Canadians form ‘rings of peace’ around mosques after Quebec shooting

Hundreds across Canada gathered around mosques to form protective barriers – described by organisers as “human shields” and “rings of peace” – as Muslims in the country marked their first Friday prayers since a gunman shot dead six men who were praying at a Quebec mosque.

“No Canadian should be afraid to go to their house of worship to pray,” Yael Splansky, the rabbi behind the effort to set up “rings of peace” around Toronto mosque told the Canadian Press.  “It’s a terrifying scene. Imagine people of faith going to pray in peace, to pray for peace, and to be at risk. Houses of worship are sacred and must be protected.”

But reports emerged of a mosque that had been vandalised just miles from where the funeral was taking place. A window at the Khadijah Masjid Islamic Centre had been smashed and the front door splattered with eggs, in an act described as “terrorism” by one city councillor.

Quebec Mosque Attack Forces Canadians to Confront a Strain of Intolerance

QUEBEC — In a world often hostile to migration, Canada has stood out, welcoming thousands of refugees fleeing war and seeking a haven. It has been a feel-good time for Canada, proud of its national tolerance.

On Sunday, that was upended when a man walked into a mosque and started shooting, killing six people and wounding eight. The man accused of being the gunman, Alexandre Bissonnette, was charged with six counts of murder on Monday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called it an act of terrorism, and there was a collective outpouring of remorse and empathy. But the attack also forced Canadians to confront a growing intolerance and extremism that has taken root particularly among some people in this French-speaking corner of the country.

“Certainly Islamophobia has been increasing for some time,” Samer Majzoub, president of the Canadian Muslim Forum, said by telephone from Montreal.

But he said the attack was nonetheless shocking. “It is overwhelming, unthinkable,” he said.

Global backlash grows against Trump’s immigration order

A global backlash against U.S. President Donald Trump’s immigration curbs gathered strength on Sunday as several countries including long-standing American allies criticized the measures as discriminatory and divisive.

Governments from London and Berlin to Jakarta and Tehran spoke out against Trump’s order to put a four-month hold on allowing refugees into the United States and temporarily ban travelers from Syria and six other Muslim-majority countries. He said the move would help protect Americans from terrorism.

In Germany – which has taken in large numbers of people fleeing the Syrian civil war – Chancellor Angela Merkel said the global fight against terrorism was no excuse for the measures and “does not justify putting people of a specific background or faith under general suspicion”, her spokesman said.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his country welcomed those fleeing war and persecution, even as Canadian airlines said they would turn back U.S.-bound passengers to comply with an immigration ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries.

“To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada,” he tweeted.

Survey shows Muslim population is fastest growing religion in Canada

May 8, 2013

By Jordan Press

 

OTTAWA — The Islamic centre in Saskatoon is experiencing growing pains. Friday services have been split in two so local streets aren’t clogged with traffic. City officials and nearby residents are working with the centre to answer questions like where to put more parking?

“We have been experiencing this kind of steady increase for a while,” said Amin Elshorbagy, president of the Canadian Islamic Congress.

“We can see this in terms of the need to expand our infrastructure. Most of our Islamic centres are becoming very crowded.”

Across the country, the Muslim population is growing at a rate exceeding other religions, according to Statistics Canada. It is even growing faster than the number of Canadians identifying as having no religion, though just barely, according to the National Household Survey released Wednesday.

The Muslim population exceeded the one million mark, according to the survey, almost doubling its population for the third-consecutive decade.

However, the survey results should be taken with caution. Experts say the voluntary nature of the survey, which replaced the mandatory long-form census, leaves gaps in the data from groups that tend not to respond to such surveys, such as new immigrants.

Experts believe the data provide a fairly good, broad picture of Canada, but data on smaller groups may have less reliable information.

As mosques become more commonplace and more women wear the niqab, there are growing debates about religious accommodations.

“We need to sit down as Muslims, not as a community because there isn’t one community, and decide what we want to be accommodated and what we want to give up,” said Alia Hogben, executive director of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women.

That internal debate in the Muslim community sometimes gets sidetracked, largely because of the backdrop of violence done in the name of religion, which Canadian Muslims regularly condemn.

“It is an additional pressure and a big one on the Muslim community,” Elshorbagy said.

“We need to be extra nice just because we’re Muslims. We need to go beyond certain limits, which is very unfortunate for people like me,” he said. “Sometimes the media will call something Islamic terrorism — once you call it Islamic, you’ve brought me into the picture even though I haven’t done something wrong.”

And with their numbers now reportedly over the one million mark, the pressures are likely to mount.

“Polling has shown that Canadian Muslims are proud to be Canadian, more so than the average Canadian,” said Ihsaan Gardee, executive director of the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations.

“Canadian Muslims very much want to integrate and be part and parcel of the society.”

One-on-one, non-Muslims may have favourable views of their Islamic colleagues, but that feeling doesn’t always extend to the wider Muslim population, said Pamela Dickey Young, a professor of religion and culture at Queen’s University.

