Khan: Muslims can improve our communities on our own. We just have to be willing to speak out

Indeed. And good initiative to address equality and equity issues:

Some years ago, I learned that our local mosque refused to allow women to serve on the board. This sexist practice was also entrenched in the bylaws of the British Columbia Muslim Association for nearly four decades. Only Muslim men, it turned out, could be elected to the board, and only by Muslim men. When I asked the mosque and the BCMA if they would change their policies, they unequivocally refused.

But when I began to prepare a column about the issue, a lawyer reached out, asking me to refrain from speaking out. Why? There was concern that then-prime minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative government would use this information to go after mosques. “Not now – give us time,” came the plea.

“So, once the Liberals are elected, mosques will open their boards to women?” I asked. We both knew the answer.

Rather than address the discrimination within, some organizations have found it easier to simply ignore internal criticism, while silencing whistle-blowers with emotional blackmail: You’ll hurt the community by airing dirty laundry. The problem is that the laundry is piling up and the stench is getting unbearable, while those who can access the washing machine continue to refuse to do their chores.

The situation is especially acute for victims of violence and abuse. They are often pressed to keep matters quiet, and not file charges, so that the community won’t look bad in the eyes of the public. Meanwhile, there is little accountability of perpetrators. Those who do speak out are shamed as traitors, enablers of Islamophobia, or worse, as self-hating Muslims. Often, it is the voices of women that are silenced by these heavy-handed tactics. Consequently, justice is thrown under the bus of community self-censorship.

It’s why well-meaning institutions overreach in their attempts to stamp out a quantum of Islamophobia. The Toronto District School Board (TDSB), for instance, has yet to decide whether it will allow teenaged girls to participate in a book club event featuring Nadia Murad, a Yazidi woman who was enslaved, tortured and raped by members of the Islamic State. This courageous young woman refused to remain silent, and has even won the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts to seek justice for her people. That she was assaulted by sadistic individuals acting under the cover of an inhumane interpretation of Islam is part of her truth, as is the fact that Muslims worldwide repudiate the Islamic State. The TDSB apparently fears that impressionable teens may not be able to distinguish between an extremist group and ordinary Muslims who are their friends and neighbours.

But here’s a thought: The Muslim community can simultaneously fight Islamophobia and address the ills within it. It is not, and should not be, a zero-sum game. Just as Muslims desire from others safety, freedom from discrimination, access to justice and the opportunity to thrive, they should work hard to ensure the same principles apply to those who are themselves Muslims. One cannot make demands and then plead indifference when asked to fulfill those same demands. As the Quran states in the chapter titled “Women”: “Oh you who believe. Stand firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even though it is against yourselves, your family, the rich or the poor.”

Here’s another thought: Muslim women have the agency to improve their own lives. Their own history is replete with illustrious paradigms, including that of Khawlah bint Tha’labah, who challenged a cruel marital custom in 7th-century Arabia when no one else dared; her courageous stand led to its abolition. She is known as “al-Mujaadilah,” or “the woman who pleaded,” in the 58th chapter of the Quran. For 14 centuries, Khawlah has been a model for unwavering commitment to justice within.

In the coming weeks, the Mujaadilah Centre – founded on the noble example of Khawlah – will be launching. Its goal is to unapologetically address harms faced by Canadian Muslim women within their communities. This will include an in-depth analysis of the gender make-up of mosque boards across the country. And in 2022, the centre will address the controversial practice of polygamy here in Canada, by providing new legal research of the Criminal Code along with documentation of harm suffered by women and children.

There is hope on the horizon. A new generation of Muslims is demanding greater accountability of leadership. They will not turn a blind eye to discrimination and abuse within, since they understand that wrongdoings left unaddressed will only lead to worse outcomes. Too many lives have been destroyed for this to continue. This cohort is taking the lead on addressing taboos head-on. They will make a difference for the better.

In the meantime, let’s all strive for a better society – standing up for what is right, and forbidding what is wrong, across all communities.


Contrasting commentaries on the London killings

Contrasting commentaries, starting with Rupa Subramanya, who while providing perspective on racism in Canada and how it also exists between minority groups, downplays the extent of racism and Islamophobia. Noor Javed provides a useful counterpoint on her lived experiences:

There is certainly no question that hate crimes against many minority groups — including Jewish, Muslim and Asian Canadians — have been on the rise recently. Statistics Canada found that police-reported hate crimes increased in 2019 from the previous year, and reports of anti-Asian hate crimes have surged throughout the pandemic.

