New Canadian Media
Tuesday, 21 February 2017 14:11

Trump and the Rise of Islamophobia

Commentary by Surjit Singh Flora in Brampton

I believe it is fair to say that since 9-11, Islamophobia has been on the rise in North America.  With the rise of ISIL and attacks in this country and other nations, terrorist movements have given rise to a greater distrust of all refugees and immigrants, most of whom are Muslims fleeing the violence in the Middle East and North Africa.  

As an immigrant myself, perhaps I feel the impact of this trend more than my fellow Canadians whose journey to this country may have been many generations in the past.  As I watch the news, and particularly the fledgling and, to a degree, struggling administration of U.S. President Donald Trump I am growing even more troubled.

Trump’s recent Executive Order banning Muslim refugees or travel to the U.S. from a select list of seven countries has run afoul of the nation’s constitution and its courts.  But as Trump searches for a new way to achieve what his executive order has failed to do, I believe there will be long-term consequences. I believe Trump’s actions will encourage otherwise constrained and silent movements within the U.S. and in countries around the globe who have long wished for a legitimate platform to express their racist or xenophobic views in the hope that these views become the policy of their governments.

Meanwhile, here in Canada, we have two recent, troubling incidents that illustrate a very different response from our government.  First of all, this past weekend in Toronto, anti-Semitic notes were found on the doors of several units at a Willowdale condo building in Toronto.  In addition, notes with the statement “No Jews” were found on the front doors of several Jewish residences in a building on Beecroft Road, close to the Yonge Street and Park Home Avenue area.

Some of the notes contained anti-Semitic slurs and some neighbours reported that their mezuzahs – blessings traditionally posted on the doorways of Jewish homes – had been vandalized.  Mayor John Tory condemned the hate-motivated vandalism and said those actions do not reflect the city's spirit. “Anti-Semitism has no place in Toronto."

Anti-Islamophobia motion

This comes after the recent tragic murder of six Muslims at prayer in a Quebec City Mosque. Our government’s response to this tragedy was to debate Motion 103 in the Canadian Parliament.  Introduced by MP Iqra Khalid, the motion asked MPs to “condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination.” 

Locally, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie is strongly supporting Mississauga-Erin Mills MP Khalid in her push to end systemic racism in Canada. Mayor Crombie also said “Eliminating systemic racism, religious discrimination and Islamophobia is a national call to action. No one should ever have to think twice about calling Canada home.”

Substance, not symbolism

While I feel this a well-meant act in the face of unspeakable violence and tragedy, racism affects a broad spectrum of people and it is short-sighted of our government to single out Islamophobia in their motion. Racism is in itself an act of violence and the murder in that Quebec City Mosque is that racist violence made manifest.  It is an act of extreme cowardice, and an insult to God.

Our government should condemn all racism equally, and with total conviction. Symbolic acts like Motion 103 should be backed up with a new, comprehensive review of the legislation and enforcement powers that can give meaning and force to such well-intended symbolic gestures.

I know from personal experience the sting of distrust, disrespect, and prejudice that racism inflicts on those who are new, or different, or who worship in a different way. Racists ignore the reality that you cannot judge a race or a religion, but that if we are judged at all, it is based on our own behavior, our own actions.  

President Trump’s anti Muslim, anti-immigration and refugee rhetoric may not, in itself, lead to the rise of Islamophobia and xenophobia, but the fact that a sitting President has stoked such sentiments should be reason for great concern for us all. The response of our Canadian government should be one of substance, not symbol. 


Brampton-based Surjit Singh Flora is a veteran journalist and freelance writer.
Published in Commentary

Commentary by Michael Harris

In the wake of Brussels — at least for now — we’re back in the bad old days of the War of Civilizations narrative.

In the face of terror most foul, fury and vengeance are once more in the air. It’s not quite Christianity versus Islam, but it’s close.

Some anecdotal evidence. Two comments on a story in The Independent, worlds apart, suggest that two great swaths of humanity are once again on an unnecessary and tragic collision course.

Bobby said: “All the whole Mideast and ALL their ilk are Hated by me and mine.”

Ceycey replied: “Is your humanity only for Europe?”

Both commenters were responding to a story in the British newspaper written by Yasmin Ahmed in the wake of the terrorist bombings in Belgium.

Ahmed pointed out that just before ISIS operatives set off bombs in Brussels, the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks detonated a car bomb in Turkey near a transportation hub, killing 37 and injuring 70 more. A closely-timed second attack killed four more people. In fact, Turkey has been beset by a spate of bombings by Kurdish separatists and ISIS, who in 2015 alone killed 141 and injured 910 others.

