Islamophobic and anti-Muslim sentiment has seeped into films, illustrations, and books and are now fuelling political debates in Canada.
Muslims are at the centre of a political storm of discrimination and racism. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is using anti-Muslim sentiment as a campaign tool for this year’s upcoming federal election.
The most recent hateful messages spewing forth from Parliament Hill target women who choose to wear face veils.
The niqab has been in the public eye since Stephen Harper vowed to appeal a judge’s decision to allow a woman named Zunera Ishaq to wear her niqab during her Canadian citizenship ceremony.
In 2011, the Conservative government passed a law ordering women to remove the niqab during the ceremony.
“I believe, and I think most Canadians believe, that it is offensive that someone would hide their identity at the very moment where they are committing to join the Canadian family,” Harper said.
Harper and his government have drawn criticism for their alienating and othering discourses. In the past, this government has made a causal link between the Islamic faith and murderous terrorism.
These statements have been opposed on all levels of Canadian society.
The new anti-terrorism legislation titled Bill C-51 that is being pushed by the Conservatives has also incited worry. Academics, lawyers, civil liberty groups, and activists have all warned that the bill is dangerous and will deeply affect civil liberties. Critics say the act will especially target Indigenous communities and Muslims.
On Mar. 22, Indigenous rights activist Pam Palmater announced that she has been being tracked by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) for some time — this before Bill C-51 has even been passed.
Now more than ever Canadians need to stand in solidarity with their marginalized neighbours within and beyond the nation’s borders and reject the culture of fear wherever it may be.
This article first appeared in the Leveller Vol.7, No. 6 (Spring 2015).