A 2019 Ipsos Reid poll found that 26 per cent of respondents believed that prejudice against Muslims had become “more acceptable” in the previous five years. This compares to 21 per cent for refugees, 23 per cent for immigrants as a whole and 15 per cent or less for other minority groups, including Indo-Canadians and Jewish-Canadians.

Any evidence that racism is on the rise is deplorable and every racist incident must be condemned in the strongest possible terms. However, Singh does the cause of fighting racism no favours by taking an extreme and exaggerated position that I, as an immigrant and person of colour, cannot agree with. Are there racists in Canada? Sure. Is Canada a racist country? Absolutely not.

Source: No, Jagmeet, Canada is not a racist country. It’s one of the most tolerant places on earth

Noor Javed, on her lived experiences:

In the early morning hours, the day after the most recent terror attack in Ontario, I couldn’t sleep.

It was still dark when I got out of bed and did the only thing that would comfort my heart: I prayed for the Afzaal family — Salman Afzaal, Madiha Salman, 15 year-old Yumna, her grandmother, Talat, and nine-year-old survivor Fayez. The family were intentionally run down by a truck in their hometown of London, Ont., on Sunday as they took an evening stroll in their neighbourhood.

They were the victims of what police are calling an anti-Muslim hate attack.

I cannot help thinking about my own experiences with Islamophobia as a visible Muslim journalist in the so-called “most diverse city in the world.”

Nothing I experienced compares to the trauma faced by the family and friends of the Afzaal family — including Fayez, who will live with this horrific incident and the loss of his family forever. Or the family of Mohamed-Aslim Zafis, who was murdered last year by a neo-Nazi in Etobicoke as he sat outside the International Muslim Organization mosque. Or the children who buried their fathers in Quebec City after the mosque shooting in 2017 — and the many survivors who are still struggling to cope in its aftermath.

But the many incidents of Islamophobia, or anti-Muslim hate as I prefer to name it, that I have faced have weighed down on me over the years. They have affected the career choices I have made. They have impacted my mental health. They have deeply hurt me — and still do.

When I tried to list all the incidents of hate that I have experienced since I became a journalist — both in my job and on a day-to-day basis — I hit 30 before I stopped. I could have gone on.

There is an unspoken code that journalists of colour quickly learn when they start in the profession: if you want to survive in this industry, you must have thick skin.

When I got my first barrage of hate mail as an intern at the Star 15 years ago, and turned to a colleague for support, he looked at my hijab and said: if you want to survive, you will need to have Teflon-like skin. Let the hate bounce off you. Don’t let it stick.

But the truth is, even when you tell yourself it doesn’t impact you, it still does.

Every email in your inbox with someone telling you they hate you because of your hijab.

Every letter calling you a “dirty raghead.”

Every tweet telling you to go back to where you came from.

Every person who walks by and whispers “You’re disgusting.”

Every smear campaign calling you a terrorist.

Every time someone doubts your news judgment because you are a “lying Muslim.”

Every time someone asks if you were a token hire.

Every time you go to the public editor, nearly in tears, when the hate gets too much to bear.

Every time you realize that your colleagues enjoy the luxury of white privilege, their names and skin colour affording them a protection that you have never had — and never will.

I will stop there.

You look for ways to cope. But the hate slowly chips away at you and at the idea that we have been so conditioned to believe: How can this be happening here in Canada, the most accepting country in the world?

Let me tell you: It’s been happening for years. The hate is not new. And neither is the violence.

But the haters have gotten more brazen. More hateful. More organized. More dangerous.

So when the Afzaal family was killed for just being Muslim this week, it broke me.

Years of online hate, of politicians benefiting from anti-Muslim policies, of pundits spewing anti-Muslim rhetoric, of trolls questioning if our pain was even real, has done exactly what it was meant to. It turned people against us. It has led them to hate us so much that they want us dead.

This week, I had a conversation that I never imagined I would have with my children, ages seven and 10. I had feared telling them about the incident, but they saw the cover of the newspaper and asked me what happened in London on Sunday night.

I sat them down, and told them about a beautiful family, who looked very much like our own, who went for a walk, but didn’t make it home.

They looked at my tears, and my hijab, and shared their thoughts: “That’s so scary.” “I don’t ever want to cross a street again.”

And then came the hard questions:

“Who will take care of the little boy?”

“Why would that man do that to them? Could it happen to us?”

“Are you scared, mama?”

I’m not scared, little ones. I’m tired.

Source: ‘Are you scared mama?’: Years of anti-Muslim hate chip away at you. The killing of the Afzaal family in London broke me

‘Hi, my name is Mohammed. I’m here to help you.’ Meet the unofficial crisis manager for Muslim Canadians

Good profile of Hashim and his bringing a more sophisticated awareness of how to work with the media:

Mohammed Hashim hoped it wasn’t terrorism, but that’s where his thoughts naturally went. He heard a van had mounted the sidewalk at a busy intersection in Toronto and driven for several blocks, killing and injuring people. There was no time to watch this news unfold online like everyone else – he had work to do.