“Do you not see that this indifference to the non-Western lives is EXACTLY what is creating and feeding terror organizations like ISIS?"

In both Brussels and Ankara, innocent people were killed indiscriminately by fanatics who believe political causes sanctify murder.

But what struck Ahmed was the profound difference in the Western reaction to these atrocities. In social media there were safety check-ins on Facebook, hashtags on Twitter, and shared cartoons in response to the bombings at Zaventen Airport and Maelbeek metro station. In fact, “Brussels” garnered 17.5 million more Google news results than “Ankara”.

Global media funerals for some, mute indifference for others

While the world mourned Brussels, Ankara was treated as a mere regional event. Case in point: After this week’s Brussels bombings, European countries raised the Belgian flag above their national monuments — a fitting tribute. The Eiffel Tower was illuminated in the colours of the Belgian flag, as was One World Trade Center in New York (though in truth, the colours looked more like red, white and blue). So Yasmin Ahmed posed an awkward question: Why didn’t Downing Street raise the red and white Turkish flag after the atrocities in Ankara?

Ahmed’s unease was mirrored by a young woman who knows a thing or two about being victimized by terrorism. Malala Yousafzai blazed to international fame after standing up for education for girls in Afghanistan and getting shot by the Taliban for her defiance.

Has the West’s accusatory finger moved from ultra-extremist groups like ISIS and al Qaida to designate the members of an entire religion — again?

She too has spoken out about the dangers of dividing the victims of terrorism between East and West, providing global media funerals for some, mute indifference to others.

“Do you not see that this indifference to the non-Western lives is EXACTLY what is creating and feeding terror organizations like ISIS? … If your intention is to stop terrorism, do not try to blame the whole population of Muslims for it, because that cannot stop terrorism,” she said.

And that raises an interesting question. Is the West mute on the subject of innocent lives lost to terrorists in Turkey because the motivations behind those attacks were different from the reasons behind the killing in Europe — or because Turkey is 98 per cent Muslim? Has the West’s accusatory finger moved from ultra-extremist groups like ISIS and al Qaida to designate the members of an entire religion — again?

In this season of presidential politics in the United States, the answer is, sadly, ‘Yes’.

Trump and anti-terrorism: Zero experience

CNN, which fielded carpet-coverage of the Brussels bombings in a way that repeated rather than advanced the story for three gruesome days, has already come up with a poll showing that Republican frontrunner Donald Trump is now the first choice of Americans on anti-terrorism matters.

That is astonishing for a few reasons. First of all, Trump has zero experience in fighting terrorism in any official capacity. He has never held public office, and his chief advisor on foreign policy is The Donald. Trump has been widely denounced by military, national security and senior police leaders for his unconstitutional, illegal and flatly dangerous approach to some of America’s deepest problems.

[Trump] has added that he wouldn’t rule out using nuclear weapons against ISIS. That’s right — nuclear weapons.

The list is well known. So far Trump has proposed banning all Muslims from entering the United States, deporting 12 million illegal aliens, building a wall on the Mexican border, bringing back torture and instituting racial profiling in Muslim communities in the U.S. Now he has added that he wouldn’t rule out using nuclear weapons against ISIS. That’s right — nuclear weapons.

In the flash of two bombs, the world is suddenly standing back in the rubble of 9/11 with President Bush repeating his With Us or With the Terrorists ultimatum. All the old, familiar and — I might add — failed solutions are once more being put forward by a real estate mogul who is being embraced as though he were King Solomon.

Though there are many particulars to the new fundamentalism for defeating terror, it comes down to the familiar mantra of guns, gates and guards. If the police just had enough unconstitutional powers, if free citizens just gave up enough civil liberties, if the West could just exert enough hard power against Islamic terrorists, if only there could be more forced regime change, if only Muslims would begin denouncing the evil-doers in their communities, the world would never have to see the cities of Europe and the United States burning again.

Those answers have been tried for 15 blood-soaked years and all the West has to show for it is millions of deaths, trillions in squandered treasure — and ISIS.

The time has come to recognize solidarity with all the victims of terror. As James Taylor, a U.K. citizen living in Ankara, posted on Facebook, “You were Charlie, you were Paris, will you be Ankara?”

Apparently not.


Michael Harris is a writer, journalist, and documentary filmmaker. He was awarded a Doctor of Laws for his “unceasing pursuit of justice for the less fortunate among us.” His nine books include Justice Denied, Unholy Orders, Rare Ambition, Lament for an Ocean, and Con Game. His new book on the Harper majority government, Party of One, is a number one best-seller and has been shortlisted for the Governor-General’s Literary Award for English-language non-fiction.

Republished in partnership with iPolitics.ca.

