Canadian Muslim community calls on government to combat Islamophobia


Dozens of Canadian Muslim organizations are calling on all levels of government to address systemic racism and combat Islamophobia following last week’s terrorist attack in Quebec City.

They want revamped police training, new mandatory school curriculum covering xenophobia of all stripes and for the provinces to create anti-racism directorates similar to Ontario’s. The coalition also recommends that Parliament declare January 29 — the day of the attack on a mosque that killed six and wounded 19 — a national day of remembrance and action on Islamophobia.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims’ Ihsaan Gardee announced their recommendations at a press conference Wednesday, nine days after suspect Alexandre Bissonnette was charged with six counts of first degree murder and five counts of attempted murder by Quebec police.

“The question is: now what?” Gardee said. “How do we move on from this heartbreaking event and ensure that we learn lessons from this tragedy?”

Bissonnette, a 27-year-old Laval University student who appears to hold far-right political views, allegedly opened fire on a group of men praying at the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec.

News reports surfaced following his arrest concerning Bissonnette’s politics. According to his Facebook page, he “liked” Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen — two political leaders who are outspokenly anti-immigration. Both have been accused of stoking Islamophobia in the U.S. and France.

One of Bissonnette’s friends told the Globe and Mail he considered him a xenophobe.

“What happened in Quebec City was a wake up call for the entire nation. That leaving hatred to fester in our communities can lead to the loss of life and the destruction of people’s communities,” NCCM communications director Amira Elghawaby said. “This is really a collective issue.”

In a letter, the Canadian Council of Imams, Islamic Society of North America, the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, and dozens of other organizations urge the provinces to create mandatory secondary-school courses on systemic racism covering xenophobia, anti-black racism, anti-semitism, Islamophobia and their societal impacts.

The coalition is also calling on the provinces to create anti-racism directorates — government bodies that examine systemic racism in the province. Ontario already has such a directorate, which seeks input from community leaders on how legislation, policy and government programs impact racialized communities.

“We have full confidence that these recommendations will provide a way forward for the betterment of our collective communities and reaffirm Canada’s leading role in the fight against xenophobia in all its forms,” the letter says.

They also urge the federal government to support Motion 103. That motion, tabled by Mississauga-Erin Mills Member of Parliament Iqra Khalid, calls for a federal investigation of systemic racism and religious discrimination in Canada.

Elghawaby said the Muslim community has felt the support they received from Canadians across the country, and that Canadians are concerned with violent extremism “wherever it emerges from.”

“We know that there has been a major spotlight on violent extremism emerging from Muslim communities. But we really need to be paying attention to right-wing extremism, white supremacist extremism.”

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