, said he would be happy to “work towards a broader summit” in Canada for all groups facing an upswing in hate.

“The reality is, we are facing a unique time where it’s all on the rise,” he said. 

But first, Farooq is focused on harms plaguing his own community.

“We are committed to working with all communities to solve Islamophobia and all forms of hate, but we do need to address the specific problems facing the Muslim community,” he said.

In an interview with the Star last Friday, Diversity and Inclusion Minister Bardish Chagger said it’s still clear there is “a lot more work to do” to eradicate hate in this country.

Chagger acknowledged that there is a “sense of urgency” in addressing these issues at the upcoming summits, particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic exposed even more inequities in Canadian society.

“It is important that the government listen and hear the ideas and suggestions and try to put them into actionable items,” she said. 


‘Words are no longer enough’: Muslim group releases 60 calls to action ahead of National Summit on Islamophobia

Of note. Summits are often short-term political events to respond to community and raise broader awareness, providing platforms for organizations and political leaders. More substantive approaches involve more time and preparation than a one-day summit on the eve of an election, which runs the risk of being more virtue signalling than substantive.

And the risk of separate summits for Islamophobia and antisemitism is that the focus on the particular communities distracts from the fundamental commonalities of all groups that experience prejudice, bias and discrimination:

The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) has released a list of policy recommendations for federal, provincial and municipal governments in Canada to tackle violent and systemic forms of Islamophobia. 

Among the 60 policy recommendations are calls for the federal government to create an anti-Islamophobia strategy by the end of the year, for provincial Ministries of Education to develop localized strategies to address anti-Muslim sentiment, and for municipalities to invest in alternative forms of policing to combat increasing harassment and violence against Muslims.

The NCCM is also calling on governments to expand legislation to dismantle white supremacist groups in Canada, to challenge Bill 21 in Quebec, and to provide resources to empower Muslim Canadians to tell their own stories.

The 60 calls to action will be presented at the National Summit on Islamophobia, which will be hosted by the federal government on July 22. A National Summit on anti-Semitism will be held on July 21.

“These summits will bring together a diverse group of community and political leaders, academics, activists, and members with intersectional identities within these communities,” according to a statement by Bardish Chagger, minister of diversity, inclusion and youth of Canada. 

On its website, the NCCM says it is an independent and non-partisan organization “that protects Canadian human rights and civil liberties, challenges discrimination and Islamophobia, builds mutual understanding, and advocates for the public concerns of Canadian Muslims.”

For Mustafa Farooq, the CEO of NCCM, the only way to measure the success for the upcoming summit will be whether action is taken or commitments are made in regards to the 60 calls to action and recommendations from other groups. Farooq says the NCCM will release an updated document following the summit to record any commitments made by governments and track any agreed-upon timelines. 

“This is not about getting together to talk about best practices,” he told the Star. “This is about committing to action.”

Thursday’s summit comes in the wake of the deadly June attack on a Muslim family in London, Ontario, along with a steep rise in targeted hate crimes against Muslims across the country. According to the NCCM, more Muslims have been killed in targeted hate attacks in Canada than any other G-7 country in the past five years because of Islamophobia. In Alberta alone, at least nine attacks have been reported against Muslim women, most of them Black and wearing a hijab, since December.

On June 11, following calls from the Muslim community and a petition from the NCCM, the House of Commons gave unanimous consent to an NDP motion to convene an emergency summit on Islamophobia. The motion also called on leaders from all levels of government to “urgently change policy to prevent another attack targeting Canadian Muslims.”

Following the motion, the NCCM launched consultations with Canadian Muslims from coast to coast, in search of tangible policy solutions.

“Canada doesn’t have the appropriate infrastructure to challenge Islamophobia,” Farooq told the Star. “There isn’t a single body of governance in this country that is dedicated to fighting Islamophobia. This despite the fact that the impacts of Islamophobia have resulted in the worst attack on a religious institution in modern Canadian history.”

Thus, an overarching theme of the NCCM’s calls to action is the need to institutionalize the fight against anti-Muslim sentiment. This includes the creation of an Office of the Special Envoy on Islamophobia. 

“This position needs to work with various ministries to inform policy, programming and financing of efforts that impact Canadian Muslims,” the document reads. “The envoy should have the powers of a commissioner to investigate different issues relating to Islamophobia in Canada, and to conduct third-party reviews across all sectors of the federal government relating to concerns of Islamophobia.”