Published in Commentary
Saturday, 20 February 2016 16:31

Iraq is a Quagmire and Trudeau Knows It

Commentary by Firas Al-Atraqchi in Cairo, Egypt

Despite the partisan brouhaha and accusations of weakness and betrayal directed at the Liberal government, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision last week to withdraw jet fighters from the international anti-ISIS coalition was the correct one. 

True, the Liberals may not have been particularly bright or assertive in how they sold the idea of the CF-18 pullout, but the facts on the ground support Trudeau. 

In fact, his decision was the sanest yet in a conflict that no longer makes sense. 

The coalition’s campaign of bombing ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria has produced little. It has failed to significantly cripple ISIS’s military capacity or its ambitious recruitment drive. 

The extremist group not only still controls Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, and much of the north and centre, but it has expanded into Libya and Afghanistan. 

Coalition airstrikes had even failed to fully dislodge ISIS fighters from all of Ramadi, capital of Anbar province, until earlier this week. 

Then there’s the collateral damage. 

Coalition air raids have, as claimed by many Iraqi and Syrian civilians in the past 18 months, led to a number of civilian casualties 

That’s not exactly protecting civilians from ISIS, is it? 

Canada does not need to have blood on its hands, whether directly or by association. 

Canada does not need to have blood on its hands, whether directly or by association.

Other types of war brewing 

While the war for hearts and minds has not been particularly successful, there’s also the war of perceptions which rages in the Middle East and on social media. 

And the U.S.-led coalition appears to be losing that one, too. 

For more than a year, various Middle Eastern voices have accused the U.S.-led coalition of actually aiding ISIS 

On social media, various videos purport to show airdropped U.S.-made supplies falling into the hands of ISIS fighters. Whether these were seized from the Iraqi army or not is largely a moot point. 

Canada does not need the negative publicity that accompanies accusations of aiding ISIS. 

It’s also rather confusing. The U.S.-led coalition is comprised of predominantly Sunni states who are opposed to the Alawite (Shia) rule of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. 

Assad is supported by Iran. 

Iran is in a proxy war with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Yemen. 

Elements within these Sunni states are accused of supplying the Islamist rebels, including Al-Qaeda and ISIS, with weapons and funds – whether directly or not. 

And it could get messier. 

And it could get messier.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE pledged to send up to 100,000 troops to remove Assad’s government. 

They already moved their air force assets to Incirlik air base in Turkey. 

Why does Canada want to get caught in the middle of a proxy sectarian war 

It doesn’t, but Canada cannot stand on the sidelines. 

A country with a tradition of humanitarian global assistance, Canada will up its efforts to host refugees and assist others left in the Middle East. 

In the meantime, it is boosting its military advisory role in Iraq, increasing the number of trainers and experts who will help the Iraqi army enhance its capabilities and reach from 69 to 207. 

Strengthening Iraq’s core 

By stating that airstrikes alone do not produce long-term stability, Trudeau is not only drawing on lessons from Canada’s moral experience in Afghanistan, but also correctly reading the situation on the ground. 

Iraq has been bombed, re-bombed and over-bombed more than any other country since World War II. 

The country has gone from bad to worse, sinking into a medieval state of disrepair. Despite shock and awe and tens of thousands of sorties – using the most advanced smart and dumb technology of warfare – the country has failed to stabilize. 

[Iraq] has gone from bad to worse, sinking into a medieval state of disrepair.

There are more than 60 organized, battle-hardened and fully-equipped militias operating beyond the scope of the government in Iraq.  

They have wreaked havoc throughout the country, adding to the sectarian tensions already about to burst. 

During the effort to liberate Anbar capital, Ramadi, three months ago, the Iraqi government – at least on the surface – appeared to acquiesce to Western pressures not to use these militias in the campaign. 

That these militias were heavily used 10 months earlier to liberate predominantly Sunni Tikrit is a testament to the weakening of the country’s centre; Baghdad has had a token fledgling national army since the U.S. disbanded the Iraqi military in 2003. 

Many see this as having been a mistake with deadly consequences, which ultimately led to the rise of sectarian militias that now dominate the landscape. 

By training Iraqi national forces, Canada will be strengthening the country’s core and signalling that the international community backs a united country led by the government in Baghdad.


Firas Al-Atraqchi is a Canadian journalist of Arab descent who has covered the Middle East since 1992. A former senior editor with Al Jazeera's English-language website, he currently teaches journalism at the American University of Cairo as an associate professor. He is a member of New Canadian Media's editorial advisory board. 

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

 

Published in Commentary

by Jeff Sallot in Ottawa

Tactics win skirmishes. Strategy wins wars.