“It isn’t like Canadian Muslims have not tried to educate the Canadian populace…but for some reason there’s still that edge with it that some Canadians have problems getting over,” Dickey Young said.

Muslims now represent 3.2 per cent of the country’s total population, nudging up from the two per cent recorded in 2001.

Immigration has largely fuelled the increase, with the largest share coming from Pakistan over the past five years, according to Statistics Canada.

But the survey provides no breakdown of type of Muslims living in Canada, as the survey didn’t ask respondents, for instance, whether they were Shiite or Sunni.

“People keep blocking us into one cohesive mass and we’re not that at all,” Hogben said.

 

National Post: http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/05/08/survey-shows-muslim-population-is-fastest-growing-religion-in-canada/

 

Canadian Muslims encounter increasing hostility: Siddiqui

October 13, 2013

By Haroon Siddiqui

 

Jews have historically been falsely accused of wielding too much power. Now Canadian Muslims are, especially in Quebec.

A national poll has taken a measure of bigots who exaggerate the power of those they dislike. Nearly a third of Canadians believe Muslims have too much influence in their province. In Quebec, 43 per cent think so. This is ironic, given that Canadian Muslims report feeling under siege and helpless to stop the demonization directed at them because of Muslim mayhem elsewhere in the world.

A second poll corroborates the increasing hostility toward Muslims — again, more so in Quebec.

The findings come amid an ugly debate in Quebec over its plan to ban religious symbols and clothing, especially the hijab, for those on the public payroll. And there are increasing incidents of hijabi women being harassed — not just in Quebec but in Ontario and elsewhere.

Islam is the fastest growing religion in Canada, as it is in the U.S. and Europe. The 2011 national census estimated the Canadian Muslim population at 1,053 million, up 73 per cent since 2001. In Quebec, it is 243,500.

This week on Tuesday and Wednesday, Muslims celebrate Eid al-Adha, the festival that marks the annual Haj pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia, a gathering of about three million, including an estimated 1,500 from Canada.

Forum Research Inc. asked a representative sample of 1,527 Canadians about theirperception of the power of minorities.

Thirty per cent say Muslims have too much power. Twenty-one per cent think that about the Sikhs. And 18 per cent each say that about Jews and “Asians” (Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, etc.)

In Quebec, suspicion of Muslims and Jews is much higher. While 43 per cent think that Muslims are too powerful, 32 per cent think that of Jews. Tellingly, more separatists think that way than others. “Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia common among Indépendendistes,” reads the headline on the Forum findings.

“If the Charter of Quebec Values is an example of the Parti Québécois practising dog whistle politics, it appears there are plenty of ears tuned to that particular frequency,” says Lorne Bozinoff, president of Forum.

I presented him with an argument: The poll merely quantifies the bigotry that’s always present in society; that he asked leading questions (“Do Muslims have too much influence in your province?”); and that respondents mouth off against whatever group is in the news negatively.

Bozinoff had a crisp answer: “Respondents had a right to say no but a great many didn’t. It was an IVR (interactive voice response) poll — people were pressing 1 and 2 on their phones in response to questions. There was no human being influencing them.

“The results are shocking but informative.”

An Angus Reid poll asked a sample of 2,025 Canadians — divided into Quebec and the rest of Canada — their views about different faiths.

Nearly 70 per cent of Quebecers don’t like Islam. In the rest of Canada, 54 per cent don’t.

Next on Quebecers’ hit list is Sikhism, disliked by 43 per cent, followed by Judaism, disliked by 41 per cent.

In the rest of Canada, 39 per cent view Sikhism negatively, 29 per cent Hinduism and 22 per cent Judaism.

Who holds the most negative views? Both polls point to the old, the less educated and the less wealthy.

Forum also shows that across Canada, Conservative supporters are more likely, 36 per cent, than supporters of other parties to presume that Muslims are too powerful. In Quebec, 47 per cent of PQ and 53 per cent of Bloc Québécois supporters think so.

Angus Reid shows that younger and university-educated Canadians hold more favourable opinions of non-Judeo-Christian religions.

We may shrug off all this as a passing phenomenon.

After all, similar views have been held in the past against Catholics, Japanese, blacks and, especially, Jews. Over time, prejudices shift toward newer minorities, including by those who had once been victims of just such prejudice.

Or it may be that more people these days are willing to admit their biases and do so with a stridency we used to think of as un-Canadian.

Still, Shachi Kurl of Angus Reid says that leaving aside Quebec, the results do suggest that the rest of Canada, while more open-minded than Quebec, “may be operating under a veneer of acceptance rather than actual acceptance” of religious minorities.

For sure, Canada is not immune from post-9/11 fear of Muslims. We see that in the crude public discourse, especially in right-wing media and among some politicians, especially in Quebec, who feed at the Islamophobic trough.