Another theme found in the NCCM’s recommendations is the need to address the way that education in Canada deals with Islamophobia. Specifically, the organization recommends that provincial education ministries develop anti-Islamophobia strategies that are responsive to local contexts. This includes changes to curricula that relate to Islam, improving religious accommodations for Muslim students and staff, anti-Islamophobia training.

“The reality is that (Quebec City mosque attacker) Alexandre Bissonette and (alleged London attacker) Nathaniel Veltman were young men,” Farooq told the Star. “We need to see a different approach to education, and the way that young people are learning about Canadian Muslims. A large percentage of Canadians have suspicions towards their Canadian Muslim brothers and sisters, and we think education and anti-Islamophobia awareness is a key component.”

NCCM’s document is broader than the 30 calls to action to combat systemic racism and hate that was published by a federal Heritage committee in 2017. However, Farooq believes that now is the time to take bold action.

“Words are no longer enough,” he told the Star. “The reality is that at this point, every single federal political party, the vast majority of the provinces, dozens of municipalities have all expressed their concerns about Islamophobia and Islamophobic violence. Faith communities are united about this, civil society folks are united — Canadians are united about the fact that things need to change. We just need to translate this into real political will to move things forward.”

Here are some of the recommendations from the NCCM’s 60 calls to action.

  • The NCCM is calling for the release of a federal anti-Islamophobia strategy by year’s end. The NCCM recommends the strategy include a clear definition of Islamophobia to be adopted across government, plus funding and resources for research, programs and education campaigns to address Islamophobia.
  • The NCCM wants the federal government to take action against Quebec’s Bill 21, which bans public servants from wearing religious symbols. Specifically, it wants the attorney general to commit to being an official intervener in court battles on the legislation. The document calls Bill 21 “a fundamentally discriminatory law” that perpetuates the idea “that Islam, Muslims, and open religious expression in general, have no place in Quebec.” The NCCM is also calling for the creation of a fund to financially assist those affected by the legislation.
  • Citing the rising tide of online hate and Islamophobia on social media, the NCCM is calling on the federal government to complete a legislative review of the Canadian Human Rights Act, in order to ensure that Canada is equipped to deal with modern forms of Islamophobia and hate. 
  • The NCCM is calling on the federal government to invest in a national support fund for survivors of hate-motivated incidents or attacks. The NCCM is also recommending changes to the country’s Security Infrastructure Program, to provide funding for security upgrades to mosques and community organizations under threat.
  • There are several calls to action dedicated to reforming national security and dismantling white supremacist groups. These include creating legislation “to implement provisions that place any entity that finances, facilitates, or participates in violent white supremacist and/or neo-Nazi activities on a list of violent white supremacist groups, which is separate and distinct from the terror-listing provisions.” The NCCM also calls on provincial governments to introduce legislation that bans white supremacist groups from incorporating.
  • The NCCM wants the Criminal Code changed to better deal with what is often called a “hate crime.” Specifically, the group is calling for amendments that “reinvigorate how we approach hate crimes, and that strengthens a prosecutorial approach that lacks consistency, clarity and resourcing across the country,” according to Farooq. 
  • The document includes several policy changes to tackle systemic Islamophobia at a federal level, including changes to the Canadian Border Services, the Canadian Revenue Agency and Canada’s approach to security and counterterrorism. For example, the NCCM is calling for the establishment of an oversight body specifically for the Canadian Border Services Agency, citing allegations that the agency engages in racial profiling that disproportionately targets Muslims.
  • The NCCM is recommending changes to policing at the municipal and provincial levels. This includes investing in alternative forms of policing for municipalities and introducing street harassment bylaws that protect Canadians against hateful verbal assaults. The NCCM also recommends that all provinces adopt the recommendations of Ontario’s 2017 Tulloch report, which calls for a sweeping overhaul in police oversight.
  • The document also includes several calls for governments to invest in and collaborate with storytellers, artists and filmmakers to help Muslim Canadians tell their stories and challenge narratives that contribute to all forms of Islamophobia. This includes funding local initiatives to celebrate the long history and contributions of Muslim Canadians.