Tactically, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is at a disadvantage in the current political battle over whether he’s flip-flopping on the efficacy of bombing Islamic State strongholds in Syria and Iraq.

Of course he’s flip-flopping. He’s done the strategizing, however, and has decided to hunker down and endure the sniper fire from New Democrats on his left flank and Conservatives on the right when the House resumes sitting next week.

What else could he do? Trudeau cannot logically explain away the fact that RCAF warplanes will continue bombing for at least another two weeks. We all know he promised something else during the election campaign three months ago. He promised to halt the bombing mission — and we expected that to happen well before now.

Nor is there an easy way to square those campaign promises with Trudeau’s new pledge Monday to provide midair refuelling service for the warplanes of other countries that continue dropping bombs.

Trudeau's broader strategy

So Trudeau will take the political hits, figuring that he’s got the broader strategy nailed. And this strategy, he hopes, will win the hearts and minds of Canadian voters by the time the next election rolls around.

This is a fairly easy package for the Liberals to sell to Canadians.

Ottawa will spend $840 million over three years to provide food, medicine and other humanitarian assistance to refugees running for their lives in Syria and Iraq. Canada will provide an additional $270 million over three years to help Jordan and other frontline states build the infrastructure they’ll need to deal with a continuing flood of refugees.

The Canadian Armed Forces will substantially increase training programs for Iraqi soldiers to fight ISIS on the ground. Training programs will continue for another two years at least.

This is a fairly easy package for the Liberals to sell to Canadians. We all want to help refugees. And most of us think the Iraqis will have to win back their own territory with their own soldiers.

Trudeau’s strategy also runs a big risk. Canadians will be training ethnic Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq who have a political agenda all their own. Yes, they want to rub out ISIS — but they also want to establish an independent Kurdish state. The Iraqi government in Baghdad — a government that Ottawa says it supports — doesn’t like the idea of partitioning its territory.

NATO allies stick together

Our NATO allies in Turkey also have concerns about the Kurds. Turkey has a substantial Kurdish population of its own along the border with Iraq. A Kurdish separatist revolt against Baghdad in Iraq could quickly explode into a Kurdish rebellion against Ankara.

There would be hell to pay within NATO if Kurdish troops, trained and armed by Canada, started attacking the Turkish army. Trudeau didn’t address this question in his announcement Monday.

NATO countries don’t criticize each other in public very often. They quietly clench their teeth when there’s disagreement.

The prime minister was much happier to tell everyone about the thumbs-up he says other NATO allies are giving Canada’s new anti-ISIS program. He said he has been working the phones with Barack Obama in Washington, Angela Merkel in Berlin, David Cameron in London and François Hollande in Paris, and they’re all okay with his plan.

But you didn’t have to take Trudeau’s word for it. On cue, spokesmen at the White House and the Pentagon piped up and said they think Canada’s new contribution is just swell. (It’s not just the leaders who consult among themselves. So do their spin doctors.)

But honestly — what else would would the allies say? NATO countries don’t criticize each other in public very often. They quietly clench their teeth when there’s disagreement. Which is why Jean Chrétien took very little flak from the George W. Bush administration when he politely declined to sign on with the disastrous U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

And Brian Mulroney stayed best buddies with Ronald Reagan when his Tory government said ‘no thanks’ to Canadian participation in the Pentagon’s hare-brained Star Wars program.

But here’s the other part of the deal: Canadian leaders pull their punches, too. They didn’t tell the allies the Iraq invasion would become a disaster, or that Star Wars is just a Hollywood sci-fi fairy tale.

So Trudeau will bite his tongue and utter not a word the next time a U.S. bomb goes astray and kills a bunch of innocent civilians in Syria or Iraq. And Trudeau has no intention of badmouthing Washington over the fact the Americans simply aren’t doing their share to resettle refugees in the United States.

Between allies, mum’s the word — always.


Jeff Sallot is worked for The Globe and Mail for more than three decades, much of the time as a political journalist based in Ottawa. He started his career in political journalism at The Toronto Star when Pierre Trudeau was prime minister. He taught journalism at Carleton University for seven years until he retired in 2014.

Republished in partnership with iPolitics.ca

Published in Commentary

   Additional military resources for training, advising and assisting Iraqi forces      PRIME Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday announced that while Canada will cease air strike operations no later than February 22, aerial refueling and surveillance activities will continue in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Trudeau said […]

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Published in National

by Alireza Ahmadian in Vancouver 

In this piece, journalist Alireza Ahmadian discusses Canada’s arms deal with Saudi Arabia with Cesar Jaramillo, Executive Director of Project Ploughshares, a non-governmental organization working in Canada and abroad to advocate for policy reform to prevent war and armed violence. 

