As Canada enters the week of elections, Muslims are raising concerns about the absence of politicians’ solidarity with Muslims against racism and hate that have sharply increased recently in the campaign trails.
“We can’t have politicians be allowed to get away with pushing this issue to the backburner,” Fareed Khan, founder of Canadians United Against Hate told CBC News.
“I think it’s up to Canadians — not just racialized Canadians but also the allies who have come out in the tens of thousands this year to support Black Canadians and Indigenous Canadians and Muslim Canadians — to say, ‘No we can be better than this’ and we’re not going to let you get away with being silent on this issue.”
Muslims have been rising concerns about Islamophobic attacks in provinces across Canada amid widespread calls for authorities to tackle racism, hate-motivated violence, and the prevalence of far-right groups.
Over the last decade, Canada has seen reported hate crimes against Muslims rise from 45 in 2012 to 181 in 2018.
That number fell to 82 in 2020, though the past 12 months have seen profound examples of violence against Muslims, including London attacks and the stabbing of a mosque caretaker in Toronto.
This rising hate must be tackled, according to National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) CEO Mustafa Farooq.
“[It] is absolutely something that should be addressed by every federal leader … If they’re not willing to address it, I think that tells you a lot about where their priorities lie,” he said.
During their campaign, Liberals have adopted some of the NCCM’s 61 recent recommendations to counter Islamophobia in their campaign platform, as well as a national action plan for combating hate.
The Conservatives also promised to double the funding for the federal security infrastructure program and make it easier for religious institutions to apply to protect themselves.
The NDP is the only party to explicitly endorse an office for a special envoy on Islamophobia and has also promised online measure to counter hate.
However, none of the federal leaders have committed to intervening to fight Quebec’s Bill 21 in court, something Toronto imam Hamid Slimi believes needs to change.
“I believe governments should never interfere in people’s personal decisions when it comes to what they want to wear, what they believe, how they want to practice their religion.”
Issues like that have been drowned out amid the din of the campaign, he says.
“It’s like you’re in a market. There’s so much noise, everybody’s selling this and selling that and you can’t focus.”
Sabreena Ghaffar-Siddiqui, a professor of sociology and criminology at Sheridan College, believes the politicians who took to the stage in London after the killing of the Afzaal family need to deliver on their promises.
“The face of Canada is changing,” she said.
“We have always been known for multiculturalism, but it’s one thing to show yourself as that type of nation and another to actually have the people of your nation feel safe in this country.”