Well, here I am suffering an incredible amount of disillusionment with my country of origin. It was fed by an article in Al Jazeera written by Azeezah Kanji, the Toronto based woman and scholar quoted in a prior blog.
She discusses the deadly level of prejudice that exists in Canada, against their Indigenous people and those of the Islamic faith.
“Political leaders have shed tears for the Afzaal family mown down in London, Ontario on a public street, while maintaining policies that brutalise Muslims largely out of sight: increasing military spending; selling arms to states that slaughter Muslims; attempting to deport Muslim refugees to the risk of torture; and spending millions of dollars to fight the compensation claims of “War on Terror” torture survivors in court.”
What cowards those Canadians, playing lip service to the horror of one family but then the military spending, the arms used to slaughter Muslims, deporting Muslims to face torture in their country and fighting just compensation claims of victims. Congratulations, the country of my birth, gifted by natural resources beyond belief but NEVER doing anything worthwhile with it, unlike the Middle East and Norway and Iceland.
Kanji continues continues: Politicians across the political spectrum have embraced the use of counterterrorism to combat “right-wing extremism,” further entrenching legal weapons wielded overwhelmingly against Muslims in the name of protecting Muslims. For example, when the Proud Boys were listed as a “terrorist entity” earlier this year, nine other Islamist-identified groups were also quietly added to the list – exacerbating the list’s Muslim-centrism under the cover of anti-racism.”
She strongly and emphatically continues. “Criminally charging the London perpetrator as a terrorist does not rectify the counterterrorism “colour line”; it masks it. Nathaniel Veltman, the man who mowed down the Afzaal family in London, is being prosecuted for an act of killing already committed, while Muslims are criminalised pre-emptively for acts distant from any death or injury at all. This has produced a situation in which Muslims, responsible for less than 10 percent of casualties from public political violence in Canada since 9/11, have been subjected to 98 percent of completed terrorism prosecutions.”
Less than 10% of casualties but 98% of terrorism prosecutions? Something is wrong there. More than just wrong but unseemly, beyond the pale, improper, unfitting, lacking in propriety, out of order, unwarranted.
She skewers so-called National Security expets. “If Veltman were to have been treated “equally” to a Muslim, he and members of his entire family and community would have been harassed regularly at their school and work by security agencies, denied security clearances for playing paintball, surveilled in their places of worship, targeted for entrapment while struggling with mental illness, placed preventively under suffocating “peace bond” conditions without trial, and put on no-fly lists on the basis of name coincidences and racist stereotypes: draconian state powers that should not be “equalised” but dismantled.
In the days following the attack, Canadian media aired an almost constant stream of Muslims being interviewed about their trauma, grief, and fear – ostensibly “humanising” Muslims, without questioning why and how the humanity of Muslims became something that needed to be proved.
Previous mosque massacres – Quebec in 2017, Christchurch in 2019 – barely garnered a few minutes on the CBC nightly newscast and a marginal mention on the front page of the national Globe and Mail. Now, while the quantity of coverage has drastically changed, the qualitative framing remains mostly the same. Islamophobia is distorted as an issue of interpersonal “extremism” and “hate,” largely dissociated from everyday state practices premised on and profiting off the devaluation, demonisation and disposability of Muslim life.
Indeed, some of the very same “national security experts” responsible for legitimising the demonising discourse of “Muslim extremism” are now being treated as authorities on how to fight anti-Muslim extremism.
Skewer is the perfect word, used as a verb it means to criticize (someone) sharply. Kanji hands it to Professor Stephanie Carvin. “Professor Stephanie Carvin, for instance, was exposed last year for baking cakes that celebrate Muslim drone deaths, yet continues to be quoted in media analyses of the London killings – proving that it is entirely possible to have your Islamophobic cake and eat it too.” I do adore using a sense of humor to skewer something or someone – have your cake and eat it too is masterful.
Kanji laughs at hypocrites who she tactfully calls progressive pundits.
Even progressive pundits have participated in representing Islamophobia as isolated to particular bigoted personalities and bygone times: placing the blame on former Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative Party, just as endemic anti-Muslim racism in the US was reduced to an anachronism by pinning it on Donald Trump.
Never mind that Harper’s Conservatives have been out of power for the last six years, but the toxic mill of state-sponsored Islamophobia has kept churning on.
If I lived in Quebec and was a public employee (as I was the vast majority of my life) I would not be allowed to wear my hijab or any other ‘visible religious symbol. Why? To eliminate the imagined Muslim threat, both Liberals and Conservatives refuse to challenge the ban. Excuse me? I am a 78 year old Canadian born, totally non violent individual and somehow my head covering is a Muslim terrorism treat???
This fact is shocking! When the Conservatives drafted the 2015 Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act – effectively labelling and criminalising Muslims in Canada as “barbaric” – the Liberals supported it.
Even tiny gestures of reconciliation are resisted. “Even after the cold-blooded murder of six Muslims in a Quebec mosque, it took the government four years to make the token recognition of the anniversary, January 29, as a Day of Remembrance and Action on Islamophobia: a tiny bandage on a gaping wound. Just days after the London killings, former Liberal Justice Minister and recently-appointed Special Envoy on Anti-Semitism Irwin Cotler retweeted an article from the right-wing Toronto Sun insisting that “there is no Islamophobia in Canada,” and that any anti-Muslim animosity is Muslims’ fault. The tweet was later deleted as an “accident,” following criticism; but Cotler’s long-standing pattern of blaming victims of racial violence, specifically Palestinians, for the violence to which they are subjected, remains.”
