PM Justin Trudeau wipes a tear as he stands during funeral services for three victims of deadly shooting at Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre, in Montreal, Feb 2. Photo pool.
By RASHID HUSAIN SYED
North America represents diversity. For decades, the continent has attracted migrants from all around the globe. Without a doubt it has benefitted from this in virtually every way. Yet, major changes are brewing. Fears are rising about Islam, Muslims and Muslim immigrants everywhere, and Canada is no exception. All this has led to a rise in Islamophobia, both in Canada and the world at large.
Still, Canada is still different in many ways because Ottawa continues to underline “strength, not weakness, in diversity.” Despite the rising fear about Muslims, Canada insists on taking pride in its multiculturalism. While the world abandoned the Syrians, Ottawa has been embracing them, emphasizing that immigration has not much to do with terrorism.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government have taken a significantly different position from Canada’s southern neighbor. Indeed, with the country’s experience of allowing immigrants into the country irrespective of their creed, colour or religion, there is history and tradition behind Ottawa’s approach. It acknowledges Islamophobia as a menace, underlining the need to counter it in all its forms.
The position taken by the government has thrust Prime Minister Trudeau and his team into a global leadership role. After all, Islamophobia is a global reality. In the words of RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson, it is an “ongoing risk, particularly as its proponents advocate violence.” Canadian Muslims face it on an almost daily basis.
Islamophobia is not an exclusive Canadian problem. It is a truly global issue. Far-right political movements could be seen emerging and growing stronger from France to Britain and the United States.
The issue needs to be handled at a global level – intellectually, legislatively, and socially. It will involve a long, arduous battle to win the hearts and minds of people. And highlighting the issue before a global audience is the first step towards achieving the goal.
Ottawa better place
Given all this, there is a pressing need for a Global Centre to Confront Islamophobia. Sections of the Muslim community in Canada are already discussing the idea.
And given the approach of the Canadian government towards the issue, some of them believe there would be no better place than Ottawa to host such a global organization.
Prof. Mohammed Khan of Centennial College, for one, seconds the idea and also feels it is time for Ottawa to take a global role. The idea has also been floated before a few parliamentarians; most appear to agree on the need for such a global centre.
Such a centre could be assigned the task of compiling and disseminating data about Islamophobia worldwide on a regular basis among legislators and opinion-makers. An annual conference including world political leaders could go a long way toward generating awareness, placing the issue in its right perspective, and countering it at the global level.
Radicalization is definitely two-fold. While there is a definite anti-Muslim rhetoric in society, radicalization also exists within the Muslim community too.
The barbarism of ISIS does not represent Islam, nor do the actions of Alexandre Bissonnette, the man accused of the Quebec City mosque shooting, represent another religion or group of people. These are mindsets, and the world needs to counter them at the level of ideas.
A global centre to fight Islamophobia could help win this war on a global level.
Terrorism definitely has no religion. After all, from Syria to Turkey and Iraq, to Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Somalia, the people most often targeted have been Muslims themselves.
It is not a religious war. It is terrorists versus us – all of us – and the world needs to stand up against this very mindset.
The proposed Global Centre to Confront Islamophobia would be a positive step for Prime Minister Trudeau both at home and on the world stage. It would fit the image that the Trudeau government has been attempting to portray, domestically and internationally. It’s time for the government to take the lead on this important issue.
Rashid Husain Syed is a Toronto-based journalist, consultant and energy analyst. For almost 25 years, he served as vice-president of a leading Saudi trading and consulting house. (T/RS05/RS01)
Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)