Ahead of federal election, imams at 69 Canadian mosques deliver message that every vote counts

Similar to 2015:

When Canadians go to the polls in October, a non-partisan group hopes Muslim voter turnout will be higher than ever — and seized one of the year’s most-attended days of prayer to mobilize the community with a single message: every ballot counts.

“As believers, every single one of us has social responsibilities that our very faith is contingent upon,” Imam Faraz Rabbani told congregants at the Bosnian Cultural Centre in Toronto. Voting, he said, is one of those responsibilities.

“The very basis of religion is that the believer is concerned about maximizing the good for themselves and others, and striving to diminish harm.”

Friday’s effort was part of a larger project by the non-partisan, non-profit group Canadian Muslim Vote. It sprang up in 2015 with the aim of breaking what had been a cycle of poor voter turnout among Muslims in Canada — something it says had a tangible impact at the polls.

65 ridings where demographic could make a difference

Good Friday isn’t a religious holiday for Muslims, but being a legal holiday in Canada, it typically sees one of the biggest turnouts of the year for Muslims who hold congregational prayer.

According to the last national household survey in 2011, Canada is home to some one million Muslims. This year, CMV estimates the number of eligible Canadian Muslim voters is closer to 1.6 million.

By 2030, one in 10 Canadians are expected to identify as Muslims, meaning Muslims stand to become one of the largest voting populations in the country, Statistics Canada estimates.

Muslims had historically been less likely to vote compared to other religious groups, according to research by Elections Canada. A 2007 working paper by the elections agency put Muslim voter turnout in the 2000 federal election at 67 per cent, compared with 85 per cent for voters who identified as Jewish, 82 per cent for Catholics and Protestants and 78 per cent for Hindus. Total voter turnout in that election was 61.2 per cent.

That changed in 2015. A post-election poll by Mainstreet Research pegged Canadian Muslim voter turnout at 79 per cent. National turnout in that election was 68.5 per cent.

This year, based on research by Canadian Muslim Vote, there are some 65 ridings where the Muslim voting population is larger than the margin of victory for the 2015 incumbent MP. [Note: The 2011 NHS (the 2016 Census did not include religious affiliation) showed 24 ridings where Muslims formed 10 percent or more of the population, with an additional 45 ridings with between 5 and 10 percent of the population.]

‘A populist movement taking hold’

One area where the Muslim vote could prove decisive is the riding of Milton, Ont. Its incumbent won by 2,438 votes in the last election. And while Muslims don’t vote as a block, the riding has a Canadian Muslim population of approximately 8,000, enough to have a direct impact on the result, CMV’s executive director Ali Manek told CBC News.

So what are the issues of greatest concern to Canadian Muslim voters?

“What we find in the Canadian-Muslim community through our surveys and community consultations is that the majority are concerned with the same things as the rest of Canadians: jobs, economy, taxation, immigration and foreign aid usually top the list,” Manek said. Islamophobia is another big concern, he said.

The group has been working to survey voters heading into the 2019 election and expects to have results on their key issues of concern this May.

Aziza Mohamed, a volunteer with the group, was among those who attended Friday’s event. She said the coming federal election is especially important.

“When we have political parties in our country that are actively courting racists and Islamophobes, it’s really important that we be engaged to fight against that,” she said.

“We have a populist movement taking hold … putting forth ideas that are completely contrary to what Canada stands for and to what Muslim Canadians stand for.”

Among the sermon’s key messages: that Muslims vote not only with themselves in mind, but consider the impact on the wider communities in which they live.

“Think much bigger than your local politics,” Rabbani said.

It’s a message that hit home for Oguz Sarkut, who regularly attends the Bosnian centre with his daughter.

His takeaway from the sermon: “If we don’t vote, we don’t have any right to complain.”

Source: Ahead of federal election, imams at 69 Canadian mosques deliver message that every vote counts

Anti-Muslim hatred has no place in my Canada: Margaret Wente

A rare column by Wente that captures the issues well:

We do a pretty good job of welcoming newcomers to this country. It’s one of our great strengths. I don’t buy the myth, beloved of some, that Canadians harbour deep racist and xenophobic tendencies that are just waiting to be set alight by the likes of Kellie Leitch.

But some days, I have to wonder what’s gotten into people. Who, for example, would want to deny Muslims the right to bury their dead?