No one knew the identity of the driver but it didn’t take long for the labels “Middle Eastern” and “jihadist” to spread on Twitter.

He coached prominent Muslims on what to say when journalists called. “Well, this is clearly a deviation from our faith,” was a favourite line in situations like this. Mr. Hashim loved the word “deviant” – it clearly and strongly communicated that this person was not following the teachings of Islam.

He reached out to contacts at City Hall to find out when and where the mayor would be giving a news conference, so he could send a few Muslims to the same place. If the attacker was confirmed to be a follower of Islam, it was important for viewers to think of the Muslims they saw on TV, along with the mayor, as “us” rather than “them.”

Finally, he helped the Council of Imams draft a statement condemning every aspect of the attack, which he was ready to release to every major news outlet in the country that evening. But he never hit send. He didn’t have to. Four hours after the incident, the alleged attacker was identified as Alek Minassian, a Canadian-born man of mixed Armenian and Iranian ancestry. Not “Middle Eastern.” Not a “jihadist.” Not a Muslim.

Mr. Hashim can’t help but see news stories in terms of what they might mean for Canadian Muslims. A labour organizer by day, he moonlights as an unofficial crisis manager for the community, helping craft PR campaigns, liaise with police and counsel those who have found themselves in the middle of firestorms. He does the (mostly pro-bono) work of de facto publicist, defence lawyer and therapist for his clients, who are often the victims of Islamophobic attacks.

Police data published by Statistics Canada showed a 151-per-cent increase in hate crimes targeting Muslims across Canada from 2016 to 2017 – the largest increase across any group.

In the past four years, Mr. Hashim has assisted the people at the centre of nearly every major news story involving Canadian Muslims. To some, he represents a new image of Canadian Muslims that is young, progressive and Canadian-born, but in the Toronto Sun, he’s been portrayed as a “spin doctor,” someone who exercises too much control over messaging in the community.

His motivation is simple: He wants to change the narrative about Canadian Muslims. While he’s done pro-active campaigns, such as organizing a debate for Muslim youth for the 2015 federal election campaign, the work that has come to define him is those moments when he runs toward Muslims in crisis.

“I typically show up on the worst day of people’s lives,” he said. “‘Hi, my name is Mohammed. I’m here to help you.’”

Overnight, an east Toronto Muslim family had gone from being one of the most sympathetic in the country to one of the most reviled.

It began on a day in January, 2018, when an 11-year-old girl appeared on every local newscast to explain how, while walking to school, an “Asian man” had followed her and cut her hijab with a pair of scissors. The story took off and by end of day, the Mayor, Premier and Prime minister had all decried the attack.

But a few days later all those newscasts had an update. Police had “determined the events described … did not happen.”

Evidence had shown the child had made up the story. The investigation was closed. The father was advised by relatives to avoid social media, where people were saying horrific things about his daughter, demanding his family be criminally charged or deported.

A group of protestors showed up at Parliament Hill, calling for Justin Trudeau to apologize. Strangers – were they reporters? angry neighbours? – had found their way into the family’s building and knocked on their apartment door. The child’s father was afraid to go to work, to send his children to school, to even pick up groceries.

Mr. Hashim had little sympathy for the family at this point.

“I was like, ‘What the hell is this nonsense?’ Like, if like there’s Islamophobia in Canada, it needs to be real,” he recalls thinking at the time.

But he pivoted. Worse than this revelation, he realized, was the impact of the family’s silence.

“If they don’t [speak up], they drag all of us down. And they let their failures be imposed as our failures and I’m not having any of that,” he said.

He also hated seeing how, in the absence of comment from those directly involved, media often turned to local imams. In the years since 9/11, Mr. Hashim says he noticed “every single imam was saying the most random shit that made no sense, that was inarticulate, that didn’t represent … any of our collective truths.”

Sometimes those messages were anti-Semitic or furthered negative stereotypes the public held about Muslims.

After being recruited by a friend of the family, Mr. Hashim arrived at their apartment one evening to offer his assistance. He had them explain in detail what had happened, how they were dealing, what they feared.

He is a master of holding eye contact, even when he’s uncomfortable, and readily offering empathetic smiles to fill long silences. His hair is often in a buzz cut (occasionally overgrown) and he usually wears jeans. It’s a look that projects “I’m just a friendly neighbour dropping by to help” rather than “Here’s a 25-point PR strategy and, by the way, I bill by the hour.”