A French Teenager’s Anti-Islam Rant Unleashed Death Threats. Now 13 Are on Trial.

No excuse for death threats, words have consequences:

The French girl, 16, was sharing highly personal details about her life in a livestream on Instagram, including her attraction to women. Just not Black or Arab women, she said.

When insults and death threats started pouring in to her Instagram account in response to her comments in January 2020, some from viewers saying she was an affront to Islam, the teenager, Mila, dug in, quickly posting another video.

“I hate religion,” she declared. “The Quran is a religion of hatred.” She also used profanity to describe Islam and the crudest of imagery in referring to God.

The ensuing onslaught of threats after the video went viral has landed 13 people in court on charges of online harassment.

The case has put a spotlight on the roiling French debate over freedom of expression and blasphemy, especially when it touches on Islam. It is also a landmark test for recent legislation that broadens France’s definition of cyberharassment in regards to attacks on the internet, where vitriol is plentiful, modulated debate less so.

“We are setting the rules of what is acceptable and what is unacceptable,” Michaël Humbert, the presiding judge, said at the trial.

Some looked to history to capture the brutality of what Mila experienced online. Mila’s lawyer said she had been subjected to a digital stoning. The prosecutor in the case spoke of a “lynching 2.0.”

More than a year after Mila — The New York Times is withholding her last name because she has been the subject of harassment — posted her videos, her life remains in a tumult. She lives under police protection and she no longer attends school in person.

The 13 defendants, some teenagers themselves, are on trial in Paris, most accused of making death threats. They face the possibility of jail. The verdict is expected Wednesday.

Mahmud Jamal’s nomination to Canada’s Supreme Court scores a win against the name barrier

Of note:

A few years ago, frustrated that I kept being detained at airports just because my name bore a resemblance to someone who was on a terrorist watchlist, I decided to adopt a middle name.

At the time, I struggled with what name I should choose. I thought long and hard about taking an Anglo-Saxon one, so as to appear less threatening to airport authorities. However, the thought of having to change an integral part of myself in order to live my life without unnecessary incursions based on the notion that I posed a danger irked me inside. Why should I have to do it, when others don’t? This is a dissonance that I imagine most immigrants or children of recent immigrants face as they navigate their professional lives. How much of your cultural heritage do you keep? And what is worth shedding as you attempt to move up the rungs of Canadian society?

So rather than anglicizing my name, I adopted the Arabic middle name Majid, after my maternal grandfather Abdul-Majid. At the time, I knew my decision could actually attract more scrutiny at airports, rather than less. It also provided another opportunity for others to misspell, mispronounce or generally feel uncomfortable saying my name.

That prospect was ingrained in my mind, as those were all experiences I underwent growing up as a South Asian-Canadian in the relatively small and homogeneous city of St. Catharines, Ont., where even well-meaning people struggled to say my name in what would be considered its “authentic” Arabic pronunciation. I found myself too shy to correct them – either out of a sense of fear or, otherwise, because I didn’t deem myself important enough to canvass a conversation around my name and, more essentially, my parent’s culture and ancestral history.

But with the accumulated baggage of life deep in the recesses of my mind, I felt some sense of vindication when Mahmud Jamal was nominated recently to the Supreme Court of Canada. Upon his appointment, he will be the first person of colour to serve on our country’s highest court.

With Justice Jamal’s appointment, as well as other recent high-profile appointments – including the selection of Reem Bahdi as the next dean of the University of Windsor’s law school – we are starting to see the erosion of both name and colour barriers in the upper echelons of the legal profession. Even the most reticent and conservative lawyers will now have to come face to face with a sitting judge who does not look like anyone from the past. 

Moreover, they will be forced to write and pronounce Justice Jamal’s name (correctly, I hope) under a new dynamic in which a member of a racialized minority group now occupies a seat of power.

For most of us who come from racialized communities, the authority that Justice Jamal will exercise from the high court is not the overwhelming reality of our existence. Rather, in Canada, we are often placed in hierarchal relationships in which an individual with an Anglo-Saxon name occupies the more authoritative position. 

So when our names are pronounced incorrectly, confused with someone else’s or even neglected, we find ourselves biting our tongues so as to avoid upsetting the status quo. This was my childhood reality and, for many, a lifelong one. This scenario has become exhausting and increasingly depressing as we await the promised inclusiveness of the country we or our parents chose.