It seems that there are more than you might think.

The terrible massacre in January of six worshippers at a mosque in Quebec City revealed a problem: Quebec Muslims have few places to bury their dead. The only Muslim-run cemetery in the province is in Montreal, several hours’ drive away. After the massacre, the small town of Saint-Apollinaire (population 6,000) found some land that would be suitable for another one, and quickly struck a deal to sell it to the Muslim community. It seemed like a neighbourly way to help. But as The Globe and Mail’s Ingrid Peritz found, the plan was met with a storm of protest.

“This cemetery is just the embryo of other projects,” one person wrote in an e-mail to the town’s mayor. “These people are here to grab religious and political power.”

The mayor, Bernard Ouellet, is staunch in his support for the plan, and believes most townspeople support it too. But he’ll have to work hard to quell the fears. As Quebec imam Hassan Guillet says, “If the project is refused and we’re not allowed to be buried in this land, how are we going to be accepted to live in this land?”

Religious accommodation is always a touchy subject, but the opposition to this plan is simply wrong. There is no place for it in my Canada.

Here in Ontario, we have our own hysterias. A strident group of anti-Muslim activists have been waging a noisy campaign to end Muslim prayer at schools in a big district near Toronto. At one school-board meeting, someone tore pages from the Koran and stomped all over them. At others, people leaped to their feet to denounce Islam. A parents’ group launched a petition complaining that “unsolicited exposure to religion” could “create subconscious bias in the minds of impressionable children for or against a faith.” In the latest bit of hate-filled showmanship (as a school-board spokesman aptly called it), a local agitator offered a $1,000 reward to any student who surreptitiously recorded hate speech during a Muslim prayer service.

Needless to say, Muslim prayer in schools has always been contentious. You may believe, as I do, that any type of prayer – including this type – has no place in the public schools. But I also believe it’s not the worst idea. Like it or not, religious accommodation is the law, and the schools are devoted to inclusiveness. Our interest is to integrate new Canadians, not segregate them. We want their children to be educated in the public schools, not religious schools. So we’d better make sure the kids (and parents) feel comfortable there. And if an optional 20-minute prayer session once a week helps them feel more welcome, then why not?

The Peel District School Board, where the current commotion has broken out, serves a sprawling, suburban multiethnic community whose Muslim population is around 10 per cent. Muslim students have been observing Friday prayers for 20 years. Other schools around the province make the same accommodation. It’s been a work in progress. One heavily Muslim school in Toronto faced tough questions a few years back because menstruating girls weren’t allowed to take part in the prayer service. There have been concerns about sexism, as well as worries about just what kind of Islam is being preached. The Peel board has conducted lengthy consultations about whether the students who lead the sessions may write their own sermons, and by whom, if anyone, they must be approved.

To be honest, I have no idea how all this will work out, and neither does anybody else. It will take a generation or more to tell. Canada is not immune from the ethnoreligious tensions that are rocking the world and there’s no way we can avoid them. But we can discourage the fear-mongers and the hate-mongers from poisoning our public discourse. We won’t always agree, especially over symbols that touch our deepest values. Let’s just hope we can keep finding ways to disagree politely. That’s supposed to be the Canadian way, and I don’t want to lose it.

Source: Anti-Muslim hatred has no place in my Canada – The Globe and Mail

ICYMI: A Muslim get-out-the-vote group plans a flag initiative

While it should not be necessary (we don’t expect this from churches, temples or gurdwaras), appears a good idea in the current context:

Jawed Rathore wants to see a big Canadian flag flying from a prominently positioned flagpole in front of every mosque in the country to send the simple message that Muslims are proud Canadians.

The real estate development executive pitched the idea this week in a suburban Toronto banquet hall to a crowd of about 700 supporters of The Canadian-Muslim Vote, a non-partisan organization that made its mark by campaigning to boost turnout among Muslim voters in last fall’s federal election.

The group’s July 13 inaugural dinner to mark Eid, the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, drew dozens of federal, provincial and municipal politicians, with federal Citizenship and Immigration Minister John McCallum delivering the keynote speech.