The father recalls feeling immediately at ease.

Mr. Hashim’s advice was straightforward: Issue a public apology. “Don’t try to justify it,” he advised them. “Just own it.”

With their input, Mr. Hashim helped draft the note that he would distribute to media.

But the father wondered if it was enough to make things right with fellow Muslims who had turned against them.

“It’s a big thing for the community, too, because they were thinking, you know, ‘Next time, if something really happens, nobody’s gonna believe, you know, because you guys gave a bad name to the community,’ ” the father said.

Armed with Mr. Hashim’s advice and the right language, the father made it to his local mosque and asked the imam if, at the next Friday prayer, he could share an apology on behalf of the family after delivering his sermon. He agreed.

Things felt lighter after that. The father said he felt welcomed back by his community, as if he no longer had to lower his eyes and make a quick exit when he went to pray.

Learning how to speak to the diverse Muslim populations scattered across Canada came to Mr. Hashim precisely because he’s never been tied to any one Muslim community. He’s never had a “home mosque” per se; his labour-relations work takes him all over Toronto and its surrounding suburbs and he ducks into whichever mosque is in the area – one day he’s kneeling beside Somalis and the next day it’s Bosnians.

Shaila Carter, a long-time friend who had grown up in a conservative Muslim family, couldn’t make sense of Mr. Hashim the day she met him on the Mississauga campus of the University of Toronto: he introduced himself with a casual “Salaam alaikum” (“peace be unto you,” a common way Muslims greet each other) but with his smoking, tattoos and cut-offs, he didn’t look like a Muslim to her.

Mr. Hashim was a political science student and became close with Ms. Carter after they worked together on various student-government campaigns. Ms. Carter occasionally invited Mr. Hashim to join her in prayer and was pleasantly surprised when he eventually came – a reluctant embrace of a faith that didn’t have much of a place in his life before. He came from a Muslim family, but they weren’t devout.

After this, Mr. Hashim approached Islam with his student politician tool kit. He joined mosque boards and took issues raised by local Muslims straight to their MP or MPP’s offices. He got to know the leadership at different mosques well, and fantasized about unionizing the city’s imams.

Ms. Carter believes her friend has become such an effective interlocutor because he came to the faith as an outsider who understood how Muslims were seen by others.

In 2017, Ipsos-Reid released the results of a poll that showed how skewed Canadians’ perceptions were of Muslims. While they only made up 3.2 per cent of the population at the time and were projected to drop to 2.8 per cent of the population by 2020, those polled believed they were already 17 per cent of the population and would be 27 per cent of the population by 2020 – gross overestimations.

“Clearly, Canadian Muslims have an image problem,” says Amira Elghawaby, the former communications director at the National Council for Canadian Muslims, who has worked closely with Mr. Hashim on PR campaigns – both pro-active and reactive.

When a white supremacist commits a mass killing, his community doesn’t have to apologize for him or distance itself from him, but if a Muslim does the same, “I think many Muslim organizations feel compelled to forcefully and in a very clear manner state that they condemn these acts of violence and stand against them,” says Karim H. Karim, director of Carleton University’s Centre for the Study of Islam.

But Ms. Elghawaby and Mr. Hashim are optimistic that that trend is on its way out. And research suggests that when media portrays Muslims as individuals, rather than as a homogeneous bloc, the public’s fears are dispelled. Studies have found a correlation between ignorance and fear; when people have contact with Muslims, their views of them improve.

“Obviously, we can’t get to know every single Canadian,” Ms. Elghawaby said, “and that’s why it’s so critical and crucial that we help Canadian Muslims feel comfortable speaking to the media.”

It was this advice Mr. Hashim brought to the family of Faisal Hussain, the man responsible for the deadly attack on Toronto’s busy Danforth Avenue in July, 2018.

In the days that followed the attack, Mr. Hashim counselled a member of the Hussain family – who were under enormous media scrutiny – on the phone. There was something in Mr. Hashim’s voice on the other end of the line that immediately conveyed trust.

As he learned Mr. Hussain had suffered from psychosis and depression, that he’d tried and failed with various treatments, Mr. Hashim empathized with the family – but also saw an opportunity.

Revealing that Mr. Hussain had this struggle and that his family had tried to help him might make the public see them with some compassion. This was also a chance to clearly state that Mr. Hussain’s actions were in no way motivated by his faith. And there was no time to waste – ISIS had already claimed the attack, as they so often do.

The relative wrote a statement and sent it to Mr. Hashim. They exchanged edits. Then Mr. Hashim released it to the press.

He also urged the family to give interviews, telling them what they had to say would seem more believable if it came from them directly, but they were resistant to that.

