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Daily News Analysis

Will the Islamophobia summit result in concrete action?

Khadijah Ali

Funeral prayers on June 12 for the Afzaal family murdered in a terrorist attack in London, ON. How many more funerals must Muslims attend before concrete steps are taken to confront the existential threat to the Muslim community in Canada?

As summits go, the two back-to-back summits in Canada may have aroused hopes but it is yet to be seen whether any concrete action would follow.

The summit on Islamophobia on July 22 was held a day after a similar summit on anti-Semitism.

The anti-Semitism summit was organized and managed by the Jewish community in Canada.

The Islamophobia summit was carefully orchestrated and run by the government.

While the government had already conceded almost everything the Jewish community had demanded, the Muslim community was treated to more platitudes and sound bites.

Many saw it as an election gimmick to pacify a community that has been traumatized by a series of attacks on its members.

Since 2017, eleven Muslims have been murdered in terrorist attacks.

The Islamophobia summit was announced soon after four members of the Afzaal family were mowed down on June 6 by Nathaniel Veltman in London, ON.

The Canadian Parliament passed a unanimous resolution to hold a summit on Islamophobia.

It was also immediately announced that a similar summit would be held on anti-Semitism.

While both were virtual summits, it is revealing to see who was invited and those that were excluded.

For instance, Independent Jewish Voices (IJV), a group of progressive Jews, was not invited to the anti-Semitism summit.

It was managed and run by pro-Israeli groups whose major demand was to declare criticism of Israel and Zionism as hate crimes.

The Islamophobia summit pointedly excluded many academics and lawyers that have done much work on Islamophobia yet Bernie Farber, a former CEO of the now-defunct Canadian Jewish Congress, was invited.

Farber is also staunchly pro-Israel.

He had called for holding the two summits together.

This is seen as an attempt to normalize relations with Israel.

Muslims have no problem with the Jewish people. Their concern is with the racist entity called Israel that has illegally occupied Palestinian lands and is brutalizing them.

Azeezah Kanji, a legal scholar and director of programming at the Noor Cultural Centre in Toronto, while invited to the summit was not allowed to speak.

She has done much work on Islamophobia but it appears her honest analysis does not sit well with the powers that be.

Like many others, Ms. Kanji was also not optimistic about whether the summit would lead to meaningful action.

“We’ll have to see what comes out of the summit, but I would not be surprised if it’s just more of the same superficial gestures and optics that we have seen from this government time and time again,” she was quoted by the CBC as saying.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), the group that had made a strong pitch for the summit, released 60 policy recommendations on the eve of the summit to combat hate and racism across Canada.

While addressed to all levels of government—federal, provincial and municipal—their major thrust was aimed at the federal government.

The recommendations included a federal anti-Islamophobia strategy by the end of 2021, investigation into national security agencies and how they deal with white supremacist groups, and whether they have infiltrated those agencies, and new provisions in the Criminal Code around hate-motivated assault, murder, threats and mischief that include specific penalties corresponding to each infraction.

NCCM’s recommendations are useful but they miss the crucial point of Canada’s involvement in NATO wars and its blind support of Zionist Israel that act as engines driving Islamophobia.

No amount of funding for victims of Islamophobia or funding for Muslim storytelling, as recommended by NCCM, will stem the hate-filled ideology at source.

There are anti-terrorism laws that specifically target Muslims.

There needs to be recognition that antiterrorism legislation has unfairly targeted Canadian Muslims.

In his opening remarks to the summit, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called on the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) and federal security agencies to stop practices that “target” Muslims.

“Institutions should support people, not target them,” he said.

These are welcome comments but Muslims want to see how much of these are translated into action.

CEO of NCCM, Mustafa Farooq said he wants to see all levels of government follow up the summit discussion with concrete action.

“The reality is we cannot just keep adding onto a list of horrifying things that have happened,” he said, citing the recent spike in hate crimes.

Even after the horrific murder of an entire family in London, ON, attacks against Muslims have continue all across Canada.

Two hijabi sisters were attacked in St Albert (AB), an elderly Muslim man was assaulted in Saskatoon (SK), and a mother and daughter were abused and threatened with death threats in Hamilton, ON, on July 13.

While Trudeau has said, “there is no place in Canada for Islamophobia,” the real test would be what steps Ottawa takes to tackle this growing threat to the very survival of the Muslim community.

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