Racism directed against someone of a different race, based on the belief that one’s own race is superior, has throughout history led to miseries, exploitations, and violence. Our Western societies have been facing this troubling social disease, which exposes itself in different forms—and sometimes aggressively.
One of the main manifestation of racism is racial profiling, an exercise which has been witnessed often on the streets of our cities and that civic organizations have expressed strong objections to. Many victims or their families have come forward to raise official complaints to authorities in order to illustrate prejudices and stereotyping in the hopes that justice will be served.
Recently, there has been a sharp escalation of hate speech directed against certain citizens based on their religious and cultural backgrounds. Hate speech has become the platform of many of the political parties and some elected officials prior to and during general elections. The unfortunate reality is that the scapegoat of this bigotry has always been the same citizens that continue to experience moral onslaughts that turn increasingly vicious.
Bigotry is not an opinion but a crime, just as hate speech is not freedom of expression but evil.
As a matter of fact, hate speech, which tends to be practiced by the right and far right groups and individuals, is not limited to this crowd only. We have heard statements by many politicians and officials, who appear to represent moderate mainstream political and social spectrums, compete with their peers by using forms of hate speech against a segment of their citizens based on their culture and faith. Hate speech has become an election tool.
The ultimate concern is that as time goes on, the general societal conscious becomes more tolerant to racial intolerance. This will lead to social tension and the absence of security and harmony within the population.
It is clear that there is a lack of political will to deeply address and tackle xenophobia at its root cause.
It is clear that there is a lack of political will to deeply address and tackle xenophobia at its root cause. There is a very real need for elected officials, governmental agencies and the civic society to work hand in hand and come up with a clear vision, objectives and an action plan to confront this destructive philosophy. The necessity, for all democratic constitutions, is to place restraints and illuminate the danger of the misuse of freedom of speech, behind which xenophobes practice their animosity.
Hate speech should not be allowed to incite moral or physical violence against other people based on their ideological, political, religious, racial and sexual orientation backgrounds. Bigotry is not an opinion but a crime, just as hate speech is not freedom of expression but evil.
As bullets harvested the souls of the victims, one after another, on the night of the Jan. 29, 2017 at the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre, a new era of terror was inaugurated, signed by the bloodshed of those who lost their lives and the tears that have been shed by the 17 orphans and six widows left behind.
A young mourner is comforted during a funeral ceremony for three of the victims of the deadly shooting of the Quebec Islamic Cultural Centre at the Congress Center in Quebec City, Feb. 3, 2017. (Photo: Mathieu Belanger/Reuters)
The shock waves of that bloody night hit very hard across the country, creating fears, worries and uncertainties. The first few hours after the massacre, the main question that was uttered by the media, citizens and politicians was who had committed this crime. The picture came to be clearer when it was revealed that the shooter was a young student, from the same university where most of the victims either graduated from or worked at. Moreover, based on Facebook posts, comments and information from those who knew the shooter, it was revealed that his right-wing ideology was his instigator, leading him to murder innocent worshipers.
The only “sin” those murdered in the mass shooting carried was that they were all Muslims, who happened to be praying in the Centre. And the only reason why the killer decided to end their lives was a hate doctrine, represented by the Islamophobia and bigotry that have plagued the environment in Quebec, and the rest of the country, for many years.
Following Quebec’s tragedy, columnists, civic organizations, NGOs, politicians and the general public all agreed that xenophobia, Islamophobia and prejudice were the drive behind the violent incidents that have been targeting Muslim citizens. For years and years, warnings and public advice have been given to society’s stakeholders and the political classes regarding Islamophobia as an extreme form of discrimination and radicalization, which has been leading to violence targeting Muslim community.
The Quebec City massacre is a clear demonstration of the tragic end-product of letting Islamophobia go unchecked.
For many years, besides some soft talk, the concrete political will to tackle Islamophobia and other sorts of hate speech was almost totally absent from the public scene. On the contrary, various political platforms embarked on divisive agendas that inflamed the extreme ideologies that implanted the concept of “us versus them.”
Furthermore, some mainstream and social media became unchecked podiums for all those who shared their animosity and hostility toward their fellow citizens of different skin colours or beliefs. This dangerous combination can, very expectedly, create a path of hatred that may lead to fatal incidents. The Quebec City massacre is a clear demonstration of the tragic end-product of letting Islamophobia go unchecked.
Following the cruel killing of the six worshipers in Quebec City, there was an outpouring of sympathy and solidarity coming from every corner in the county in support of the families of the victims. Words of condemnation came from almost all politicians and public figures, bringing together all Canadians in their denunciation of the terrorist attack. The unfortunate reality came after this short term of solidarity which was presumed to be genuine enough to cause change in the toxic and bigoted environment that preceded the attack.
During the burials of the six victims, a spike of hate-related incidents were reported in various areas throughout the country, from Mosques being fire bombed to Muslim citizens being exposed to various physical attacks. Furthermore, there was a sudden increase of xenophobic incidences in many areas around the country as a result of political statements and positions held by those who have placed themselves at the forefront of the divisive rhetoric, creating friction within the Canadian social fabric.