Just as I refused to anglicize my middle name, my wife and I chose an “ethnic” name for our son when he was born two years ago. We were not ignorant of the realities we grew up in and that persist until today with regard to pronouncing and, by inference, accepting foreign-sounding names. As such, we chose a name for him that could be pronounced by the array of ethnic communities that compose our great land without the sense of trepidation that I have always thought those around me have felt. But erasing our ancestry altogether was not an option. And for us and others in our position, the nomination of Justice Jamal stands to makes us more comfortable in our shoes, not afraid to express our cultural identities all the while attempting to break whatever glass ceilings remain.

The choice that I made to affirm my roots through my middle name was a difficult one. It required concerted thought and effort. Thanks in part to the appointment of a man whose name is making history, my son will not have to take the same pains to reconcile his heritage and his ambitions.

Hassan M. Ahmad is a law professor at the University of Ottawa.


‘Another political extravaganza?’ Muslim academics, community members skeptical about what might be achieved at Islamophobia summit

Some merit to this reaction as summits tend to be one-time events, often more symbolic recognition of affected groups with limited ongoing impact and change. This does not make the motives for holding them insincere, just that their impact is limited.

The many meetings and conferences regarding antisemitism have not reduced the number of antisemitic incidents, for example:

A National Summit on Islamophobia will be held this month, in the wake of a deadly truck attack in London, Ont. that left multiple members of the same family dead and as violent incidents of street harassment against Muslim women have been reported in Alberta.

But with scarce details available about the virtual event, including its date, and with the history of inaction on Islamophobia at federal and provincial levels, Muslim academics and community members are skeptical about what might be achieved.

They told the Star they fear governments may be providing the same empty words and promises that emerged in years past, including after the Quebec City mosque shooting.

Discussions where governments consulted with community members about how to tackle Islamophobia and hate have happened before — and the moment for talking has passed, they say. It’s now time to dismantle policies that limit the rights of Muslim people in Canada, said Fatimah Jackson-Best, a public health researcher and lecturer at York University.

“We don’t need a summit to know [about Islamophobia], we see this happening in our news. We need action,” she said. “There are some pressing issues around safety and freedom of religion and expression that we need policy on expeditiously,” she said.

Jackson-Best cites Bill 21 in Quebec, which bans the wearing of religious symbols for public servants, as discriminatory as it disproportionately impacts Muslim women who are not able to dress the way they want and wear the hijab in jobs in the province, including as lawyers or teachers.

Along with an honest discussion about standing up against Bill 21, the summit would also need to feature a multitude of voices to reflect the vast diversity of Canada’s Muslim community. Black Muslims, refugees and those of lower income need to be spotlighted, she explained.

She’s not interested in empty discussions on topics of which the community and politicians are already aware.

“Is [the summit] going to be another political extravaganza?” she asked. “There was nearly an entire family killed in London due to Islamophobia. This is getting very dire, so I’m just anxious to hear what kind of summit it will be.”

Calls for a summit grew after the June 6 attack in London that saw Salman Afzaal, 46, Madiha Salman, 44, Yumna Afzaal, 15, Fayez Afzaal, 9, and Talat Afzaal, 74, targeted for their faith while they were out for an evening walk. Fayez was treated in hospital and was the sole survivor.

In the weeks since the murders there have been violent incidents targeting Muslim women in Edmonton, including an attack where a woman wearing a hijab was pushed to the ground and knocked unconscious, while another woman had a knife held to her throat.

The office of Canada’s Diversity and Inclusion Minister Bardish Chagger told the Star Wednesday evening that on June 11 the government committed to hosting the summit and that she “would like to assure all Canadians that work began that very day. This is an important step as we recognize that systemic action is necessary and needed.”

Chagger said the federal government has been committed to tackling Islamophobia since it took office, by passing M-103, which was a motion to condemn Islamophobia, and by developing Canada’s anti-racism strategy, creating the anti-racism secretariat along with adding white supremacist groups to Canada’s terror list.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims has put out a call for policy submissionsfor the summit that it will include in the final report it presents there.

Combating street harassment, specifically where hijab-wearing Muslim women are targeted, along with putting another 250 white supremacist groups on Canada’s list of terrorist organizations are just some of the issues the NCCM plans to raise, said spokesperson Fatema Abdalla.

