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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Call to Prayer controversy – Hassan: Why the mosque loudspeaker request makes little sense vs Farooq: The call to prayer is a prayer for the future, a call to those in times of despair

Further to After Arab countries, now Canada punishes Indian origin man for Islamophobia; terminated from job and removed from school body as probe continues and related protests against the sunset Azaan during Ramadan being sung with a microphone, two contrary perspectives. IMO, similar to church bells being played during religious events.

That being said, there might be legitimate to it being amplified five times a day all year:

Farzana Hassan on why it is not needed, arguing that it feeds into the Islamist agenda:

When Bilal ibn Ribah, the very first muezzin, or Islamic prayer caller, recited the now familiar lines of the azaan, early Muslims rushed to the mosque to offer supplication to Allah. Their homes were near enough for them to hear the call and respond accordingly. Bilal had a powerful and melodious voice that inspired the fledgling Muslim community to convey their devotion to Allah.

Muslims across Canada have always responded to the azaan, but inside mosques. Also, many Muslims now play the azaan in their homes on their phones or azaan clocks to remind themselves that the time for prayer is approaching, or they simply refer to printed prayer schedules. Anyway, the azaan itself has never been a prerequisite to prayer. The protocol for congregational prayers includes the azaan followed by the iqamah, the sequel to the azaan, calling worshippers to line up for prayer.

But the azaan now being broadcast in some cities of Canada serves no such purpose. The demand has come under the false pretext that Muslims will hear the azaan and be comforted during this time when COVID-19 has denied them access to mosques.

Assembly of more than five people during the COVID-19 crisis is still not permitted, and the call is not even reaching Muslim homes spread across the expanses of Canada. Also, it is only during the maghrib, or fourth prayer, that the azaan is being broadcast. That is the time most devout Muslims stay home with their families to break the fast. When there are no congregational prayers being held, who is listening to the azaan? Are some Muslims driving to the mosques just to hear it? What is the purpose of this futile exercise other than to score points under the flag of Islam as a political movement, known as Islamism?

It is obvious that for proponents of Islamism a political victory, however symbolic and however pointless, is what matters. In this case, they have obtained exemptions to noise by-laws in some cities. It is only votaries of Islamism who make such demands. This year Easter and Passover were also spent in isolation. No church bells were heard in Mississauga or Halifax because church services were denied. Most citizens, including moderate Muslims, have no wish to impose their rituals on others. Munir Pervaiz, former president of the Muslim Canadian Congress, deems the broadcast of the azaan unconstitutional.

Compliant and gullible city officials have answered a demand from provocative Muslim groups and permitted this broadcast of the azaan. The allowance was made under special circumstances and for the duration of the month of Ramadan. The feeble rationalization of Muslims not having access to mosques ignores the logical, cultural and geographical absurdities of allowing azaan as compensation.

It would be gratifying if the Islamists who constantly spew hatred of the “infidel” West at least have the decency to acknowledge this act of goodwill and bridge-building. They won’t, of course. We can only hope that the demands stay confined to just this one Ramadan spent under unprecedented circumstances occasioned by the pandemic.

But, as my colleague Tarek Fatah warned last week, “A spokesperson of one of the mosques revealed that this was merely a first step” and that Islamists across the Western world are seeking to make this change permanent.

The Islamists may have foisted this controversy upon us for the long haul.

Source: HASSAN: Why the mosque loudspeaker request makes little sense

And Mustafa Farooq providing some context  and rationale:

“Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar.”

The delivery room at the Grey Nuns Hospital in Edmonton is dark, but on May 5, 2015, at 6 a.m., I was jumping up and down as my newborn son came into the world.

The Muslim tradition is to whisper the call to prayer — the adhaan — in the ear of the newborn child after birth; but I was so filled with adrenalin in the moment, that I began to loudly chant the call to prayer even as I held him in my arms for the first time.

Five years on, almost to the day, we in the Canadian context are having a public discussion about the place of the adhaan — the call to prayer — as numerous municipalities, including Brampton, Missisauga, and Edmonton have amended their noise bylaws to permit Canadian Muslims to make the public call to prayer during the COVID-19 crisis.

I am a lawyer by training — so by nature I am inclined to want to draw out arguments before you about treating citizens equally (church bells are allowed, so why shouldn’t the Muslim call to prayer?) or around the need of citizens to adequately study the changes to the bylaws (many of the changes roll up in the next two weeks as Ramadan comes to an end), but in this case, I wish to tell you what the adhaan means to me, and what it means to me today, in the context of COVID-19 and in the context of life, birth, and death.

I cannot help — even as Nazis make bomb threats to mosques because they had the audacity to recite a five minute prayer at dusk — but think of the worshippers at the Quebec City Mosque, who reportedly heard Alexandre Bissonette state the opening words of the adhaan, “Allahu akbar” before opening fire in the bloodiest attack on a religious institution in Canadian history.

I cannot help but think of the adhaan as many traditional Muslims understand it as a matter of praxis. We are taught through the tradition that the Messenger Muhammad, peace be upon him, fled from his home to new land — Madinah — from those whose in the tribe of the Quraysh who were trying to assassinate him. Upon building the first mosque, the Medinian Muslims began to think of how to call people to prayer.

At first, the idea of blowing a shofar, as per the Judaic tradition, was considered. There was then the decision to utilize a wooden clapper, the naqus, which some of the Arabian Christians used in lieu of the bell. However, revelation came of a call to prayer, delivered without material instruments, but rather with the call of the human voice — a profound reflection on the absence of the need of the material to connect with the Divine.

Yet, there is a way in which the adhaan can be understood historically in the context of the neighbours of the Medinian Muslims, of different faith communities who lived together. It can be understood in the way that the first man who called the adhaan was Sayyidna Bilal — a freed Abyssinian slave who was tormented by his Qurayshi captor, and insulted for the colour of his skin — and who would look to the first faint light in the east on the Arabian Desert and say in supplication, “Oh God, I praise Thee, and I ask Thy Help for the Quraysh.”

I think of when Bilal, may God be pleased with him, returned to Makkah, and his voice filled the whole valley, much to the chagrin of the old chiefs of the Quraysh, who were furious at the sight of the former black slave on the roof of the Kaaba making the call to prayer — the call that equalized all human beings as being servants of the Divine, of being devoted to a call to ethics and justice.

I think of learning the adhaan in mosques across Canada from so many different folks. From a Sudanese neurologist, whose strong, bold voice made my hair stand on end, to the meliflous, lilt of a Bosnian refugee who had lost his bakery during the war, the call to prayer is a call to God, a prayer, a prayer for the future, a call to those in times of despair.

And I suppose that’s the key.

Source: ContributorsOpinionThe call to prayer is a prayer for the future, a call to those in times of despair