Khan: The London attack reaffirms why Muslims often feel unsafe in their own country

Good commentary:

Every few years, I feel very vulnerable and unsafe. This is one of those times.

On Sunday, five members – three generations – of a Muslim family went out for a walk on a summer’s evening in London, Ont., an opportunity relished by many Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic. For this family, it was a regular activity before returning home to offer the sunset prayer, according to a neighbour.

Yet this simple act of enjoying nature with one’s family is no more because of an act of pure, unadulterated hatred.

While waiting at a stoplight, Madiha Salman, her husband Salman Afzaal, 15-year-old daughter Yumna, nine-year-old son Fayez, and 74-year-old mother-in-law were allegedly rammed by a 20-year-old driver who, according to police and witnesses, deliberately accelerated his pickup toward the family, targeting them because they were Muslim.

Initially, police said the extended family requested to keep the victims’ names private, but the family identified them in a statement Monday. Only Fayez survived. Now an orphan, he is recuperating in hospital.

What kind of world are we living in?

For Muslims, it is unfortunately one where the slow drumbeat of hate-filled violence has become louder. The 2017 Quebec City massacre, in which worshippers were gunned down at a mosque – a place of spiritual refuge – shook all of us to the core.

As a nation, we vowed to fight the scourge of Islamophobia. Muslims wondered if a visit to their local mosque might be their last. Such was, and is, the fear. Enhanced safety features – including screened entries and guards – became the uneasy norm.

Yet this was still not enough back in September, when 58-year-old Mohamed-Aslim Zafis was killed outside an Etobicoke, Ont., mosque by an apparent white supremacist. Mr. Zafis was a volunteer caretaker of the mosque he cherished. On that fateful evening, he sat outside, controlling entry to the mosque in compliance with COVID-19 protocols. The accused perpetrator slipped behind Mr. Zafis, slashed his throat and fled.

Violence is happening all over the country. This year alone, there have been multiple reported assaults in Edmonton, where strangers have threatened Muslim women. In at least five cases, women were pushed, kicked and/or punched in public.

Calgary has similarly witnessed numerous cases of assault against Muslims; three involved women physically attacked in broad daylight because of their hijab. Understandably, the women have been emotionally and physically traumatized.

And now, a family has been killed in London. Is it any wonder why Muslims – especially women – don’t feel safe?

Yet this country is far greater than the hate-filled zealots who seek to intimidate, sow fear and spread the bigotry that fuels them. The outpouring of grief and support from Canadians has been a balm to the shock felt by Muslims across the land.

Since the news came out about the attack, I have received heartfelt messages of support, including the following from my friend and colleague Myriam Davidson: “It breaks my heart,” she wrote. “The best I have is we are here standing with you. There is no place for Islamophobia in our communities – it is despicable. Whenever a synagogue gets attacked – what brings me comfort is when non-Jews speak up, call it out and reaffirm that we are an inclusive society where this is not tolerated. So I’m modelling the best I know how.”

And that is the key: reaching out the best way each of us can. Our society will be stronger for it. While Muslims will rely on their faith for spiritual succour, we will need emotional support from others to overcome our fears and to know that we are valued members of the Canadian family.

There are many ways to help. Some Muslims are fearful to go for a simple walk, so offer to accompany them. Donate to a fund for nine-year-old Fayez. Attend a vigil. Perhaps the most powerful gesture is to simply say, “I am here for you.”

Last week, I was mesmerized by the haunting, powerful rendition of O Canada by Winnipeg folk singer-songwriter Don Amero, accompanied by Elders Wally and Karen Swain, prior to a Habs-Jets playoff game. While Mr. Amero sang, I asked myself: “How does he have the fortitude to sing an anthem of a country whose government, for 150 years, committed cultural genocide against the Indigenous peoples of this land?”

I know I could not. Yet Mr. Amero taught me something that resonates today, which is that the power of love, of resilience, of dignity always conquers bitterness.

We will come together – whether it is to address deep-rooted historical prejudices against Indigenous communities, or contemporary hatred against minority communities. Let us dig deep into the well of human compassion to continuously build a more just, inclusive society.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-the-london-attack-reaffirms-why-muslims-often-feel-unsafe-in-their-own/

Sheema Khan: What Muslim Canadians can teach Asian communities about the discrimination that sadly lies ahead

I suspect the teaching can go both ways, given the historical experience of Asian Canadians with racism (e.g., Chinese head tax and immigration restrictions, Komagatu Maru being sent back to India etc):

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, I remember making a frantic call to Dudley Herschbach, a former chemistry professor at Harvard, to make sure no one was on the Boston-based flight that crashed into the World Trade Center. The next day, he called me back to reassure me that everyone was safe. The relief of his words, however, was punctuated by his worry: that hate was about to be unleashed against Muslims, Arabs and people who looked Middle Eastern. I didn’t quite appreciate the gravity of his words – that is, until they were borne out.