But Rathore took the podium earlier and proved a hard act to follow. The 39-year-old chief executive of Fortress Real Developments, father (as he mentioned more than once) of six children under seven, is a massively built six-three. His exuberant speaking style is as hard to ignore as his physical presence, and he offered an upbeat overview of the place of Muslims in Canada today. “For the first time ever, it’s kind of cool to be Muslim,” he proclaimed, arguing that every outburst of anti-Islamic bigotry tends to be followed by even more forceful statement of support for the Muslim community from sympathetic non-Muslims.

Still, Rathore proposed that Muslims should send a clear signal of patriotism by flying the Canadian flag in front of their mosques. In an interview with Maclean’s, he framed the initiative as a natural follow-up to the group’s push to boost the Muslim vote. (The Canadian-Muslim Vote points to exit polls that suggest the percentage of voting-age Muslims who cast a ballot might have soared to 79 per cent in the 2015 election, from an estimated 46.5 per cent in 2011.)

“We thought this would be a great opportunity,” Rathore said. “As we talked to the Muslim community about the most Canadian thing you can do, which is to vote, we [wondered], ‘What else can we do to engage with the community?’ And that’s where the team came up with this really exciting idea of getting big Canadian flags in front of every mosque across Canada.”

Although Rathore sees a high level of acceptance of Muslims in Canada, he doesn’t deny his community remains misunderstood by too many. “There’s a sense when you talk to people about Islamophobia, or even just people’s general unawareness of Islam, they think because of some of the things they see and hear that Muslims choose to exclude themselves, that Muslims choose to segregate themselves,” he said. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

He said most Muslims want to be seen as part of the Canadian social fabric. “Nothing really says that more than a Canadian flag going up,” he said. “Sometimes the simplest medium is the most effective one.” [Note: See the Environics Institute Why Muslims are proud Canadians – The Globe and Mail which largely confirms this].

Rathore brings a business branding perspective to the image challenge facing Muslims. Fortress Real Developments, headquartered just north of Toronto, has real estate projects underway in six provinces. “You look at some of the big U.S. brands that have come north of the border, and Walmart is one of the big examples: at every supercentre they have there is a huge Canadian flag,” he said.

“When they were coming up here, there was the usual rhetoric about ugly Americans, and Walmart made the very simple gesture of saying, ‘We recognize that we are not seen as being from here, we’re outsiders, we’re strangers, and we are coming to Canada’—and they erected these huge flags.”

At the Eid dinner, Rathore showed slides of major mosques, then clicked to the same photos adorned with rudimentary illustrations of Canadian flags flying in front of them. It wasn’t high-tech, but it seemed to convey what he has in mind. In the 24 hours after the dinner, he said groups called, emailed and texted with offers to sponsor 55 flag poles at mosques. His company will pay for the first ten, though.

The Canadian-Muslim Vote plans to take the next few weeks to figure out how to proceed, Rathore said, and hopes to start putting up flagpoles in September or October.

Source: A Muslim get-out-the-vote group plans a flag initiative

Islam and terrorism: Gurski

Phil Gurski, citing the recent Environics Institute survey on Canadian Muslims, on how integration and participation in Canadian society highlights the “acceptance of the rules of the road in a democracy:’

And yet it would at the same time be difficult to maintain that these groups represent normative Islam.  A very small number of the world’s billion and half Muslims resort to terrorism, and even if we include those that support violence the resulting figure is still minimal.  It should therefore be obvious that Islam does not lead inevitably to terrorism.

Where then does Islam enter into the solution?  We need look no further than to our own country for the answer.  The recent Environics poll on Muslim Canadians provides some intriguing material.  Carried out a decade after the first such survey, the poll shows that a majority of Canadian Muslims feel that this country allows them to practice their faith freely, are proud Canadians, want their communities to integrate into the greater Canadian polity and, of greatest importance for this article, want to cooperate with government agencies to address radicalisation.  This last finding coincides with my experiences and exchanges with Muslim communities across Canada during my time with the federal government.  In addition, the spike in Muslim voting in the last federal election clearly demonstrated that Canadian Muslims engaged in the political process to effect change.  That is the hallmark of one’s acceptance of the rules of the road in a democracy.

The incidence of Islamist terrorism will unfortunately be with us for some time.  Whatever happens to Islamic State and others, the spectre of jihadism will find another body to invade and wreak havoc.  Combating terrorism will take many forms and involve many actors.  Some of the most crucial actors will be our fellow Muslim Canadians.  We have the advantage here that we can have this dialogue about religion: as I heard repeatedly in the UK, EU nations struggle with this topic.

