With the political climate in the United States looking more and more like a horror movie each day, given Donald Trump’s most recent foray into unconstitutional foreign policy and religious persecution, it can be difficult to focus on Canada’s own contributions to the oppression of Muslim people.
But for the sake of human rights in Canada, and to avoid travelling down the same toxic path as our neighbours to the south, we must.
When a terrorist attack in a Ste-Foy, Quebec mosque last week resulted in the death of six innocent Muslim men, many Canadians were quick to condemn the perceived “Trump effect,” a reference to the travel ban that would prevent citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S.
But was it really just a simple case of foreign cause and local effect?
After the terrorist attack in Quebec, police took two men into custody. Although there were two men named by the media—but, notably, not declared suspects—it seemed that many zeroed in on the one name that appeared to be Moroccan. Rumours spread like wildfire, mostly with the intent of portraying the Moroccan man as the killer.
The Rebel Media was perhaps the largest offender in this crusade to shift blame away from Alexandre Bissonnette, the white man who was actually charged in the crime. For example, Rebel reporter and white supremacist Lauren Southern tweeted unsubstantiated information from Reddit that the two suspects were Muslim men who had entered Canada as refugees in the past week. Meanwhile, there is absolutely no evidence that police have ever suspected two Syrian refugees in the shooting.
Tarek Fatah, a Toronto Sun columnist, even alleged on Twitter that the police were lying to protect witness Mohamed Belkhadir, speculating that the police released him in order to “avoid any talk of Muslim on Muslim terror.”
Because, obviously, the police would rather release a terrorist than let the public know that a Muslim man killed someone. Clearly, the police are only operating with the intent of blaming white people. It all makes sense now!
Back in reality, according to a 2016 poll a majority of Ontarians view Islam negatively, perceiving it as a religion that promotes more violence in comparison to other religions. This claim is laughable, however, since a study using text analysis revealed that the Old Testament was found to be twice as violent as the Quran. Take a walk through the history of any religion, and it’s bound to have skeletons in its closet.
Although uninformed, this popular opinion translates directly to the Muslim-Canadian experience. In April 2016, before Trump was anywhere near the White House, it was reported by Global News that hate crimes against Muslim-Canadians had more than doubled in the span of three years.
According to a 2016 Environics survey, just over one-third of Muslim-Canadians report having experienced discrimination in the past five years due to their religion. Notably, the number rises to 40 per cent when we look at responses from Muslims only residing in Quebec.
With that in mind, if we hope to hold ourselves up as a country that respects religious freedoms, we must lose the rhetoric of “meanwhile in Canada…” or “thank goodness I live in a country that’s racism-free!” We have not earned the right to feel superior about our nation’s treatment of Muslim people, or anyone perceived to be Muslim, for that matter.
When Canadians act as connoisseurs of cultural acceptance, we ignore the glaring reality that a significant proportion of our citizens do not feel safe here. And despite what’s happening with the Trump sideshow, Canadians need to take a serious step back and evaluate why our own citizens experience discrimination, assault, and murder based on their religion.
We cannot claim to be a country that values freedom of religion when people are harassed and assaulted for simply being Muslim and being in public. We cannot claim to value freedom of religion when universities have to hold investigations into posters that read “Fu*k your turban,” or graffiti that tells Syrians to “go home and die.”
All of this hostility from non-Muslim Canadians to their Muslim counterpart is sadly ironic when you consider that CSIS has ranked white supremacy ahead of radical Islam as a threat to Canadians. It is even more ironic when you consider that Canada’s mass shooters are most often white and Canadian born—nope, not jihadists. The arrest of Bissonnette falls directly in line with this trend, so where should we go from here?
Should we ban white males from Canada in order to prevent terrorist activity? Should we start graffitiing the houses of white men, telling them they should die? Should we harrass white men for going about their daily routine in public, or actively discriminate against them based on their beliefs?
Of course not.
So, why does the narrative change when we talk about Muslim-Canadians? If this flawed thinking has been accepted in the mainstream, why is it not equally applied across races and religions? Think about it.
If you’re under the impression that Canada is a perfectly safe haven for Muslim people, it’s time to take a step back, recognize your privilege, and listen to the Muslim community around you.