The deal, valued at almost $15 billion, is the largest arms export contract in Canadian history and was awarded during the 2013-2014 fiscal year. It will see the shipment of an undisclosed number of light armoured vehicles, manufactured by General Dynamics Land Systems, based in London, ON, to Saudi Arabia. 

Why should Canadians be concerned about an arms deal between their government and Saudi Arabia, a country that both Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International (AI) say violates human rights? 

It is not just HRW and AI who condemn the abysmal human rights situation in Saudi Arabia. Every authoritative organization in the world consistently ranks Saudi Arabia among the worst human rights violators [on] the planet. 

There is a widespread and well-documented pattern of violations of virtually every category of human rights in Saudi Arabia, so Canadians should definitely be concerned about the possibility that Canadian-made goods might be used to sustain a repressive regime and enable the further violation of human rights of civilians. 

What do we know about how Canadian arms are being used in Saudi Arabia? Are there any safeguards or ways of ensuring these weapons will not be used to violate human rights? 

We certainly know about the proclivity of the Saudi regime to systematically target civilians. In 2011, there were reports of Saudi forces using armoured vehicles, such as the ones Canada is set to ship to Saudi Arabia, to crush peaceful civilian protests in neighbouring Bahrain. 

The primary safeguard to ensure Canadian goods are not misused should be Canada’s own military export control policy, according to which the government must first determine that “there is no reasonable risk” that Canadian-made military goods might be [used] against civilians. 

Given what is widely known about the Saudi dire human rights record, it is hard to comprehend how there can be “no reasonable risk” of misuse. But so far the government has resisted calls to explain how the Saudi arms deal can be reconciled with the human rights safeguards of existing exports controls. 

"[W]hat’s to stop a country from selling weapons to ISIS or North Korea or organized criminals halfway around the world?"

Former foreign affairs minister, John Baird, also said that this deal has economic benefits for Canada. For instance, the arms deal supports “3,000 unionized workers in London, Ontario." What’s wrong with an arms deal that hires 3,000 Canadians? 

Of course there is nothing inherently wrong with job creation … However, we must recognize that this is a special case that merits special scrutiny. Valued at $15 billion, this is by far the largest military exports contract in Canadian history. And, as stated above, it is widely accepted that Saudi Arabia is a human rights pariah. 

So, while job creation is a legitimate pursuit of any government, in a case as egregious as this, we must assess as a society what is the real value we place on the protection of human rights. 

If economic gains are taken as the sole justification for arms exports authorizations, what’s to stop a country from selling weapons to ISIS or North Korea or organized criminals halfway around the world? 

The Harper government did not sign the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) that seeks to regulate international arms trade and prevent military exports from fuelling armed conflict and human rights violations. Canada is the only country in North America, the only member of the G7 group of industrialized nations, and the only one of the 28 members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, that has not signed the treaty. 

It is worthwhile to note that countries such as Syria, Pakistan, North Korea and Saudi Arabia are also non-signatories. 

Do you think that signing this Treaty would address concerns over lack of transparency in Canada’s arms deals with other countries? How so? Do you think the new government will sign the treaty? 

Yes, I believe the new government will accede to the Arms Trade Treaty. It was an election pledge of Prime Minister [Justin] Trudeau, and was a specific priority of foreign affairs minister [Stéphane] Dion’s mandate. This is a position to be welcomed and encouraged. 

The ATT entails increased expectations of transparency around arms deals and greater vigilance in regards to the end users of military exports. 

At the same time, Canada may find itself sending a mixed message about its willingness to live up to the ATT’s heightened expectations of transparency when legitimate concerns about the human rights implications of the Saudi arms deal remain unaddressed. 

It has been reported that in May 2015, Martin Zablocki, the president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Commercial Corporation, the crown corporation that brokered the arms deal with Saudi Arabia, said that the Middle East is a “strategic region” for Canadian arms sales. How does this deal serve Canada’s strategic interests? What would you say to those who argue that other countries are selling arms to the Middle East? 

It is a strategic region from a purely business perspective, of course. It is no secret that the previous government made economic diplomacy a cornerstone of its foreign policy. In this context, the Canadian [Commercial] Corporation has acted as an active facilitator in the pursuit of these deals, not just as a passive intermediary. 

“Everyone else is doing it,” sounds like an argument void of any ethical considerations and undermines the credibility of Canada’s military export controls — which Ottawa calls “some of the strongest in the world.”  

The Canadian public has a right to know that the economic well-being at home is not being tied to the suppression of human rights elsewhere.