In the end we in Canada will not solve terrorism on our own, but we can make a contribution.  Yes, a small number of Canadians will venture down the path of Islamist violent extremism, and others around the world will act in similar ways.  We cannot, however, allow the fringe to dictate our relationship with our co-citizens who make a real contribution to the success, and envy of many, that is Canada.

Source: Borealis Threat & Risk Consulting

So who says Muslims can’t be both devout and patriotic? – iPolitics

Amira Elghawaby’s take on media coverage of the Environics poll of Canadian Muslims:

CBC’s original headline acknowledged some of the good news — but somehow still managed to frame the results in a negative light: “Muslim Canadians love Canada, but faith more important to their identity: survey”.

That “but” seemed to suggest that one couldn’t both love Canada and strongly identify as Muslim — that somehow, for Muslims, patriotism and faith are mutually exclusive. To its credit, the CBC quickly reacted to the feedback and changed the headline — but the damage had been done. The majority of reader comments reacting to the initial story were negative, harping on stereotypes portraying Muslims as people who are unable or unwilling to integrate — people who want to ‘change’ Canada to suit themselves.

“Faith overrides their ‘love’ of Canada … what does that tell you folks. Tells me importing people more loyal to religious dogma then (sic) laws, culture and peoples of this country is a bad idea,” wrote one commenter.

The Toronto Sun’s coverage was simply obtuse. One Sun columnist offered this observation: “It’s a stretch to say this survey shows Muslims are in fact becoming more Canadian. It paints more of a complicated picture. But based on the increases in the Muslim population and their religious observance, Canada’s certainly becoming more Muslim.” At least one anti-immigrant blogger wallowed in this interpretation of the poll, using it to support his dire warnings of a Muslim takeover.

Given the slant on some of the coverage, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that two-thirds of the Canadian Muslims polled cited “media representation” among their top concerns — followed closely by anti-Muslim discrimination. That slant helps explain why there is such unease about the media among Muslims — and why close to half of non-Muslim Canadians surveyed still hold negative views of Islam and Muslims.

Source: So who says Muslims can’t be both devout and patriotic? – iPolitics

Liberals won over Muslims by huge margin in 2015, poll suggests

No surprise, given the Conservative party’s use of identity politics in the election and explicit anti-Muslim messaging.

Chris Cochrane’s (UofT Scarborough) exit poll analysis of the election results, presented at Metropolis this spring, shows even stronger support among Canadian Muslims, close to 80 percent:

Muslim Canadians voted overwhelmingly for the Liberal Party in last year’s election, helping Justin Trudeau secure the majority government that nine out of 10 of Muslims believe will help improve relations between themselves and other Canadians, according to a new survey.

The poll of Muslim Canadians also found widespread support for the right to wear a niqab during a citizenship ceremony and a large degree of opposition to the anti-terrorism legislation known as Bill C-51, two hot-button issues that may have cost the Conservatives dearly in the last federal election.

The Environics Institute polled 600 Muslim Canadians between November 2015 and January 2016, asking a number of questions related to identity and religious issues, in addition to more politically themed questions.

Of those who said they had voted in the 2015 federal election, 65 per cent reported voting for the Liberals, with 10 per cent saying they voted for the New Democrats and just two per cent for the Conservatives.

Another 19 per cent of Muslim respondents refused to say how they had voted.

How Muslims voted in the last federal election

The Liberals did particularly well among Muslims in Quebec and those who are Canadian born. The NDP did slightly better among younger Muslims than it did among older Muslims.

These numbers mark a shift away from the NDP and Conservatives compared with 2011. An Ipsos Reid exit poll of voters in 2011 found that 46 per cent of Muslim Canadians had voted for the Liberals, with 38 per cent having cast a ballot for the NDP and 12 per cent for the Conservatives.

Source: Liberals won over Muslims by huge margin in 2015, poll suggests – Politics – CBC News

Muslim Canadians increasingly proud of and attached to Canada, survey suggests

Noteworthy that increased religiosity seems compatible with attachment to Canada, just as it is with other religions:

An overwhelming majority of Muslim Canadians have a strong attachment to their country and feel that Canada is heading in the right direction, according to a new survey.

