Let’s be clear, anti-Islamic sentiment in Canada did not spontaneously begin as backlash from Trump’s not-a-Muslim-ban Muslim Ban; it did not start because of the Quebec shooting; it did not start when MP Iqra Khalid tabled an “anti-Islamophobia” motion.
Anti-Islamic sentiment, in Canada and elsewhere, began when many powerful countries and their leaders, with the media’s complacency, began to use fear of Islam and Muslims to assert their political agendas. It began when terms like “creeping Sharia” were created to shut down dialogue about religious protections and the word terrorist became synonymous to Muslim. It began with identity politics and fear mongering.
Let us not forget when former Prime Minster of Canada, Stephen Harper, used the word “Islamicism” and called that the biggest threat to Canada and it catalyzed anti-Muslim behaviour across Canada. (Please note that he literally made up a word and perpetuated a objectively and empirically untrue statement.)
And for a very long time, the Muslim community, and at times, myself included, remained defensive and passive. We showed off all our community involvement initiatives and opened the door to our mosques and told people how much we love Canada.
I think all those things are important and valid.
But I do not think they are enough.
Right now, in an environment where minority groups, especially Muslims, are under relentless verbal attack, I do not think the only answer is to be nicer to people so they think we aren’t terrorists who want to ban bacon poutine.
Because loving our country means making sure it shows us that it loves us back.
The fabric of our democracy relies on our voices and if we use them to ask for our constitutionally protected rights, it does not mean that we are hiding something; it does not mean we hate Canada; it does not mean that we want Sharia.
Speaking out against anti-Muslim ideologies and behaviours is how we walk the walk about Canada’s diversity. It is how we exercise our democratic rights and it is how we begin to combat environments conducive to hatred of a constructed “Other.”