Day after day and incident after incident, it has become a necessity that all systemic, racial and religious discrimination, including Islamophobia, must be studied thoroughly to come up with policies that will cure these social diseases once and for all.
Samer Majzoub, president of the Canadian Muslim Forum (FMC-CMF)
We are witnessing a world “on the loose”; a world that is losing order; a world that is losing its humanity and dignity.
One does not need to go far back in time to observe the collapse of the world’s structure after World War II. Following millions of casualties and the total destruction of cities and towns during the massive conflict, the victors at that time came together with a new social concept called “human rights”, trying to convince everyone that this concept is the most important.
What we are seeing now is that the prevailing languages amongst the “super powers”, the “civilized” nations, and the developing nations are violence and viciousness!
What is more alarming is the general acceptance by the majority of the world population that hostilities and conflicts ending in bloody consequences are normal courses of action. The moral standard of the human species seems to be declining as time passes. The selfish concept of “us versus them” creates this double “measurement” standard. As long “harm and misery” are being inflicted on “the others”—who may be from a different culture, religions or race—then it becomes tolerated, sometimes with carelessness and negligence.
For example, Syria’s human tragedy has been overlooked for years. Here in the West, we count the number of refugees trying to reach our land and all we do is condemn and denounce. The bloodshed knows no boundaries. The Middle East is in hot water with instability from one location to next. Regional and international powers fight through proxies. No one seems to care about the despair, loss of loved ones, devastation, poverty and frustration being inflicted. What do we expect after all these miseries?
Adding insult to injury, we rush, within what we believe to be the free world, to elect bigots into office. From North America to Europe, all that we see are people competing on clearly bigoted platforms to be legislators and rulers of these nations. This trend is becoming clearer by the day. Discrimination, stereotyping, bullying, and harassment is the content seen in many public speeches of potential office winners, openly applauded by so many. Slogans of human rights, civil liberties, women equality, justice, and fairness are all ignored in the face of this new political tendency.
It’s scary how things could turn. It’s time for people with ethics, intellect, principles, faiths, and universal values to unite as one voice and join the efforts to stand up for peace, unity, humanity against the violence of all sorts, and discrimination of all forms. It’s said that tyrants do not only rule due to the support and backing of a number of powerful interest groups but also due to the silence, inaction and passiveness of the equally powerful majority.
*Samer Majzoub, Canadian Muslim Forum (FMC-CMF) president.
On Oct. 26 2016, the House of Commons, Canada’s Parliament, adopted unanimously a motion to condemn all forms of Islamophobia in the country.
The fact that the motion received no objection from any of the federal parties shows that the Liberal, NDP, Conservative and Bloc Quebecois members have a clear understanding that Islamophobia is a severe form of bigotry and is not a simple subject that can be ignored anymore. It has become a critical illness that raises concerns and requires a forceful push back from the federal legislators that represent all Canadians to denounce Islamophobia.
Canada, united in standing up for human values, will be on record as the first country in the Western world to adopt a motion that contains clear wordings expressing denunciation of any sort of bigotry towards citizens based on their religious and cultural background. This move has sent a strong message to xenophobes that their acts of violence, whether verbal, moral or physical, have been rejected, and that their beliefs stand against everything that Canada prides itself on: inclusion, equality and peace. Moreover, Canada can now be provided as an actual example to the world that nations are stronger through the diversity of their population.
This move has sent a strong message to xenophobes that their acts of violence, whether verbal, moral or physical, have been rejected.
It’s rational to say that the notion of inclusion of all people that share a common land within an identified border is the most effective tool and approach to secure peace, harmony, equality and fairness.
Democratic states have carried titles of freedom, liberty and human rights slogans for a long period of time. We have been witnessing for the last two decades or so that some governments try or adapt official policies that lead to social friction amongst cultural, religious or ethnic lines. These strategies, despite appearing to be pay off through some political gains for a very limited period of time, certainly will end in devastating consequences that lead to social tensions that can be easily avoided.
By the same token, exclusion of groups of citizens because of their social, spiritual or intellectual convictions, skin colour or political views may lead to feelings of isolation and negligence, especially in the youth segment of society. This may lead some of youth to turn to inappropriate actions, creating a generation that is looked at and dealt with as second-class citizens and under siege at all times.
Canada has proudly taken a step in enhancing human values.
Anti-Semitism, racial profiling, islamophobia, bashing of any culture or race are all characteristics of bigots and portraits of racists. They are the individuals who rush to express their hatred and hostility toward any inclusive move and mind-opening exchange toward citizens of all faith, beliefs and views. Societies across the universe have suffered at the hands of these extremists elements that target all those who do not belong to their line of philosophy.
Canada has proudly taken a step in enhancing human values by condemning Islamophobia. The concepts of hate speech, bigotry and stereotyping have received a blow from the moral gesture taken by the House of Commons, the house that represents citizens from coast to coast, in unanimous consent without the opposition of any of the legislators on the floor.
The next step is for the federal government to set up policies and orientations to address and deal profoundly at all levels, social, economical and political, with Islamophobia symptoms that present themselves strongly in our society. Canada is exceptional in its values and human standards, and can remain the multicultural icon of the world with the continued condemning of bigotry.
Samer Majzoub is the president of the Canadian Muslim Forum (FMC-CMF).