A petition by the NCCM in June asking for Ottawa to convene a summit amassed more than 40,000 signatures.

Calls for a summit to address Islamophobia are not new and have been discussed since incidents of hate increased after 9/11, nearly 20 years ago, said Faisal Kutty, a lawyer and adjunct law professor at York University.

Anti-terror measures implemented at the time that have seen many innocent Muslim Canadians placed on no-fly lists, impeding their ability to work and travel, continue to be a major issue, he said.

Provincial and federal governments have portrayed the Muslim community as a threat and they have a track record of making hate towards Muslims worse, not better, Kutty explained.

“The government has played a significant role in breeding Islamophobia. The onus is on them to take the initiative to rectify the situation,” he said.

Kutty says he’s doubtful real policy that will help communities, like launching a national database on all hate crimes, will emerge from the summit.

He points to the failure by the government to pass real policy changes following the January 2017 mosque shooting in Quebec City that left six dead and five others seriously injured.

In 2017 following the attack, the House of Commons passed M-103 with a vote of 201-91, which was a non-binding motion that condemned Islamophobia. The majority of Conservative MPs voted against it.

As a result of that motion, a Heritage committee report with 30 recommendations on hate, systemic racism and Islamophobia was published and included creating a national action plan and improved data collection on hate crimes.

Other than declaring Jan. 29 a day of remembrance for the Quebec Mosque attack, not much was implemented from the report, said Kutty.

“That’s why I’m saying the track record has not been good,” he said. “The fact that people are acknowledging it and saying they want to do something about it is an improvement, but until we see action … I can’t really say we’re going to see too many improvements.”

After the June attack in London, a motion presented at Queen’s Park by Liberal MPP Mitzie Hunter called on the legislature to condemn all forms of Islamophobia and commit to a six-month plan to tackle anti-Muslim hate in the province, including dismantling hundreds of white supremacist groups. It also called for support of the national summit.

But the province ended up tabling its own version of the motion that, while including condemning Islamophobia, did not include the six-month plan commitment, Hunter told the Star.

In a statement, the Ministry of the Solicitor General told the Star the province condemns all forms of hatred including Islamophobia and cited its anti-racism strategic plan that includes working with the Muslim community to tackle hate.

On Tuesday, Ontario also pledged $300,000 to Muslim organizations to address Islamophobia in schools.

The anti-racism directorate within the anti-racism strategic plan doesn’t have the resources it needs and is another instance where current government policies aren’t working, said Amira Elghawaby, a founding member of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, which monitors, exposes and counters hate groups.

She said she hopes at the very least the summit will symbolize that governments are finally agreeing on the urgency of the issue.

“We finally got past the point of people still denying the reality of Islamophobia. And now we are starting to move toward addressing it, but it won’t happen overnight,” said Elghawaby.

Jasmine Zine, a sociology professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, was the co-chair of the Islamophobia subcommittee under Kathleen Wynne’s Liberal government. But it was dismantled when Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government was elected in 2018 and there is now a lack of proactive approach to Islamophobia — with statements and funding only emerging when there is an attack, said Zine.

“There’s been a lot of lost opportunities,” she said, referring to M-103, echoing Kutty’s comments about the 30 recommendations not being implemented.

She said she is unsure whether the summit will end up being politicians posturing, especially ahead of a possible fall federal election.

“It’s hard to feel that there’s a lot of sincerity when after the last terror attack there were opportunities to do something and they were not taken,” she said.

“So here we are again. It’s like déjà vu for a lot of us.”

Source: ‘Another political extravaganza?’ Muslim academics, community members skeptical about what might be achieved at Islamophobia summit

Canadian Muslims are forced to balance faith, safety after anti-Islamic attacks

Sad and unacceptable:

Every time Sana Chaudhry’s daughter sees her father getting up to pray, the two-year-old toddler picks up a scarf and waddles behind him to the prayer mat.

As she watches her little girl wrap the hijab around her head, Ms. Chaudhry says she prays she will be able to practise her faith the same way when she’s older.

“I wish this girl could go out in the world and be this carefree about her religion and her culture,” the 31-year-old psychotherapist said in an interview from her home in Oakville, Ont.

“And then I feel bad because I know that’s not going to be the case.”

