Canada: A National Summit on Islamophobia – More of What’s Failed?


Praying to God, and a walk in the park are now both dangerous activities for Canadian Muslims.”

JIN June 16 2021 002

By Dr. Saqib Iqbal Qureshi

When asked in February 2015 in the context of anti-terrorism legislation how we could distinguish between teenagers being juvenile in their basements and someone who is radicalized, Prime Minister Stephen Harper gave his blessing to Islamophobia,”It doesn’t matter what the age of the person is, or whether they’re in a basement, or whether they’re in a mosque or somewhere else”. The chilling words still shake Canadian Muslims, the country’s largest religious minority.

It never mattered to Harper than no terrorist activity has ever been associated with a mosque. The niqab ban and barbaric cultural practices hotline were in this vein – political optics, meaningless in reality given that barbaric practices are covered by our laws, and so few Muslim women want to wear a niqab, which is within their right in any case. Harper couldn’t care, as long as Muslims could be kicked around for political point-scoring.

Well, that backfired. Harper, who once argued that the Sikh turban was alien to Canadian values, got fired. An unprecedented proportion of Canadian Muslims, turned out to vote in 2015. In some ridings, the community’s voter turnout reached 88%. Key ridings in Toronto and Quebec, where the Conservatives once had a fighting chance, pressed open the door at 24 Sussex Gardens for Justin Trudeau’s premiership. And with it, Canadian Muslims hoped, that Ottawa would tackle Islamophobia.

That backfired too – déjà vu. Hate crimes, of which only between 1% and 5% are reported, are sharply up since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took office. Those crimes against Canada’s Muslims were up an astonishing 30% during his first term. And it was under his watch that the same community got punched in the gut by two of the country’s most serious terrorist attacks – the killing of six worshippers at a mosque in Quebec in 2017, and the attack on three generations of the Afzaal family, out for a walk in London, Ontario.

Praying to God, and a walk in the park are now both dangerous activities for Canadian Muslims.

Whereas Harper was content fanning the flames of Islamophobia to generate votes, Trudeau’s approach has been subtler, “Come, vote for me, I won’t destroy Canadian pluralism”. True, he may not have dog whistled to our darker instincts. But he’s done little to tackle ethnic or religious hatred, and especially Islamophobia. More than six years after entering office, Trudeau’s CRA still disproportionately targets Muslim charities, while the RCMP still struggles to focus on any terrorist activity which doesn’t have an Arab name in it. Note the lack of resources to more than 300 hate groups in Canada which produce content for no less than 11 million users worldwide.

So, when Trudeau points out that, “Islamophobia is real. Racism is real. You should not have to face that hate in your communities, in your country. We can and we will act. We can and we will choose a better way.” I can’t be the only one trying to guess what is being smoked, and specifically what quality is being bought. You’ve been there six years and have failed to deliver. Either that, or the Canadian Muslim leadership, neither elected nor ironically pluralistic, is simply all too blissful about trading the community’s votes and participation in all sections of Canadian society into mere photo opportunities and iftaar invitations. Is the house slave now ‘advocating’ for the community?

It’s too early to say if last week’s attack was an inflection point. It has forced the government into a national summit. Many of the summit’s advocates, especially in the Conservative party, are those who have and continue to fuel Islamophobia so I am not entirely confident that the conference will yield any substance. One thing is for sure, if both the government and the Canadian Muslim community’s leadership go in with more of whatever they’ve been doing since 2015, soon it won’t just be the mosque and park that will become off limits for Canada’s Muslims.

That should concern every single Canadian.

Dr Saqib Iqbal Qureshi is a Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and the author of the Amazon Number One Best Seller “The Broken Contract” which explores fundamental issues with our democracy, as well detailing solutions to effecting a more meaningful democracy. He has written for The Financial Times, The Independent, The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek and The Spectator.

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