There are even more atrocious examples of white supremacism in Canada as Kanji chillingly reports. The week before the mass murder of Muslims, a mass unmarked burial site of 215 Indigenous children was discovered outside one of the country’s former church-run residential “schools”- more accurately called prison, torture and labour camps. In the weeks since, hundreds more unmarked graves have been found. White supremacism is not an anomaly in Canada, but the genocidal ground on which the country has been built.
Prime Minister Trudeau may proclaim that “Islamophobia has no place” in Canada, but in reality anti-Muslim racism has been intertwined for centuries with the anti-Indigenous violence lying at the foundations of the settler-colonial state.”
Khan looks at history, going back to the 15th century showing that the rationale for colonialism found there still underwrites Canadian actions. Then the rationale was that the ‘other’ had the wrong religion; Canadian brutality was justified and Indigenous people had ‘no religion, which is, of course a lie. ’
Papal bulls authorising Muslim and Jewish dispossession and enslavement during the Crusades served as a basis for the Doctrine of Discovery – Europeans’ self-granted 15th-century imprimatur for colonialism, which continues to underwrite Canada’s theft and occupation of Indigenous lands. Tactics of book burning and forcible re-education were exported from the Spanish Inquisition in Al-Andalus (Muslim Spain) to the genocide in the Americas: the destruction of systems of knowledge being intrinsically connected to the destruction of the peoples who produced them.
While European conquistadors sub-humanised Muslims and Jews as “people of the wrong religion,” Indigenous nations were expelled from humanity altogether as “people with no religion”. This hierarchy of being persists in the jurisprudence of Canadian courts – upholding anti-Muslim laws such as Quebec’s religious symbols ban, while refusing to recognise Indigenous sacred sites facing corporate depredation as entitled to any protection under religious freedom rights at all.
Canada targets Indigenous land and water defenders with many of the same counterterrorism powers of mass surveillance and criminalisation developed for use against Muslim communities post-9/11 – continuing the long tradition of treating those on the receiving end of state terror as “terrorists” themselves.
She ends so powerfully! For the members of the Afzaal family killed in London – Talat, Salman, Madiha, and Yumna – we say inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un, from God we come and to God we will return. This is a reminder that if we all come from the same place and will all return to the same place, then all systems of racial supremacism in between are constructed and can therefore be deconstructed: a struggle that carries on in their memory.
I assume, inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un, is Arabic, she has helpfully provided the translation. I would love to meet her one day. It has occurred to me that not all of the word reads Al Jazeera. Statistics prepared by Computer Guru reveal that this blog is read the world over. It must be fate, that, for many reasons I rather routinely read Al Jazeera. Alexis McBride, born in Saskatchewan, is an avid fan of a woman based in Toronto. All of my ancestors are Scottish – hers probably not.
Like many the world over, I shall take a vacation and travel. Shall I return to Canada for a visit? No way! Instead it is London and Dubai. I would travel to Mecca but Instagram videos reveal that it is overwhelmingly crowded with masses of the faithful. Allah mandates a visit to Mecca if one can afford it. Financially it is a possibility but my health cannot afford those masses as there is no guarantee that these are vaccinated adherents. Dubai is safe, their vaccination rate exceeds that of Marin County, where I live. So it seems destined that I go to Dubai. This too shall pass, it will be safe for me to go to Mecca soon.
This too shall pass is a biblical saying from King Solomon. “In it, a sultan requests of King Solomon a sentence that would always be true in good times or bad; Solomon responds, “This too will pass away”. Now that is most strange, as faithful readers will know, I once met a Sultan, who in a strange way, was responsible for all of this. He and his father have been to Mecca, I saw it in Instagram. The joys (and sorrows) of social media.
But back to Canada and the United States. From earlier years I have in my possession a huge Canadian flag. I have found a use for it. It protects my chaise lounge from dampness brought by fog during the night. At least the Canada of today can protect something. I am most mindful of the contributions made by Canadians during WWI and WWII. My maternal uncle Allan Pirie was killed the day I was born, saving the ‘free world’. War killed him, Germans did not. I will tell that story with a poignant photograph taken at his gravesite in Germany but it is presently being framed to be placed on the wall of my bedroom so that I will aways remember.
I am trying to write this but screaming children from the swimming pool interrupted me. I went to tell them to please stop screaming, asking their parents to properly discipline them A white (probably white sman said and I quote:
He: Bugger off!!
Me: I am leaving the pool. Please ask your children not to scream.
The father who hurled this insult this is known to me – he works in real estate. He lives here so that his son can go to school in Marin County schools, free-loading. (See prior blog on this situation). I do have a solution to be read in a later blog. I know that a raise in rent on December 10, 2021 will hasten his departure.
I left, the noise did not! Please give me the strength to endure this evil. Allah. This would not happen in Muslim country, it never would. Oh well, some quiet in about a month in Dubai. Now it would not happen in Canada but only because it is too cold to be in a swimming pool at this time of year.