“When your face is out there, you don’t know what people are thinking. There’s a lot of racism out there and we didn’t want to be victims,” the family member said.

After their side of the story was public, the Hussain family received letters of support and empathy from strangers. But it also put a target on Mr. Hashim.

Right-wing commentators questioned Mr. Hashim’s role in all this: Why was he helping the family? They tried to connect the dots between this case and others they learned he’d been involved with. Were his motivations sinister? Some messaged him directly, suggested he was doing PR for the Muslim Brotherhood. For a while, security increased at Mr. Hashim’s office. He “digitally divorced” his wife, not wanting her to receive any of the vitriol that was filling his inbox.

But it hasn’t deterred him from doing this work. Even after there was nothing else to follow-up on, Mr. Hashim continued calling the Hussains, the family member said – just to check in on how everyone was doing.

“He was very consoling with his words. I remember him saying things like, ‘I wish I was there right now with you and your family and able to hug all of you,’ ” the family member recalls.

To police, Mr. Hashim has become a useful community ally, says Meaghan Gray, a communications officer at the Toronto Police Service.

Ms. Gray and Mr. Hashim first connected about three years ago, when the TPS hired its first Muslim chaplain. Since then he has become one of the people she is routinely in touch with to ask about how the service was doing on the communications front and he’s helped on a dozen files.

“The almost constant conversation Mohammed and I have is, ‘How could the messaging that we give out possibly feed into any sort of Islamophobia?’ ” she said.

Despite the many cases he’s worked on in the past few years, Mr. Hashim sees his work being obsolete in another decade or two.

There are promising signs: Muslim politicians who speak out, community organizations that don’t feel they need to be as defensive as they once were and more enlightened journalists.

His vision for Canada in 20 years is one where imams are Canadian-born, mosques aren’t divided along ethnic lines and Muslims are never subjected to questions about whether they have a dual loyalty to Canada and the Muslim Brotherhood or jihadism or even the country from which their parents emigrated.

But for now, Mr. Hashim says, the work still feels necessary and is often messy; he admits he’s never had a “clean win.”

There are limitations to Mr. Hashim’s work, which have become clear in the months following his latest intervention. In the fall of 2019, Mr. Hashim called Ms. Gray to alert her to something alarming: A family, the Al-Soufis, who ran a popular Syrian restaurant downtown, had received written and phone threats for weeks. One day they jumped off the page – the owners’ son was physically assaulted.

Earlier that fall, the son had attended a protest at a People’s Party of Canada event and had been filmed blocking an elderly woman in a walker from entering the event. He was doxxed, and a flood of abuse was soon directed at his family and their business. Spooked after the attack, the family abruptly closed their restaurant.

After Mr. Hashim flagged the situation, Ms. Gray connected the local police division with the Al-Soufi family, and officers began an investigation.

It bothered Mr. Hashim that Islamophobia and xenophobia had prompted a family of recent immigrants to give up their dream. He explained to Husam Al-Soufi, the family patriarch, how his decision would be read by immigrants across the country.

“Your story is your story,” he told him. “If you allow your restaurant to be closed, that tells all of us that maybe we shouldn’t hope so much.”

He told them to reopen the restaurant. They did with the management help of Mohamad Fakih, the owner of Middle Eastern restaurant chain Paramount Foods. Mr. Hashim knew Mr. Fakih from earlier in the year, when Mr. Hashim helped Mr. Fakih publicize a defamation case he’d won against a Mississauga man who had accused Mr. Fakih in a series of videos of having ties to extremism.

The trust of Mr. Hashim was, again, nearly instant.

“So many people advised me to do something,” Mr. Al-Soufi said. “The only one I listened to was [Mr. Hashim].”

He convinced them to do what he couldn’t get the Hussain family to do: Hold a news conference at the restaurant. Two dozen journalists showed up.

Since the restaurant reopened, Mr. Al-Soufi’s son has been charged by Hamilton police with causing a disturbance, assault and theft for his behaviour at the protest. His son doesn’t have permanent residency and if he is convicted, he could be deported, Mr. Al-Soufi fears.

He isn’t sure he was right in following Mr. Hashim’s advice, as he now feels dread when he spends time in his restaurant. It’s hard for him to see a future for Canada where the public’s views of Muslims catch up with Mr. Hashim’s ideals.

“When people … criticize immigrants, it’s 100 per cent they’re not talking about new immigrants from Ukraine, from Russia, from Europe. They’re talking about us,” he said.

Source: ‘Hi, my name is Mohammed. I’m here to help you.’ Meet the unofficial crisis manager for Muslim Canadians

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