But the survey also finds that young Muslims, a cohort that is increasingly devout, have more attachment to their religious identity than older Muslims and are more likely to be concerned and pessimistic about discrimination.

These are the findings of a survey of 600 Canadian Muslims conducted by the Environics Institute between November 2015 and January 2016. It follows up on a survey conducted 10 years ago and suggests that Muslim Canadians are becoming increasingly integrated into the broader Canadian society.

The survey began in the weeks following last fall’s federal election. A good chunk of that election’s campaign was dominated by the debate about Muslim women’s right to wear the niqab, a religious face covering, as well the Conservative proposal to establish a tip-line to report “barbaric cultural practices” that was widely seen as aimed at Muslims.

Strong sense of belonging

The survey found that 83 per cent of Muslims reported being “very proud” to be Canadian, an increase of 10 points since 2006. This was in contrast to non-Muslim Canadians — only 73 per cent of whom said they were “very proud” to be Canadian.

Fully 94 per cent of respondents said their sense of belonging to Canada was very or generally strong, and 58 per cent said their sense of belonging had become stronger over the last five years. Just five per cent said it was getting weaker.

Muslim survey graphic 4

An Environics survey says nearly half of Muslim Canadian women report wearing a head covering in public. (CBC)

Muslims reported that Canada’s freedom and democracy was their greatest source of pride (24 per cent), followed by the country’s multiculturalism and diversity (22 per cent). Younger and Canadian-born Muslims were much more likely to choose multiculturalism and diversity, compared to foreign-born Muslims, who valued freedom and democracy.

The biggest knock against Canada was the weather. Just under one-third of Muslims said that was what they liked least about Canada. Another nine per cent highlighted discrimination and the treatment of Muslims. One-in-five could not name anything they disliked about Canada.

Source: Muslim Canadians increasingly proud of and attached to Canada, survey suggests – Politics – CBC News

Muslim men must learn to treat women as equals: Sheema Khan

One of the more interesting sessions we held on multiculturalism and faith was a small multi-faith roundtable, with the most interesting exchange being between Sheema Khan and Alia Hogben (Canadian Council of Muslim Women) who challenged some of the more conservative or traditional male Imams present on gender issues.

Both have continued to be outspoken as seen in this latest piece by Sheema:

From 2000 to 2005, I served as the chair of CAIR-CAN, a grassroots advocacy organization that fought discrimination against Muslims. Whether it was a Muslim woman denied employment because of her hijab, or the rendition of Maher Arar, we fought for basic human rights based on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This journey opened my eyes to my own double standards: I fought for Muslims to be treated with basic human dignity by the wider society, yet looked the other way when such treatment was denied to women within my own community.

Toward the end of my CAIR-CAN tenure, I could no longer stand the hypocrisy, and decided to tackle a fundamental problem that our community has been content to ignore: the treatment of women as second-class human beings. As chair, I came across incidents against Muslim women that would never have been tolerated had these been perpetrated by a non-Muslim. But if a Muslim did it, well, we would let it go, hoping that attitudes would one day change.

It was, and continues to be, the denial of the fact that many Muslim cultures have a bias against women. Consider the past few years of the Gender Gap Index, published by the World Economic Forum. It continually lists predominantly Muslim countries in the bottom rung of societies that equitably distribute resources between men and women. From the super rich (such as Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States) to the impoverished, a large chunk of Muslims live in societies where women are shortchanged in terms of development, opportunity and participation.

The bulk of Muslims in Canada are immigrants who naturally bring to this country the attitudes and norms shaped by their culture of birth. These will be transformed by Canadian norms; the transformation varies from person to person. Suffice it to say that many traditional Muslim institutions continue to operate on a patriarchal model, in which women are either unwelcomed or merely tolerated, but are always expected to keep the status quo. Those who demand basic rights are labelled with the “f” word – feminist.

….Some will be critical of the airing of “dirty laundry” during difficult times for Muslims. Yet meaningful discussions about the treatment of women have been avoided for far too long. To what end? What we don’t need is another lecture about the dress and behaviour of the “ideal” Muslim woman. Instead, we need to hear more about men taking responsibility for their actions, and treating women as equal human beings.

