ICYMI: Nawaz-The freedom convoy, and now Putin, are making Muslims look good

Of note:

Over the past few weeks, I watched the siege of Ottawa along with millions of Canadians. Trucks choked the downtown, crowds waved giant Canadian flags, firecrackers went off at night, men lounged in hot tubs and hot dogs were grilled on the BBQ, all against a backdrop of incessant, deafening honking. It was like witnessing a block party, crashed by middle-aged white men with a penchant for military fatigues and giving the occasional sieg heil.

I never thought I’d live to see the day when words generally ascribed to Muslims would be used to describe white people. I could hear the incredulousness in reporters’ voices, because for them, it was the first time the narrative of who is dangerous was changing.

I was incredulous, too: Listening to flabbergasted news pundits using phrases such as “radicalized,” “domestic terrorists” and “threat to democracy,” while expressing fear that they were going to influence others to destabilize countries around the world, shocked and surprised me.

Why? Because diversity and inclusion are finally being extended to the world of terrorism.

Newspapers used to be filled with stories about radicalized young Muslims streaming into Syria to join ISIS. People want to believe that Muslims naturally gravitate toward violent groups, turn to anarchy and try to destroy democratic institutions. As Azadeh Moaveni writes in Guest House for Young Widows, her seminal book about political machinations in the Middle East: “Slowly ISIS became, in the Western imagination, a satanic force unlike anything civilization had encountered since it began recording histories of combat with the Trojan Wars.” 

And then Donald Trump was elected president. Overnight news stories involving Muslim terrorists were replaced with stories about QAnon and the Proud Boys. It was as if our brown fairy godmother waved her magic wand and said, “Muslims will no longer dominate the headlines.” We had done our time. Media were breathlessly covering white men in buzz cuts roasting marshmallows over a burning cross. For the first time, I could point to white extremists, such as those who helped hold Ottawa hostage for weeks, not to mention the rioters who, a year ago, ransacked Capitol Hill, leaving five people dead.

White supremacists are changing the global mythology that has always pitted people of colour against the forces of civility and order. When the media used words such as “insurrection” and “occupation,” for the self-described “freedom convoy,” I was astonished. I’ve never lived in an era when white people were watching other white people behaving badly on a such an epic scale. They were making Muslims look good.

It’s a relief because study after study has shown that terror attacks by Muslims receive far more attention than those by non-Muslims, which in turn fuels Islamophobic hate crimes. Canadian Muslims are all too familiar with what happens with such oversaturated coverage.

In 2017 Alexandre Bissonnette, a young, radicalized Quebecker, went on a shooting rampage in Quebec City’s largest mosque, killing six men. He said in court that he wanted to save Canadians from Muslim immigration and was visibly taken aback when the interrogating officer mentioned that he might be charged with terrorism. Just last year, another white man, 20-year-old Nathaniel Veltman, hit with his truck a Muslim family taking a walk in London, Ont., killing four of its members.

I am often asked if I thought that creating Little Mosque on the Prairie would help humanize Muslims. This question has always rankled me. Muslims are already human, so why do we need to prove it?

But it turns out we do. Sohad Murrar, an assistant professor of psychology at Governors State University, organized a study where one group of people watched six episodes of Little Mosque while another group watched episodes of Friends. Dr. Murrar said that those who watched my show “were a lot more positive towards Muslims both on explicit and implicit measures of prejudice” – results that remained true weeks afterward. Unsurprisingly, the control group that watched Friends showed no change in bias against Muslims.

This bias plays out in the way white Ukrainian refugees are being treated. “These are not the refugees we are used to,” said Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov earlier this week. “These people are intelligent, they are educated people. This is not the refugee wave we have been used to: people whose identity we are not sure of, people with unclear pasts, people who could have been terrorists.” 

We have seen media reports on how Black and brown refugees are being pushed back at border crossings to leave Ukraine, denied food and water, and sleeping outside in the cold, while white Ukrainians are given priority on trains and buses. This give credence to how non-white migrants are seen as a threat. The hashtag #AfricansinUkraine and social-media handles such as @blackpeopleinukraine have sprung up to highlight these double standards.

As pundits talk about the dangerous rise of white nationalism in Canada, and how Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion has destabilized the world in a way that no other conflict has threatened to do in recent memory, I hope this is an opportunity for people to reflect on how Muslim people have been treated. My greatest hope is that despite the differences in colour and faith, we begin to see each other as people deserving full and complete humanity, willing to give everyone the refuge and support they need.

Zarqa Nawaz is a writer and filmmaker who created Little Mosque on the Prairie. She is the author of the new novel Jameela Green Ruins Everything.

Source: The freedom convoy, and now Putin, are making Muslims look good

Milloy: The role of religion in the Ottawa protest

Of interest:

The end of the “freedom convoy” in Ottawa has already led to much soul searching — how could it have happened? One of the topics certain to be discussed is the role that the Christian faith played in the protest. There wer

The end of the “freedom convoy” in Ottawa has already led to much soul searching — how could it have happened?

One of the topics certain to be discussed is the role that the Christian faith played in the protest.