The Liberal government said that it would honour the arms deal with Saudi Arabia. Why do you think the Liberals decided to follow through with this deal even though they are trying to undo other aspects of the Conservative’s legacy? 

This deal would present a complex policy challenge for any party in power. There is a real confluence of economic, strategic and human rights dimensions that must be taken into consideration. But, again, Saudi Arabia isn’t a case of a handful of unconfirmed human rights violations. The human rights situation in the autocratic kingdom is absolutely abysmal. 

In a case where red flags are so apparent one would hope that the government would recognize, at a minimum, the need to publicly explain how this deal can be justified in light of existing export controls. 

The Canadian public has a right to know that the economic well-being at home is not being tied to the suppression of human rights elsewhere. 

How would you suggest the new government pursue future deals like this? 

There are specific human rights safeguards that are part of Canadian military export controls. Of course, however strong they might be on paper, they are only as effective when implemented. 

Beyond the need to abide by domestic and international regulations (including the Arms Trade Treaty, following accession) there is a need for greater transparency and oversight around the process by which arms exports authorizations are granted. 

 

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

 

Published in Top Stories

by Rosanna Haroutounian in Quebec City

Quebec’s relationship with religion must be considered in local efforts to prevent radicalization, say experts. 

“Public displays of religion or publicly practising religion are seen as not part of what Quebec is about,” says Amarnath Amarasingam, a post-doctoral fellow from The Resilience Research Centre at Dalhousie University. 

He explains that this secularism impacts Muslims in a particular way, especially those who are “openly Muslim,” such as women who wear hijabs or men who wear traditional clothing. 

The need for Quebec to confront Islamophobia was the focus of an op-ed piece Amarasingam co-authored in December with researcher Hicham Tiflati in The Toronto Star. 

Amarasingam says anti-Muslim sentiments, especially against youth, can lead to critiques of the West like those propagated by terrorist organizations. 

“Simple things, like not being able to have a Muslim students association or discrimination at the campus-level get amplified and tied into broader ISIS propaganda which says, ‘You as Muslims will never be included in the West,’” he says. 

Many Quebec readers accused the authors of “Quebec bashing” in the op-ed and Tiflati was subsequently dismissed from his position at the Centre for Prevention of Radicalization Leading to Violence in Montreal. 

TIflati says he was surprised by the centre’s response, but that there were other events that precipitated the dismissal like when he was labelled an ‘Islamist’ in November by the website Poste de Veille. 

“The way religion is looked at is a bit different from how religion is transformed and interpreted in the rest of North America.”

The op-ed piece added to the social pressure the centre felt around Tiflati’s employment, he explains, adding that the decision for him to leave was somewhat mutual. 

Tiflati admits that because the centre is semi-public, adding his name to the op-ed made it appear as though the organization supported the same views. 

Despite this, he says he does not regret writing the article and is worried about the implications it poses for academics who want to share their research. 

"I was trying to project how youth feel in Quebec,” explains Tiflati. “The way religion is looked at is a bit different from how religion is transformed and interpreted in the rest of North America.” 

He says this was the conclusion of a 2008 report issued by the Bouchard-Taylor commission, which examined the impact of religious accommodation on Quebec's identity and values. 

Quebec’s unique position

“There is a unique history in Quebec in relation to secularism,” says Rachel Brown, a PhD candidate at Wilfred Laurier University and visiting research fellow for the Centre of Studies in Religion and Society at the University of Victoria. 

Islamophobia tends to ebb and flow in Quebec.

“We can’t take away the history of Quebec and the Quiet Revolution, and how that would affect Islamophobia in that context, which is unique and distinct form the rest of Canada.” 

She adds that the Quiet Revolution, a period in the 1960s during which the government took control of sectors like health care and education away from the Catholic church, is fairly recent and that many people in Quebec remember the struggle to separate state and religion. 

She explains that Islamophobia tends to ebb and flow in Quebec. Periods of tension are marked by events like the proposed Charter of Values and the attacks in Paris in November. 

“The article could have been contextualized a bit more,” says Brown, adding the authors should have stressed that Islamophobia is not only a problem in Quebec, but that Quebec’s experience with it is unique. 

“The article was meant to engender trust in the Muslim community, to look at the centre as an ally, but the response supported [the community’s] suspicion,” says Amarasingam. 

He says Muslims feel distrustful towards the centre because of its community surveillance aspect. He says many people call the centre with complaints about things not related to radicalization, such as their neighbours praying next door. 

The Centre for the Prevention of Radicalization Leading to Violence did not respond to requests for comment. 

Prevention needs multi-pronged approach 

Jocelyn Bélanger, a former professor at the Université du Québec à Montréal who now teaches at New York University Abu Dhabi, agrees that Islamophobia is not unique to Quebec, but a Western problem caused by global conflicts and the media’s response to them.