Source: Muslim men must learn to treat women as equals – The Globe and Mail

Young Muslim voters matter more than ever

Interesting contrast between the first generation and the second generation in terms of political engagement.

Canadian Muslims form between 15 and 20 percent in six ridings (Toronto’s Mississauga-Erin Mills, Mississauga Centre and Don Valley East; Montreal’s Saint-Laurent and Saint-Léonard-Saint-Michel; and, Ottawa South):

Yet for many Canadian Muslim youth, this country is the only home they have ever known.

Unlike many of their parents, who migrated to the country in the ’70s and ’80s, more than one in four Muslims in Canada were born here, according to a report published earlier this year by Ottawa-based researcher Daood Hamdani for The Canadian Dawn Foundation.

“Both my feet are planted here. There is no ‘back home’ for me,” says 37-year-old Mohammed Hashim of Mississauga, Ont.

‘I want Canada to go back to what it was.’— Sanaa Ali-Mohammed, 26

That’s a sentiment that the older generation doesn’t always share, Ali-Mohammed says. “For my parents, I think it’s more of a transactional relationship. They’ll be good citizens but there’s always this undertone of ‘we don’t really belong here.'”

Islamic Institute of Toronto president Fareed Amin is a first-generation immigrant to Canada and has seen this sentiment among his age group first-hand. “Many of them come from countries where whether you participate or not doesn’t make a difference, so sometimes there’s that skepticism to participate in the political process .”

Some new Canadians also carry with them the view that political involvement is potentially dangerous because of the tenuous political climates they left behind.

“I don’t think our young people have the same baggage that some of the first-generation immigrants have,” Amin says. “They’re born-and-bred Canadians.”

Back in Brampton, Ali says part of being Canadian is the freedom to be whoever you are. “My parents chose to come here because you can’t always be that in Pakistan.”

His hope for the election? “I want Canada to go back to what it was; the country my parents came to.”

The Conservatives’ veiled pitch for the anti-Muslim vote: Delacourt

Delacourt has it right, both in terms of substance and politics:

What we have here is a textbook case of saying one thing and doing another in politics. The ‘saying’ part is for all the wrong reasons — the ‘doing’ part is for the right ones.

I suspect the Conservative government realized several years ago that it was legally impossible to ban veiled voting. Two attempts were made between 2007 and 2011. Both quietly died on the order paper.

Here’s why: It would amount to singling out certain members of the population for restricted rights. We do allow people to vote in Canada without showing their face at the ballot box — through proxies, or mail-in special ballots. How do you write a law that says some people don’t need to show their faces, but others do?

Moreover, a special law to prohibit the niqab would stomp all over Canadians’ rights to religious expression. That’s probably why the Justice Department lawyer felt he had to point out the non-mandatory aspect of the legislation in Federal Court.

Rather than explain this to Canadians, though, the Conservatives took the path of blustering about niqabs and sending dog-whistle signals to people uncomfortable or fearful about Muslims. Bad statesmanship. Easy politics, though.

We saw that earlier this year, as well, when the Conservatives sent out a fundraising email asking supporters to sign up if they agreed that it was “offensive” to wear a niqab or a hijab at citizenship ceremonies. The email left little doubt that the Conservatives were whipping up these sentiments for reasons of purest electoral politics.

The note was signed by Immigration Minister Chris Alexander and stirred up some controversy with his interchangeable use of ‘niqab’ and ‘hijab’; one is generally associated with full-face coverings, while the other, the hijab, is commonly used to describe a head covering.

To make things even more confusing, not all Conservatives have been using the word “offensive” when it comes to garments of religious expression. Kenney, for instance, said on Twitter in 2013: “A child is no less Canadian because she or he wears a kippa, turban, cross, or hijab to school.” Kenney sent out that missive in the midst of the Quebec debate over the wearing of religious symbols in public.

There’s still a month left in this election and it’s entirely possible that one of the eleventh-hour Conservative campaign promises will revolve around banning veiled voting — again. It would fit well with this week’s bluster on citizenship ceremonies.

This time we might ask them: Why did the last two attempts quietly die? Are they serious this time, or is this just another attempt to whip up some good old-fashioned intolerance?

What’s really being veiled here by all this talk about the niqab?

Source: The Conservatives’ veiled pitch for the anti-Muslim vote