The June 6, 2021 murder of four members of a Muslim family in London, ON, has once again brought to the fore the deadly consequences of Islamophobia. Leaders across the political spectrum in Canada as well as law enforcement officials described the attack as an ‘act of terror’. Political leaders have pledged to root out white supremacist groups and social media platforms that spread Islamophobia and to protect Canadian Muslims.
These statements are encouraging. If implemented with sincerity and without delay, they will help reduce the frequency of such attacks even if they would not eliminate Islamophobia and its deadly consequences completely.
Despite the massive media coverage of vigils and funeral for the murdered family, attacks against Muslims have continued. Two persons tried to enter the Islamic Institute of Toronto on June 15. They threatened to blow up the place. The police were called; both were apprehended before any harm was done. On June 23, two hijabi sisters in St. Albert, a small town in Alberta, were assaulted by a white man wielding a knife. One was knocked unconscious while the second suffered minor injuries. The assailant fled the scene. On June 25, a Muslim out for his morning walk was badly beaten up by two assailants in Saskatoon.
Regrettably, such incidents are becoming all too common. A culture of impunity has developed whereby Islamophobia is now an acceptable form of racism. It is not just verbal abuse or physical assaults; Muslims have been murdered. Since the January 29, 2017 attack on the Islamic Cultural Center in Quebec City when six Muslims were shot and killed in cold blood as they were praying, 11 Muslims have been killed in the last four years. This is in addition to attacks on mosques.
White supremacist groups spewing venom against Muslims on the Internet are well known. A nexus has developed between white supremacists, many of them advocating neo-Nazi ideology, and the Zionists. It is not just the Jewish Defence League (JDL), a violent extremist group that is banned in the United States because the FBI has declared it a terrorist organization. It continues to operate in Canada and has been involved in numerous violent attacks on pro-Palestinian activists and Muslims.
There are also prominent Jewish individuals, such as Irwin Colter, a former Justice Minister of Canada, involved in spreading Islamophobia. A hate-filled column by Tarek Fatah in the Toronto Sun on June 16 was tweeted by Cotler. Of Pakistani origin, Fatah is an obnoxious creature and a rank opportunist who proudly proclaims his Hindu ancestry. He blames Muslims for the rising tide of Islamophobia that has led to the cold-blooded murder of innocent people. Fatah has discovered that spewing hatred against Muslims will garner him publicity and financial support.
Cotler heads the international coalition to fight anti-Semitism. Why would someone who claims to be a champion of human rights, promote such hate content? True, he later deleted the tweet about Fatah’s hateful column but regrettably, the damage had been done.
Islamophobia is a global phenomenon. While Western societies have historically discriminated against people of colour—some more violently than others—Islamophobia has been promoted as official policy by many governments in the wake of the 911 attacks. Whoever was responsible—and it is still not clearly established, notwithstanding the US’ self-serving allegations—all 1.5 billion Muslims are blamed for it.
In the immediate aftermath of 911, Muslims in Canada, the US and elsewhere were often asked whether they supported such attacks. No such question has ever been posed to adherents of other faiths when their co-religionists carry out terrorist acts.
Islamophobia is not confined to merely hate groups in Canada. Some mainstream political parties also promote conspiracy theories about Muslims threatening “Canadian values” and western civilization. They further accuse Muslims of plotting to impose “shariah law”. These politicians and their media mouthpieces have no clue what “Shariah law” is because there is no such thing. Shariah itself means law that is derived from the teachings of the Qur’an and the Prophetic deeds and sayings.
It includes such concepts as the promotion of justice, equity and fairness as well as dietary laws for Muslims. It regulates a Muslim society’s moral, social, political and spiritual life. So, what exactly is it that the opponents of “Shariah law” object to?
The idea, however, is not to understand but to demonize Muslims because many Western countries have been and are involved in wars against Muslim societies. Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia and Yemen immediately come to mind. The infrastructures of these countries have been destroyed not to mention the murder of some 30 million people, mostly civilians, since 911.
Western governments and the ruling oligarchs would have found it difficult to justify their wars of aggression if Muslims in the US, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Netherlands and other European countries are known as peaceful neighbours. Those that have interacted with Muslims have found them to be law-abiding, peaceful and kind-hearted. That is what Islam teaches but that is not what the Western warmongers want to project. Hence, the deliberate campaign of demonization of Muslims so that these regimes can continue to wage wars.
This may be changing in the wake of the horrific slaughter of four members of the Afzaal family in London, ON, but it would be wrong to assume that Muslims can rest easy. There is a long way to go before Muslims can feel safe. It will require determined effort by governments to stamp out Islamophobia by declaring it a hate crime.
Until then, Muslims must be very careful and take steps to protect themselves. The authorities, regrettably, will not protect them despite uttering platitudes about hate having no place in Canada or elsewhere.