rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Canadian conservatives must take long, hard look at their Islamophobic rhetoric

Image: Facebook/Kellie Leitch

While details are still unfolding on the Quebec City mosque attack Sunday night, there is little question that the shooter was motivated by hate for Muslims.  As such, Quebec and Canadian political leaders should take a long, hard look at how their statements and actions may exacerbate such hate.

Quebec Muslims rightly see the Quebec City mosque killings as just the latest escalation in a trend of growing harassment against Canada's Muslims.  "The Muslim community in Quebec is suffering from a flood of hate attacks...and now the attacks are escalating and bringing...the death of innocent people," lamented Samer Majzoub, president of the Canadian Muslim Forum.  

It may be months before we learn the twisted motives of the killer in the mosque attack, but it is certainly not unreasonable to suppose that U.S. president Donald Trump's Muslim travel ban might have played a role in encouraging the attack.  Because whether they come from Trump or anyone else, the statements and actions of our political leaders can easily legitimize unacceptable attitudes or behaviour in society.  

It is the demagogues of our time who may be particularly to blame.  MP Kellie Leitch is one apt example that comes to mind.  In 2015, Leitch was the front-woman for the Harper government's "barbaric practices tip line," which falsely but implicitly suggested that Canadian Muslims maintain practices which are already illegal under Canadian law, like forced marriages and honour killings.  Now as a Conservative leadership candidate, Leitch has upped the ante in her anti-Muslim rhetoric by calling for the screening of "immigrants, refugees, and visitors" for "anti-Canadian values."

Leitch was part of a Harper government which stoked anti-Muslim sentiment for years.  For example, Harper consistently played off the danger of extremist Islamic terror, stating in 2011 that "Islamicism" was the biggest threat facing Canada.  As one critic put it at the time, "Harper never loses a chance to invoke the spectre of Islamist terrorism."

One high visibility manifestation of Harper's anti-Muslim bias was his decision to block Muslim refugees from receiving asylum in Canada.  Another was his attempt to prevent Muslim women from wearing the niqab during citizenship ceremonies – a case which he lost, but which dragged publicly through the courts for months.  After seeing Harper repeatedly lose this case in the courts, one commentator authored a piece, "Call the niqab issue what it is -- a shameless play for the bigot vote."

In Quebec, the Parti Quebecois government of Pauline Marois proposed an infamous law in 2013 known as the "Charter of Values" which had a deep anti-Muslim focus.  This bill, proposing the banning of many religious symbols – such as the hijab – in the public service, severely exacerbated anti-Muslim currents in the province.  Quebecers experienced déjà vu this past fall when conservative Quebec politician François Legault resurrected some of the very same issues relating to Muslim dress.

Many of Canada's Muslims have fled to Canada as witnesses of violence, oppression and terrorism themselves.  It is therefore ironic that they are now targeted by conservative politicians in Canada somehow as a "source" of extremism.  In fact, given their first-hand experience with oppression and violence, they are often the most ardent defenders of the liberties that many Canadians take for granted.  Indeed, Majzoub concludes his statement on the attack by stating, "This massacre does not represent the values of Quebecers and Canadians, [like those] of peace, equality and freedom of belief."

Gestures and words on the part of our politicians do matter.  We may never know what drove the attacker to murder six people praying in their Quebec City mosque this past weekend.  However, we can be certain that fear-mongering language from our politicians can only be dangerous and counterproductive to a healthy and unified Canadian society.  

Like this article? Please chip in to keep stories like these coming.

Image: Facebook/Kellie Leitch

Thank you for reading this story...

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all. But media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our only supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help.

If everyone who visits rabble and likes it chipped in a couple of dollars per month, our future would be much more secure and we could do much more: like the things our readers tell us they want to see more of: more staff reporters and more work to complete the upgrade of our website.

We’re asking if you could make a donation, right now, to set rabble on solid footing in 2017.

Make a donation.Become a monthly supporter.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.