The Scourge of Islamophobia in Canada

Muslims in Canada deserve to feel what non-Muslims feel when they hear of a vicious crime or a foiled plot committed by someone who looks like them: abhorred by the crime but knowing the crime reflects the perpetrator alone. Any other thought process should never occur.

— Graeme Truelove, Un-Canadian: Islamophobia in the True North (Nightwood Editions, 2020): location 35%

The police murder of George Floyd set off the powder keg filled by centuries of oppression of Black peoples in the United States. The United States has been beset by countrywide protests, some marred by violence of protestors and police. Many would argue that violence of the protestors is fair reprisal to the initial violence of the police, and one must bear in mind the neverending violence of the system.

The protests have spread worldwide. They have also spread across Canada. In stark contradistinction to US president Donald Trump (while one might question the sincerity) Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau joined a protest in Ottawa and took to his knee.

Said Trudeau,

I think far too many Canadians feel fear and anxiety at the sight of law enforcement officers and authorities of various ways because we have, continue to have systemic racism in this country, systemic discrimination that means that Indigenous Canadians, racialized Canadians are, are vulnerable in these situations…. Over the past weeks, we’ve seen a large number of Canadians suddenly awaken to the fact that the discrimination that is a lived reality for far too many of our fellow citizens is something that needs to end.

The words sound fine, but sweet-sounding words have never been enough. Firm, demonstrative action is required to mitigate the systemic injustices and racism. There will be much skepticism to Trudeau because his past revealed appearances in Blackface (although I would not attribute this to racism) and sending the federal police (RCMP) into First Nation territory to push through corporate projects.

One particularly outstanding stain on whether Trudeau is racist or not is his de facto support of Zionism and apartheid in historical Palestine. Electronic Intifada is wary of Trudeau’s words as a recent headline shows: “Trudeau offers empty words on Israel’s annexation plans.”

Canada has always been a steadfast supporter of the state of Israel, but when Stephen Harper became prime minister, support for Israel became in-one’s face and boastful. It has continued under Trudeau. Concomitant with supporting the Jewish state, as Israel identifies itself, is denial of Palestinian aspirations for justice and statehood. While Palestinians include Christians in their ranks, they are mainly Muslim. Thus, given the demographic and stigmatizing of Palestinians, it is little wonder that Islamophobia has grown out of the imbroglio foisted by western colonialist/imperialist hegemony in the Middle East and implanted itself within Canadian politics and some segments of Canadian society.

In Un-Canadian: Islamophobia in the True North (Nightwood Editions, 2020), Graeme Truelove examines the discrimination and the racist attitudes held against Muslims, or people who appear to be Muslims. Canada, in line with the United States, has taken an unfriendly posture to Muslim majority countries such as Iraq, Syria, Iran, and Libya while being friendly with some Muslim majority countries like the human rights abusing regime in Saudi Arabia (which is on amicable terms with Israel but unfriendly toward the West’s bugaboo Iran). Because of this, Amnesty International stated that Canada was “complicit in the war on [another Muslim majority country] Yemen.” Then there is the nearly two decades long war in Afghanistan in which Canadian soldiers participated. Truelove writes how Canadian soldiers were criticized for having biblical inscriptions on their telescopic sights (location 7%). Canadian general Rick Hillier made clear Canada’s role in Afghanistan: “We are the Canadian Forces, and our job is to kill people.” Defense in the Department of Defense was openly subordinated to war, although defense has always had been a pretense.

Islamophobia is given widespread impetus by the Canadian state and corporate media’s negative characterizations of Muslims, including the National Post, Toronto Star, and Maclean’s magazine. (loc 8%) Truelove gives as an example,

Consider the use of the term ‘Islamic terrorism.’ Terrorism is un-Islamic, and suggesting that the two terms could be complimentary, rather than contradictory, provokes questioning of all Muslims. (loc 9%)

Truelove proffers instead that the terrorists should be referred to as Daesh, a pejorative used by Muslims and informed westerners.

One reason given for the prominence of Islamophobia within politics is that politicians are reflecting voter preferences (loc 12%). Ergo, politicians are being led by voters (which is usually not bad as far as democratization goes) rather than leading. So egregious has been the political pandering to prejudices that some political parties have began to attack the wearing of Islamic garb by Muslim women, in particular the niqab. This, argued Truelove, reveals more about values held than any security concerns. (loc 16%)

Canada began screening immigrants and refugees and imposing security certificates against some based on a sole judge’s decision. The perversion of justice was stark. No evidence was required to be shown to the accused. In addition, the detainee and lawyers were not permitted to attend the hearing. (loc 23%)

Muslims were being pressured to speak out against jihadism and terrorism. It is a religiously biased demand directed at Muslims because terrorist acts by other actors, for instance, by Christians and Jews, do not come with demands that these religious organizations publicly denounce terrorism. Writes Truelove:

It is a frustration among Muslim communities that no matter how many vigils they hold and no matter how many times they denounce terrorism–that is abhorrent to their faith and which has killed Muslims worldwide–they are told that Canadians are waiting to hear where they stand. (loc 29%)

Muslims have been singled out, despite the absence or paucity of evidence of any wrongdoing, for onerous scrutiny by politicians, RCMP, Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), and border services — authorities who had unwittingly thrown in their lot with white supremacists and far-right hate groups. The media participates in the racist-tinged targeting of Muslims.

Media referred to the Canadian suspects with the phrases Canadian-born,’ ‘brown-skinned,’ and ‘home-grown threat.’ Referring to Canadians as ‘Canadian-born’ implies that they are not real Canadians, that their Canadianness deserves some sort of asterisk. (loc 33%)

Numerous Muslim men have suffered at the hands of Canadian authorities and their foreign co-conspirators enduring the indignities of incarceration and torture. Un-Canadian relates the injustices of many victims including Ahmad El-Maati, Abdullah Almaki, Maher Arar, Muayyed Nureddin, Abousfian Abdelrazik, and the child soldier Omar Khadr who was imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay.

Adelrazik was crystal clear in pinning the blame for his suffering: “The Canadian government has a racist mind. It is because I am black and Muslim.” (loc 45%)

Meanwhile, protests precipitated by the spate of police murders of Blacks continue throughout the US. The protests are taking place around the world, including Canada. While the US may be a hotbed of the most prevalent and virulent racism, it is not the only country beset with racism. And it is not just prejudice limited against Blacks or Muslims. The Original Peoples of Turtle Island have long suffered. All prejudice is condemnatory, be it against Indigenous peoples, Blacks, Roma, Muslims, Jews, Chinese, homosexuals, transgender people, etc because it denies all humans of their humanity.

While Un-Canadian focuses on Islamophobia, Truelove knows that racism in all its perturbations is a scourge that needs to be obliterated. The author also knows that racism afflicts only a segment of humanity and that that segment needs to be cured of this horrible ailment.

Un-Canadian drives home the moral necessity to embrace humanity in all the myriad forms of humans. To not do so is to be inhuman.

Kim Petersen is a former co-editor of the Dissident Voice newsletter. He can be reached at: kimohp@gmail.com. Twitter: @kimpetersen. Read other articles by Kim.