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Daily News Analysis

Murder at Etobicoke mosque another worrying signal

Crescent International

With increase in hate crimes against mosques in Canada which local officials refuse to label as such, September 12 witnessed the deadly continuation of rising anti-Muslim trend in Canada.

According to the CBC, volunteer caretaker of a mosque, 58-year-old Mohamed-Aslim Zafis, was fatally stabbed on Saturday evening (September 12) in Etobicoke, west part of Toronto, while sitting outside the front doors of the International Muslim Organization (IMO) mosque.

CP24 pointed out “when asked if police are investigating it as a potential hate crime, [Constable Alex] Li said homicide investigators are not ruling that possibility, but at this time, the information they have does not suggest that it is a hate crime.”

We cannot speculate what information the police have that would indicate hate crime is not the motive but based on similar earlier attacks against Muslims and Muslim institutions in the Western world, hate crime should be the primary potential theory of the investigation.

The murder in Etobicoke took place a day after a large rally in Montreal against wearing masks to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the rally participants expressed support for the re-selection of Donald Trump as US president, despite the fact that elections are to be held in the US, not Canada.

While the rally itself was not linked to what happened in Etobicoke, it is the broader parameters that people in Canada need to pay attention to, namely, rooting for a bigot like Trump.

His policies and election promises are based primarily on projecting Muslims and Islam as the enemy of ordinary people in North America and beyond.

The fact that Trump has no tangible or unique economic or political achievements for others to emulate, public expression of support for Trump is essentially the endorsement of anti-Muslim bigotry.

While the rise of Trumpism, a shallow sub-trend within fascism, cannot acquire the same level of legitimacy and political power in Canada as it has done in the US, it serves as a catalyst and platform to normalize anti-Muslim sentiment within mainstream Canadian politics.

It should be kept in mind that in the Western world it was high profile politicians like Tony Blair, Stephen Harper and George Bush who laid the intellectual foundations for Trumpism as a legitimate political trend to be considered as a societal norm.

True, Canada offers better protection for Muslims in the face of rising Islamophobia compared to Muslims in France or Austria but that should not lead to complacency.

Frequent attacks on Muslim institutions and the resultant murders, as in the Quebec City mosque in 2017, are not occurring in a political vacuum detached from mainstream Western political establishment.

As pointed out by Moazzam Begg in 2019, “until we recognize just how much the most powerful nations in the world have contributed to the vilification of Islam and Muslims, acts of violence against us will become normalized at every level - and that is simply unacceptable.”

This sort of intellectual awakening needs to take place at every institutional level in Canada and beyond.

Comparatively, Canada is well positioned to initiate this groundbreaking realization among Western nations.

It should, therefore, not waste its political and societal potential.

Ignoring Islamophobia will only add to the problems at home and outside Canada.

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