Discrimination against women who wear a hijab isn’t new, but Ms. Chaudhry and others say they are more fearful as Islamophobia and attacks against Muslim women increase across the country. They say they are navigating between their safety and their faith.

A spokesman at an Edmonton mosque says he’s been having more conversations with women who are trying to find ways to be more vigilant against attacks.

“There’s been an increase [in conversations about] ‘How do [I] continue to be who I am and what are some supports that we can put in place for me to continue to be?’ ” said Jamal Osman, vice-president of the Muslim Community of Edmonton Mosque.

“I’ve had a lot of conversations with other brothers as well. Their wives, their daughters, their mothers have been exposed to various expressions of hatred. But we’re not going to sit idly by and continue to be victimized.”

For example, he said, more women are taking self-defence classes.

Ms. Chaudhry said wearing the hijab is a form of worship in Islam. It signifies modesty and beauty.

She made the difficult decision to remove hers in 2016 after twice being assaulted. In the first case, a man ripped off her hijab when she was shopping. In the second, a man came from behind and tried to close a door on her hand as she unloaded groceries in her car.

Ms. Chaudhry said she wants to wear her hijab, but her experiences and reports of violent attacks on Muslim women – including at least 10 in Edmonton in the past six months – continue to deter her.

That fear was heightened when four members of a family in London, Ont., were killed in a targeted attack. Two of the women were wearing hijabs when a 20-year-old man drove into the family with his truck. Only a nine-year-old boy survived.

“It’s underlying subconscious fear that seeps into every aspect of your life and it’s really hard to feel safe,” Ms. Chaudhry said.

Her friends who do wear hijabs feel the same, she said. “Some of them have told me, ‘When we embrace our hijab, we embrace death.’ ”

“We live in a society that doesn’t truly accept Islam or this decision to wear a hijab,” added Nadia Mansour, 18, of Prince George.

While reports of attacks against Muslim women have scared some, Ms. Mansour said they haven’t deterred her from her religious conviction.

Ms. Mansour points to a Quebec court ruling in April that upheld the province’s decision to ban government workers in positions of authority – including police officers and judges – from wearing religious symbols, including hijabs and turbans, on the job.

“It’s a huge indication for Muslim women who choose to wear a hijab that they are not accepted in our society and that they are different.

“People stare at you. I’ve been bullied in high school for wearing a hijab. I even took it off for a short period of time. But honestly I’m tired of hearing the crap. I actually feel more unafraid. This is my religion and I will defend it.”

Aruba Mahmud, an artist based in London, Ont., said all women are feeling the effects of the recent attacks.

“I am more vigilant. I have fear that’s not going to go away, but I don’t want that fear to start dictating major decision,” she said. “I’m sick of just explaining my existence”

Mr. Osman said he’s angry because it shouldn’t be the responsibility of Canadians to keep themselves safe.

“It is frustrating that we have to take things into our own hands and push our so called representatives to meet their commitment to the safety of Canadian citizens,” he said.

“It boils down to the law, and if the law is not able to defend its own citizens, then what kind of a social contract is that?”

Source: Canadian Muslims are forced to balance faith, safety after anti-Islamic attacks

KUTTY: Islamophobia an ever-present danger in Canada

Of note, Kutty’s valid critique of Fatah’s column (There is no Islamophobia in Canada), including the examples of the “blame the victim” as applied to Jews, women, and Blacks. However, by focussing only on the violent extremists of Daesh, he understates the impact of non-violent extremist attitudes within different religious groups:

Reading Tarek Fatah’s recent diatribe, There is no Islamophobia in Canada, was a surreal experience.

A few adjectives quickly came to mind but, “subtle,” “nuanced,” “thoughtful,” and “honest” were not among them.

“Superficial,” “reductionist,” “misleading,” and “incendiary” came to the fore.

The thrust of the piece was that Muslims are to blame for a peaceful multigenerational Muslim family mowed down with a truck and killed while out for a Sunday stroll.

The rationale behind this “blame the victim” argument is that hatred of, or violence against, Muslims is pervasive because of Muslims.

If Muslims are encountering challenges “everywhere,” the argument goes, then it must be the Muslim faith or behaviour that is provoking this hatred.

To appreciate the mendacity of this argument, substitute any other targeted group or community.