“Some Muslims, rightfully so, feel excluded from society or prejudiced against and alienated."

“Radical groups target innocent civilians so people develop an animosity to the Muslim community,” he says “Some Muslims, rightfully so, feel excluded from society or prejudiced against and alienated and as a result the narrative of oppression of Daesh or the Islamic State resonates more profoundly with them.” 

Bélanger helped with the launch of the centre in 2015 and created a toolkit that sheds light on myths of radicalization and de-radicalization, and what the public can do. 

“Raising awareness through education is a key element because research indicates that in terms of homegrown terror, about 60 per cent of cases can be detected by family, peers or friends,” he says. 

Tiflati says intercultural dialogue between youth can help prevent Islamophobia and radicalization, while Amarasingam adds community-based, grassroots programs like those for gang prevention and intervention can give youth a sense of belonging. 

"In terms of preventing radicalization, we shouldn't just put everyone in the same basket,” says Tiflati. “It is treated case by case.”

 

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

 

Published in Top Stories

by BJ Siekierski in Ottawa

Will the Liberal government hold a referendum on electoral reform? Is President Obama actually ok with Canada withdrawing its CF-18s from the ISIS mission? And what about Donald Trump?

On Wednesday afternoon at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, Prime Minister Trudeau sat down with Maclean’s Paul Wells, Chatelaine’s Rachel Giese and Alec Castonguay from L’actualité for a town hall, answering questions from them and a number of Canadians on a wide range of subjects.

Below are some of the highlights.

On Obama and the ISIS mission

“I’ve had, as you know, three or four good conversations with President Obama. And I’ve made it very clear that our commitment was to withdraw the six CF-18s. He didn’t ask me to keep those in. Nor would I have kept them in if he asked me. But what he wanted to know, and I was able to reassure him, is that Canada is going to stay a substantive and substantial member of the coalition against ISIS, including military engagement — probably around training — but we’re working with our allies to ensure that we’re doing something useful.”

"We’ve neglected middle class families, but it’s the middle class that creates the most economic activity in the country.”


On why the Liberals chose to lower income taxes in the second $44,700 and $89,401 bracket, but not the first — for income below $45,000

“A lot of people who make less than $45,000, don’t pay any taxes at all. And we were looking for a tool to help the middle class specifically, because we know there are many, many tools to help — we always need more of them — to help families in distress, in real difficulty. We’ve neglected middle class families, but it’s the middle class that creates the most economic activity in the country.” (French)

On Donald Trump

“I think it’s extremely important that someone in my position doesn’t engage in the electoral processes of another country, so I’m certainly going to be very cautious about engaging in this particular topic, just because I think it’s going to be important for Canadians — for Canadian jobs — for Canadian prosperity, to be able to have a positive relationship with whoever Americans choose as their President.

"And painting ISIS and others with a broad brush that extends to all Muslims, is not just ignorant — it’s irresponsible.”

However, I don’t think it comes as a surprise to anyone that I stand firmly against the politics of division, the politics of fear, the politics of intolerance, of hateful rhetoric … And if we allow politicians to succeed by scaring people, we don’t actually end up any safer. Fear doesn’t make us safer. It makes us weaker.

At this time, when there is reason to be concerned for our security in the world and here at home, we need remain focused on keeping our communities safe, keeping our communities united, instead of trying to build walls and scapegoating communities. I need to talk directly about the Muslim community. They are predominantly — they are the greatest victims of terrorist acts around the world at the present time. And painting ISIS and others with a broad brush that extends to all Muslims, is not just ignorant — it’s irresponsible.”

On holding an electoral reform referendum

“I think we need to engage with Canadians, and I know the question is leading towards: do we need a referendum on that? We’ve committed to consulting broadly, as many Canadians as possible, as many different communities and organizations — including political parties — as possible. And we’re going to move forward with that and we’ll see where it takes us. We’re going to do that in a responsible way.”

On the future of Canada Post

“What I plan on doing is doing something that should’ve been done a long time ago, which is actually speak with Canadians about what they expect from home mail delivery. As we see the world moving on towards greater use of e-mail and courier parcels and packages, there is some legitimate questions to be asked around the service that Canadians expect from Canada Post. What we’ve committed to doing is to do a serious examination of what kind of service they have.

Our commitment during the election campaign was to stop the transfer toward community mailboxes where it is, because there wasn’t adequate consultation … Canadians expect Canada Post to deliver a service, and that’s what we need to make sure that we’re doing. How that service gets delivered is exactly what the review and consultation process that we’re going to engage in will be focused on.”