 

The Star: http://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2013/10/13/canadian_muslims_encounter_increasing_hostility_siddiqui.html

How Muslim Canadians cope with work, hot days during Ramadan

The Globe and Mail – August 6, 2012

 

For over two weeks, hundreds of thousands of Muslim Canadians across the country have been observing Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. During the holy month, Muslims abstain from food, drink and other pleasures in daylight hours to commemorate the revelation of the Qur’an to Mohammed. With Ramadan falling this year in the dead of summer, extended daylight means that Muslims are fasting longer than in previous years – up to 18 hours a day in some parts of the country. In order to get in a morning breakfast before dawn breaks, many wake up before 4 a.m. to eat. With prayers going until midnight, the days are long.

With nearly two weeks left of Ramadan, The Globe and Mail spoke to five Muslim Canadians about what it’s like to fast on the job, and what it is they each take from the experience of going from dawn to dusk with no food for 30 days.

Opinion Piece by Jonathan Kay who suggests Islamophobia exists in Canada

The National Post – June 19, 2012

This opinion piece captures Jonathan Kay’s talk as a panelist at the “Message of Peace: Countering Islamophobia” conference, hosted by the University of Toronto’s Muslim Students’ Association and ICNA Canada. He says, “Contrary to what some pundits argue, I do believe Islamophobia is a real phenomenon. Which is to say: I do believe there are some Canadians out there who have an irrational fear of Islam. For these purposes, I define “irrational fear” as a fear that goes beyond (a) the very real, legitimate and widely shared fear of Islamist terrorism; and (b) the very real, legitimate and widely shared concern about retrograde Islamist attitudes toward women being imported into Canadian society.”

 

“Overall, I think Canada likely ranks as one of the least Islamophobic nations in the Western world (just as it is one of the least anti-Semitic nations in the Western world). This is not because Canadians are particularly wonderful people — but, rather, because we happen to have a generally well-educated and well-integrated Muslim minority population. Unlike many of the nations of Europe, there is no Canadian equivalent of the impoverished, ghetto-like Muslim cités on the outskirts of Paris, or the no-go (for non-Muslim) areas in central England. There are a few radical mosques in Canada with some bad apples, but they are well-penetrated by intelligence agents and informants.”

 

“The Muslim community in Canada needs to form a moderate, professional, authoritative NGO that brings together the alphabet soup of smaller groups that already exist; and which gives journalists and politicians a one-stop shop for liaising with Muslims on an organizational level.”

Hate crimes in Canada down in 2010

The Globe and Mail – April 12, 2012

 

After two years of increases, Canadians reported fewer hate crimes in 2010, especially in Vancouver and southern Ontario, Statistics Canada said. Most of the decrease was a result of fewer reported violent hate crimes, Statscan said in releasing its latest annual survey for hate-motivated offences.

The most common victims of violent hate crimes were gays (100 incidents) and blacks (75 incidents). Jews were the most targeted religious group, accounting for 55 per cent of religiously-motivated incidents in 2010 while Muslims (14 per cent) and Catholics (14 per cent) were the other faiths most often victimized. Gays were more likely to be victims of violent hate crimes. Two-thirds of incidents targeting gays were violent. A third of racially-motivated offences and 17 per cent religiously-motivated crimes were violence.

Survey finds deep mistrust for Muslims in Canada

News Agencies – March 26, 2012

A new poll shows that more than half of all Canadians distrust Muslims. The nationwide survey indicates that as many as 52 percent of Canadians feel Muslims can be trusted “a little” or “not trusted at all.” The poll showed that 48 percent of respondents said Muslims can be trusted “a lot” or “somewhat.”

What’s more, 42 percent of Canadians said discrimination against Muslims is “mainly their fault.” Muslims registered the lowest levels of trustworthiness of the religious groups asked about in the survey. Overall, about 70 percent of respondents expressed high levels of trust in Protestants, Catholics and Jews, while 64 percent trusted aboriginal Canadians and 63 percent trusted immigrants.

Among French Canadians, only 30 percent said they trust Muslims, compared with 57 percent of English speakers who said they felt that way.  The online poll surveyed 1,522 Canadians on attitudes toward religions, multiculturalism and sources of racism. The survey was conducted for the Association for Canadian Studies in Montreal and the Toronto-based Canadian Race Relations Foundation as part of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on March 21.

Muslim women must show faces when taking Canadian citizenship oath

News Agencies – December 12, 2011

 

A requirement for new Canadians to show their faces while taking the oath of citizenship puts the federal government on one side of a simmering debate over how far the state should go to accommodate minorities. Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced that Muslim women who wear burqas or niqabs must remove the garments when they are becoming citizens.

The decision comes as the Supreme Court of Canada considers whether a woman should be allowed to testify in court with her face covered. And Quebec is debating a bill to ban face coverings for people receiving some government services, and those providing them. Two federal Conservative attempts to ban veiled voting have stalled before becoming law in recent years.