Anti-Semitism growing? It must be something about the Jews.

Is sexual assault rampant? It’s because of how women dress and behave.

The police profile Blacks? It’s their fault as well.

Those arguments do not pass the smell test, and neither does the argument about Muslims and Islamophobia.

Islamophobia exists and is on the increase because demonizing, dehumanizing, and otherizing Muslims is acceptable and can be disseminated with impunity, as in the article in question.

Is there Islamophobia in Canada? The perpetrator of the London, Ontario killings allegedly targeted the family specifically for their faith.

The Quebec City shooter was enthralled with Islamophobic figures like Le Pen and Trump.

In the lead-up to the London murders, Muslim women reported a spike in attacks against them, and less than a year ago, the caretaker of a Toronto mosque was killed by a man whose social media featured Neo-Nazi posts as reported by the Sun.

Islamophobic violence has now taken the lives of at least 11 Canadian Muslims in the last four years.

Yet, according to Fatah, there is no Islamophobia in Canada.

The article pathetically attempts to “show” that the Qur’an teaches Muslims hate by selectively citing, out of context, an interpretation of verses from the Qur’an.

Yet, the Afzaals were known in their community as devout Muslims.

They were mosque-goers, almost never missing a prayer in congregation.

At their funeral, the Imam shared that the family were Syeds — descendants of Prophet Muhammad.

Their life was an embodiment of their faith. And what did that embodiment of faith look like?

According to the London Free Press, Salman Afzaal was a “caring physiotherapist” who worked at several nursing homes.

The administrator of Ritz Lutheran Villa described him as “deeply committed to his elderly patients” and “kind and caring … well respected and always had a smile and positive outlook.”

Madiha, studying for her PhD in Engineering at Western, was loved and respected by her colleagues.

As a professor of Islamic law, I am stumped searching for the hate incitement Fatah claims.

On the contrary, the Qur’an, like any text, is subject to interpretation.

It continues to inspire the vast majority of its readers to do good in the world and to search for peace.

That was the experience of Muhammad Ali and Kareem Abdul Jabbar; Cat Stevens and Arnoud van Doorn; Sinead O’Connor and Dave Chappelle.

Thousands of people continue to come into Islam precisely because they feel that sense of peace on reading the Qur’an.

Conversely, like extremists of other ideologies, Daesh recruits are ignorant haters who abuse Islam for their own political and nefarious purposes.

But none of this matters to Fatah, who has rarely penned a positive word about the Canadian Muslim community since his opportunist flip.

His subsequent track record is one of misrepresentation, selective quoting, and over-generalizations and only justifies and incites hate against Muslims.

It is bigotry. For the Sun to publish it is, at best callous and at worst reckless.

Source: KUTTY: Islamophobia an ever-present danger in Canada

Beaman: The problem with Canada’s delusions of inclusivity and multiculturalism

While I agree with Beaman on the need to “to contextualise them [anti-Muslim hate] within broader patterns of inequality, discrimination and violence against a wide range of groups, including Indigenous people, Black people and other people of colour.” To which I would add, antisemitism, anti-LGBTQ, women, along with the intersectional dimensions.

And I would argue that the situation is not as bleak as described, and that there has been progress over the years, albeit slow:

On Sunday 6 June, while out for an evening stroll in London, Ontario, the Afzaal family, Salman Afzaal (aged 46), his wife Madiha Salman (44), their 15-year-old daughter Yumna, nine-year-old son Fayez and Mr. Afzaal’s 74-year-old mother Talat were run over by a 20-year-old male driving a pickup truck.

The whole family was killed except for Fayez. The driver has been chargedwith terrorism and four counts of first-degree murder. Police have saidthat the attack is likely deliberate and the family were targeted because they were Muslim.

This attack is not an isolated incident in Canada.

Last year, on the evening of 12 September, 58-year-old Mohamed-Aslim Zafis was stabbed to death outside the International Muslim Organization mosque in Toronto. On 29 January 2017, a shooting at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City left six men dead. After the province of Quebec passed Bill 21 in 2019, banning the wearing of religious symbols by public school teachers and civil servants, among others, incidents of harassment and discrimination against Muslim women increased.

Despite a pervasive image of Canada and Canadians as inclusive, diverse and multicultural, there is an alternative Canadian reality that includes violence, hatred and discrimination against minority groups, including Muslims.