Re-published in partnership with iPolitics.ca

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by Eddie Ameh in Ottawa 

Inside the main atrium of Carleton University, four women wearing hijabs (a head covering worn by some Muslim women) set up tables and stands with mounted posters and banners in one of the busiest areas on campus. The most distinct writing on the posters and banners reads #JeSuisHijabi. 

They are on their feet attending to people, mostly students, who come up to them to inquire about their mission. Among the women is Anna Ahmad, a government worker who has taken time off from her job to volunteer. 

“This is who we are and we can be what we want to be, wearing the hijab,” she says. 

Ahmad is among hundreds of Ahmadiyya Muslim women across Canada participating in a nationwide awareness campaign dubbed #JeSuisHijabi to explain the importance of the hijab and defuse any stereotypes related to it. 

“This is who we are and we can be what we want to be, wearing the hijab.”

Niqab in the last campaign 

In the recent federal election, the wearing of and proposed ban of the niqab (a veil worn by some Muslim women that covers the entire head and face except the eyes) became a point of political debate. 

The Conservatives insisted they were going to appeal a court decision that allows the wearing of the niqab while taking the citizenship oath, and that they would consider a ban on public servants wearing the niqab. 

However, the newly elected Liberal government recently decided not to appeal a Supreme Court decision to allow the wearing of the niqab during citizenship oath taking ceremonies. 

Imtiaz Ahmed, imam at the Ahmadiyya mosque in Cumberland, Ottawa says of the whole niqab debate, “It’s history now.” 

[T]he #JeSuisHijabi campaign challenges a widespread portrayal of Muslim women as being inferior to men.

He commends the Liberal government for discontinuing the case. Ahmed says allowing the niqab debate into the campaign was needless and hopes this does not happen again. 

Eesha Affan, one of the volunteers for the #JeSuisHijabi campaign, says the decision to wear a hijab or a niqab is to show people who they are as Muslim women. 

“It’s our own decision and we want to protect our modesty,” she explains. 

Equality in Islam 

Ahmad says the #JeSuisHijabi campaign challenges a widespread portrayal of Muslim women as being inferior to men. 

“This campaign is to create awareness that I am equal to a man, Islam allows me that equality,” she says. 

She says the campaign has received some attention especially with the hashtag #JeSuisHijabi on Twitter and Facebook. 

“Doing that campaign is creating that awareness of equality.” 

The negative portrayal of women in Islam is more culturally related.

Ahmed says this campaign comes at the right time to correct the misconception of how women are treated in Islam. He says Islam respects women and they are not forced to wear the hijab as it is always misconstrued. 

The negative portrayal of women in Islam is more culturally related, he adds. 

“Islam is not restricted to women in one country. People accept Islam and they have different cultures and different backgrounds and women are suppressed in some of the cultures,” Ahmed says. “It is the cultures that are to be blamed and not Islam.” 

Attacks on Muslim Women 

Following the shootings in Paris, there have been increases in attacks on Muslims in Canada. 

A mosque was set ablaze in Peterborough and a Muslim woman was robbed and attacked in Toronto. 

“We’re trying to tell people that we are a very peaceful community and we want to tell people that what ISIS and other terrorist groups are doing is not the real Islam,” Affan says. 

She says it is upsetting to hear of attacks on Muslim women and that ISIS is pushing fear into people’s hearts. 

“When someone feels fear, they do irrational things,” Affan says. “So we’re trying to take away that fear; love is so much [more] powerful than hate or fear will ever be and that’s what we’re trying to put in people’s hearts.” 

Ahmad emphasizes people need to be better informed. That is why the campaign’s purpose is to show people Islam is a peaceful religion. 

Ahmed says attacks on Muslim women especially are very unfortunate. 

“Just as those who perpetrate nefarious activities in the name of Islam don’t represent Islamic values, same thing with those who attack Muslims, they don’t represent Islamic values,” he says. 

It is, however, comforting to know that the majority of Canadians have been condemning these actions, he points out. Authorities are also on the lookout for people who attack Muslims. A Quebec man was arrested three weeks ago for threatening to kill a Muslim every week in a YouTube video. 

Affan and Ahmed say the constitution of Canada protects them just as it protects everyone. They want to be treated like any other citizen and not looked at suspiciously. 

For the next two weeks, while they campaign in three universities as well as major shopping malls in Ottawa, they have the huge task of swaying a lot of negative stereotypes. 

But even when the campaigning ends, they will still be in their hijabs and saying, #JeSuisHijabi. 

As Ahmad states, “It’s a campaign within ourselves, it’s not a campaign we’ll run for two weeks, and it’s an awareness I’ll have for life.”

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

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