The onset of the coronavirus pandemic is unfortunately reminiscent of 9/11 – except that it is now Asian-Canadians (and in particular, Chinese-Canadians) who have become prime targets of xenophobia. There has already been an uptick in the number of hate crimes. Many in the Asian-Canadian community feel the spectre of racism while out in public.

I have spent almost two decades fighting xenophobia directed against Muslim communities in Canada, from hate crimes to discriminatory employment practices to state-sanctioned rendition policies. I was the chair of a grassroots advocacy group that worked with civil institutions – such as the media, human-rights commissions, school boards and the courts – to advocate that Canadian Muslims be treated fairly in accordance with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. What I’ve learned might be useful for Asian-Canadian advocacy organizations needing to push back on current and future discrimination.

Such organizations should document incidents, no matter how small, because such data is vital for public policy initiatives. As such, there should be ample publicity in community publications about what constitutes an incident, and where individuals can report this information. Currently, the Chinese Canadian National Council has an online reporting form, and there should be open lines of communication with police forces to ensure that any incidents are promptly investigated.

These advocacy organizations should also educate community members about their basic rights as provided by the Charter. For example, no one should face discrimination in housing, education or employment simply due to their cultural heritage or ethnicity. Individuals have the right to be treated fairly at border crossings. Our organization developed a popular pocket “Know Your Rights” guide that is still highly useful today.

With the possibility of a “Cold War” with China, Canadian security agencies might begin interviewing Chinese-Canadians. These interviews can be traumatic, inducing fear. Community members should be educated about their rights prior to such interviews, along with their duty to speak truthfully. Recourse to legal assistance will be necessary. In addition, there should be lines of communication open between advocacy organizations and CSIS.

An important component is the education system. Efforts should be under way to contact school boards to ensure that once students return to the classroom, there will be heightened vigilance of anti-Asian discrimination. In the long-term, Asian Heritage Month in May can be used to educate students about the rich contribution of Asian-Canadians to Canadian society.

All of the above requires human resources and money. As such, members of the business and legal communities need to step up and offer funds and their time. Members of the law profession can provide assistance pro bono, to help community members navigate through the legal system. Many disputes involving discrimination are resolved through human-rights commissions, rather than through the courts. Community members will require assistance to proceed with their complaints.

Chinese-Canadian advocacy organizations should network with anti-discrimination organizations that have a wealth of expertise. Examples of national organizations include the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, the National Council of Canadian Muslims and the Canadian Anti-Hate Network. A common goal should be the declaration of Jan. 29, the day of the Quebec City mosque massacre, as a National Day of Action against Hate.

However, not all of the burden should be placed on the Asian-Canadian community. Every one of us has a role to play to ensure that ours is a safe, inclusive society. Civic leaders have an added responsibility to speak forcefully in favour of inclusion, and any politicians who scapegoat Asian-Canadians for political gain must be denounced unequivocally.

Finally, the coming period will be another crucible for the continuing project of forging our Canadian identity. Post-9/11, Canadian Muslims asked themselves what it meant to be Muslim and Canadian. Without hesitation, we denounced terrorism repeatedly, along with the ghastly practice of “honour killing.” We became more involved in the fabric of Canadian society. We shared our personal stories with the wider public. We developed resilience along the way and gained strength from the loving support of wider society. Our journey is not over, but we extend a hand to our fellow Canadians who are of Asian heritage: we are with you, on yours.

Source: What Muslim Canadians can teach Asian communities about the discrimination that sadly lies ahead: Sheema Khan

Canadian Muslims: The Highlight of A Mosaic

Imam Delic provides a good demographic overview of Muslim Canadians, as well as some general thoughts on what it means to be a Muslim in Canada. A bit overly general as, like with all religions, the challenge arises when one’s beliefs are in conflict with society:

To be a Canadian Muslim is to act according to the teachings of Islam within the adopted society.

By exploring core Islamic sources regarding the notion of Muslim identity and at the same time considering the texture and Canadian lifestyle, we can see that there is no contradiction for Muslims in taking up full citizenship and embracing Canada as their own country.

This is what is meant by the path of constructive integration of Muslims, as compared to the less constructive choices of assimilation and exclusion.

This is the path that will take Canadian Muslims towards new horizons of opportunities and help them express their beliefs openly while enjoying Canada’s democratic standards.  Only as such they will be able to claim the Qur’anic title of honour — UmmatanWasata (A community of enlightened moderation).

Being part of Canadian society means facing reality, with all its challenges, head on. It means reforming themselves individually and collectively within the positive contexts of their adopted liberal democratic pluralist culture, while remaining faithful to the basic religious principles that define their core religious identity as Muslims.

Thus, when they settle suitably and reconcile effectively, they can productively live in harmony amid new environments and contribute to the well-being of all. This is a responsibility of both — Canadian Muslims as well as policy makers in Canada.

Canadian Muslims: The Highlight of A Mosaic – Americas – Politics – OnIslam.net.