Multiculturalism is enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as is religious freedom and protection from discrimination based on religion and ethnicity. Thus, there are structural legal protections in place that help promote inclusion and diversity, which are currently at the core of Canadian domestic and foreign policy.

‘Currently’ because only a few years ago the federal government under then prime minister Stephen Harper went to court in an attempt to banZunera Ishaq from wearing her niqab during the ceremony to become a Canadian citizen (the government lost).

The same Conservative government promised during the 2015 election to establish a “barbaric cultural practices” hotline. The question is why, despite the Charter and strong programmes of multiculturalism, inclusion and diversity, does Islamophobia in Canada persist and even seem to be growing? The short answer is that the social imaginary, or the way people think about the collective ‘us’, has not been redefined in inclusive ways.

Who is ‘us’?

In her response to the murders of 51 Muslims during Friday prayers at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand on 15 March 2019, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern noted that many of those who were affected “may even be refugees here. They have chosen to make New Zealand their home, and it is their home. They are us.”

Hateful acts impact those immediately involved, their communities and all of us

Ardern’s comment gets to the heart of the matter: Who is ‘us’? In addition to legal and policy promises of inclusion, acknowledgement of diversity and recognition of multiculturalism, an inclusive conceptualisation of ‘us’ in civil society is essential.

In contrast, there is ample evidence that a significant number of Canadians hold a narrower view of who belongs to ‘us’. A 2017 poll into religious trends in the country revealed that Islam is viewed unfavourably by almost half of all Canadians (46%), and that less than 35% of respondents (32% in Quebec, 34% in the rest of Canada) view Islam favourably.

In 2017, when Bill M-103, a non-binding motion to “condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination”, was introduced to parliament by Liberal MP Iqra Khalid, a poll found that a third of Canadians believed that the bill was a “threat to Canadians’ freedom of speech”.

Some 42% of respondents said they would vote against the bill, while 55% believed that anti-Muslim attitudes and discrimination were “overblown” by politicians and the media. The motion was passed by a significant margin, 201-91.

Real equality

In my recent book ‘The Transition of Religion to Culture in Law and Public Discourse’, I explore through legal cases the transformation of majoritarian Christian religious practices and symbols into ‘culture’ in Canada, France and the United States.

For example, the use of prayers and religious symbols such as crosses and crucifixes in government and public spaces are generally seen as being integral to ‘our’ culture and heritage. Narratives of ‘universality’ (‘this is important or relevant to all of us’), minimization of harm (‘this doesn’t really hurt anyone’), and invocation of ‘our values’ are all part of the process by which religion is reconfigured as culture.

I argue in the book that this phenomenon is a strategy aimed at preserving a narrow conceptualisation of ‘us’ that excludes minority groups, who are ‘imagined’ out of Canada’s history and culture. The defence of potentially alienating practices and symbols traps us in a hierarchical holding pattern.

If we Canadians are to live well together, these must be renegotiated in a manner that recognises all parties to the conversation as equals, and in some instances as being in need of redress for past wrongs. And ‘they’ must be included in the social imaginary of ‘us’.

“Islamophobia will continue to exist until Canada dismantles its other oppressive systems. While there is still anti-Blackness, there will still be Islamophobia. While there is still anti-Indigenous racism, there will still be Islamophobia. Under white supremacy, there will always be Islamophobia,”said Maryam Azzam, a Muslim student at Ryerson (‘X’) University in Toronto. She was speaking after the attack on the Afzaal family.

While it is important to name Islamophobia and anti-Muslim racism as distinct phenomena, it is also important to contextualise them within broader patterns of inequality, discrimination and violence against a wide range of groups, including Indigenous people, Black people and other people of colour.

Hateful acts impact those immediately involved, their communities and all of us. They result in fear, powerlessness and alienation. They undermine civil society, create hierarchies of belonging (‘us’ versus ‘them’) and impact the exercise of freedoms.

It is vital that in the new diversity that is emerging in Canada and in a complex future, equality must be conceptualised not only as a legal principle, but as something that people enact in day to day life – as ‘deep equality’. This is not mere tolerance or accommodation, but a robust understanding of the inherent dignity and worth of each of us in the project of living well together.