In the last six years, Canadian Muslims have lowered 11 caskets – four here in London – into the ground as a result of real and alleged anti-Muslim hate.
In the last six years, Canadian Muslims have lowered 11 caskets – four here in London – into the ground as a result of real and alleged anti-Muslim hate. Each time, politicians from all levels of government have posted tweets and made speeches condemning hate and making various pledges of support to Canadian Muslims.
After the deaths of London’s Afzaal family that caused deep trauma in the city and across the country, there was hope action would finally replace words. The National Summit on Islamophobia was held and a promise made to appoint a special representative to fight Islamophobia. While it took a year and a half, that promise was finally fulfilled and Amira Elghawaby was recently appointed.
Therefore, while we thank the government of Canada for appointing her, we are gravely concerned about the attacks on Elghawaby by politicians including Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre and Bloc Québécois Leader Yves Francois Blanchet.
Such attacks, which call for her removal and label her unqualified, divisive or biased, are part of the systemic Islamophobia Muslims are forced to grapple with. For example, a survey by a reputable pollster showed most Quebecers support Bill 21 and a Quebec judge issued a judgment saying Bill 21 was discriminatory. But it was Elghawaby, who called this out, who was attacked by politicians and forced to apologize.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government’s lack of full support for Elghawaby’s appointment gave Poilievre an easy scapegoat to rally support in Quebec, play to his base and engage in wedge politics. Similarly, Blanchet’s insincere actions and partisan spin added fuel to the fire. This whole political scene is incredibly cowardly and hypocritical; these leaders each pledged to stand with Muslims, but fail to do so when it comes time to act. It shows they are insincere in fighting Islamophobia and toward the plight of Quebecers marginalized by Bill 21. Worse, these unprincipled actions are motivated by chasing votes – indicating how low political leaders are willing to go for electoral gain.
We wholeheartedly reject efforts to dictate who should and should not represent the Muslim community in the fight against Islamophobia. Muslim Canadians, as taxpayers and citizens of Canada, cannot tolerate such blatantly racist thinking. Combating Islamophobia requires addressing challenging issues and changing the status quo
When Canadian Muslims called for a special representative after the Afzaal deaths, we wanted an advocate to challenge the status quo. Addressing issues in Quebec arising from Bill 21, or issues within law enforcement groups, are important elements of an inclusive national dialogue on the effects of racism of marginalized communities.
Poilievre’s cynical language, like calling Elghawaby “anti-Jewish,” is divisive, especially given her appointment was welcomed by Canada’s special representative on anti-Semitism and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.
As I did at the Afzaal family vigil, I once again urge politicians to set aside partisan politics and jurisdictional jockeying and support Elghawaby in her work.
Combating Islamophobia requires moving away from divisive political rhetoric, which endangers Canadian Muslims still facing hostile words and acts across the country.
The current politicization of Alghawaby’s appointment detracts from the real and serious issues confronting Canadian Muslims that require immediate attention of elected officials from all parties and levels of government.
Nawaz Tahir is a London lawyer and advocate in London’s Muslim community
Disclaimer: Tahir: Stop politicking and fight Islamophobia - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Latheefarook.com point-of-view