There were a lot of Christians up in Ottawa — you could see it in protest signs and hear it in media interviews. There were numerous accounts of prayer services and Christian preachers addressing the crowd and an American Christian crowdfunding website helped funnel money to the cause.

As a CBC report concluded: “Christian faith — with an overtly evangelical feel — flows like an undercurrent through the freedom convoy in Ottawa.”

The situation puts me in a bind. Although I watched the protests in horror, I also regularly write, teach and speak about the positive contribution that faith, particularly my Christian faith, can make to public discourse.

So, in response, let me offer several observations.

First, I can’t criticize someone for holding strong religious beliefs. As a person of faith, I recognize that it is part of their identity. People are frustrated and scared, and these are often the circumstances where you most often look to God.

The situation is also far from black and white. Governments have made their share of mistakes in dealing with the pandemic and are not above criticism. I tried to think about the protesters with compassion and take their views seriously.

Source: The role of religion in the Ottawa protest

Gurney: All these truckers, and no one at the wheel

One of the better commentaries on the failure of political and bureaucratic foresight and leadership (although Friday federal and Ontario government showed some):

At time of writing — and, gosh, things have been moving fast today — Ottawa remains the site of a major protest, in several locations. The Ambassador Bridge, linking Windsor and Detroit, has been blockaded. Two other U.S-Canada border crossings have also been shut. The federal public-safety minister has said that the RCMP is sending reinforcements to the closed border crossings. We’ll see what we run out of first: Mounties or blockades. Or, given the threat to our supply lines, critical supplies.

I think the most important thing to understand about the convoy-protest crises now unfolding in this country is that many of our leaders are overwhelmed and confused by a situation that they were not prepared for. It has echoes of the beginning of the pandemic, right? In early 2020, we had weeks or even months of notice that something was happening in China, and then in the Middle East, and then in Europe, and then in North America, and then here. And right up until the moment we dropped the hammer for the first lockdown, the official position remained that the risk to Canada was low.

The protests now rocking Canada aren’t a virus. But it’s the same leaders — in many cases, literally the exact same people in the same roles in the same institutions — who yet again had early warning that something was brewing, had a pretty good idea of what was planned, and then were still stunned to find it happening in Ottawa. In conversations all this week with sources at both the provincial and federal level, I got the overwhelming sense that, while a full understanding that we are in a crisis is now taking firm root across our governments, there’s still a lot of confusion and denial among senior bureaucrats and elected officials. The information is there. They just can’t accept it yet. And, until they do, there’s no chance of action. 

Canada has been a blessed country for generations. There haven’t been major consequences, on a societal level, for a degree of unseriousness among our political leaders. As a country, we are rich, well-fed, militarily secure, and well-tended to by a health-care system that, at least pre-COVID-19, could have been a lot better but wasn’t terrible, overall. It was solidly decent. 

The problem with a degree of unseriousness is that the world can be a pretty serious place. Future historians will probably marvel at the complacency and mediocrity we tolerated and eventually grew to expect and accept as normal amid our political class and in the functions of government. But whatever conclusions they draw after all this, we’re stuck in it now. This is where we are, these are the problems we have, and you’ve all met the leaders we’re living with. So what do we do?

We have to accept their limitations. Most of our politicians today never imagined they’d be living through times like this. They wanted a bit of power and status in a happy, stable, wealthy peacetime country. Now they’re being asked to lead that country during an emergency. Not only is this not what they signed up for, but it’s also something they probably never even thought about before putting their name on a ballot. They probably aren’t the right people for this moment. Those who may have it within them are going to have to learn on the job and won’t have much help doing it. I don’t think most of our bureaucracy or political staffers are more up to speed on these compounding challenges than most of the elected leaders.

So all I can ask of them, all I can advise (beg?) them to do, is to try to remember that the public is looking to them to make the best decisions they can in the public interest. The public doesn’t care about partisanship right now — well, okay, fine, some of them do, because they want to make sure the blame lands on the other guy. But most of us just want to see our governments working together. Most of us don’t care about the mistakes that brought us here (or are at least willing to postpone the blame game and focus on solutions). And we really don’t want to see people buck-passing or hiding from hard decisions behind jurisdictional fig leaves. 

On Thursday, reports emerged that the Ontario government wasn’t sitting down with federal and municipal counterparts regarding the Ottawa situation, because the meetings “don’t accomplish anything.” Then show up, dammit, and pound the table and throw your shoes around the room and toss chairs through the window until something is accomplished. If the feds and Ottawa are too stunned to make a call, someone from Queen’s Park needs to take the wheel.

Or from Ottawa! Or from the federal government! Who cares?! Lock them in a room until someone discovers a spine and starts leading the effort. This is literally the least they could do — and the least they owe the people.

We need leaders now, not politicians content to avoid any action and let someone else take the blame. I’m not sure we have any. And it looks as if the so-called leaders at Queen’s Park won’t even show up. History is watching. Hell, the present is watching. You are all failing this latest challenge. Avoiding the meetings and shunting your calls right to voicemail isn’t politically savvy, guys. It’s just gutless. 

Source: All these truckers, and no one at the wheel

BRAUN: Ugly truths about trucker protest coming out

Refreshing commentary in the Toronto Sun:

Maybe the first big clue on Ottawa’s trucker occupation should have been the Confederate flags.

Or maybe the tip-off was former U.S. president Donald Trump calling Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a, “far left lunatic … who has destroyed Canada with insane Covid mandates,” — this from the guy whose administration oversaw the deaths of 412,000 Americans in the pandemic he once claimed, “Is going to disappear.”

Certainly, there were people claiming from the get-go that the trucker convoy had been hijacked by far right-wing U.S. factions.

A week ago, police in Ottawa said they were working with the FBI and had voiced concerns that there was a hefty U.S.presence in the funding of the trucker protest ensconced in Ottawa.

The GoFundMe kitty had crossed $10 million when the platform was asked to take a closer look; GoFundMe did indeed shut down the “freedom convoy,” stating that evidence from law enforcement and “reports of violence and other unlawful activity” made it clear that the fundraiser for the truckers was in violation of their own terms of service.

The trucker convoy organizers then went to GiveSendGo , a platform that bills itself as the No. 1 free Christian fundraising site.

The Guardian did an expose of GiveSendGo after a data breach last year revealed the platform’s alt-right associations with vigilantes and hate groups such as the Proud Boys — groups banned from other platforms for hate speech and violence.

CNBC reiterated Sunday that Ottawa police said they were investigating threats against public figures jointly with the FBI.

They reported, “The well-organized blockade, which police say has relied partly on funding from sympathizers in the United States, saw protesters bring in portable saunas on Saturday to combat frigid temperatures.”

Twitter was full of bizarre material on Sunday from U.S. Republicans, with Attorney General Ken Paxton, of Texas, for example, tweeting:

“Patriotic Texans donated to Canadian truckers’ worthy cause using GoFundMe. This BLM-backing company went woke, froze the funds, & failed to deliver Texans’ money. Today, I assembled a team to investigate their potential fraud & deception. Texas donors will get Justice! #GoFundMe.”

This retort from “Unbranded” (@unbranded63) is fairly typical of the outraged responses: “American Trumpists, tired of losing, turned their efforts to upending their northern neighbor. A few million dollars raised by insurrectionist Americans, and they thought they could topple the democratically elected government of Canada in a week. They’re deluded as always.”

Source: BRAUN: Ugly truths about trucker protest coming out

Canadian soccer proves the power of citizenship

Sharp contrast.

While I have little patience with the Ottawa protesters/occupiers, there is a range between the organizers, who are extremists, and others who are frustrated (as all of us are).

But given the nature of the organizers, the many symbols of hate and the aggressive and abusive behaviour of many of those protesting, those who tolerate r don’t call out that behaviour are complicit:

It was a tale of two screens last Sunday.

On my phone, I was watching a stream of mostly white protesters rampaging around Ottawa, brandishing swastikas and Confederate flags, desecrating monuments, harassing journalists, assaulting homeless people and hurling racial slurs at those who stood in their way — even attacking ambulances rushing to patients in distress.

On TV, I watched the Canadian men’s soccer team pull off a gutsy, determined 2-0 victory over the United States — epitomizing the very best of the Canadian spirit and inching ever closer to qualifying for Canada’s first World Cup since 1986.

Two screens. Two Canadas. One closed to the world, fearful, and drenched in hate. The other, open to the world, confidently competing with the best in the world, made up of people from around the world who are proud Canadians by choice.

Canada’s new-found soccer success would not be possible without our ambitious immigration policy, which both Conservative and Liberal governments have supported over decades.

Just look at the makeup of the team. Canada’s star player, Alphonso Davies, was born in a Ghanaian refugee camp after his parents fled civil war in Liberia. Sunday’s goals were scored by Cyle Larin (Jamaican parents) and Sam Adekugbe (U.K.-born to Nigerian parents), with assists by Jonathan Osorio (Columbian parents) and Jonathan David (U.S.-born to Haitian parents). The Americans had a golden chance to tie the game late in the first half, but were denied by a highlight-reel save from Canada’s Yugoslavian-born goalkeeper, Milan Borjan, who celebrated emphatically before the sold-out crowd in his family’s chosen hometown of Hamilton, Ont.

But Canada’s immigration story is not the immaculate success we might think. This year marks the 75th anniversary of Canada having its own citizenship independent of Great Britain, yet the proportion of immigrants who become citizens dropped by 20 per cent between 1996 and 2016, the latest year for which data is available. It doesn’t help that, right now, more than 400,000 citizenship applications are sitting in a warehouse somewhere, awaiting processing by an outmatched bureaucracy that is only just getting around to allowing online applications. Citizenship applications now take more than two years to process — which doesn’t seem like evidence of a country eager to welcome new citizens.

Canadians continue to strongly support immigration, but too often it’s framed in purely economic terms. For example, in her last fall economic statement, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland devoted $85 million to reduce processing times. This is because “immigration is critical for Canada’s economic growth, especially when it comes to attracting top global talent, meeting the needs of employers and addressing labour shortages,” as the government’s Economic and Fiscal Update 2021 put it.

Source: Canadian soccer proves the power of citizenship