Three men charged with murder after stabbing near UK mosque

DUBAI/RIYADH: “There is no racism in Canada” is a phrase commonly used to describe Canada’s tolerant and pleasant nature, but a series of hate crimes, mass murders and racism against ethnicities are eroding the perfect image of the nation.

The official Government of Canada website states that diversity and inclusion are cornerstones of Canadian identity, a source of social and economic strength. The image of Canadians in the eyes of the world is above all positive, warm, generous, polite, always saying please, thank you and sorry. The London-based Legatum Institute also ranked the country as the most tolerant in the world in 2015.

However, a darkness hidden behind Canada’s golden image is slowly seeping into public opinion as discriminatory, Islamophobic, anti-Semitic and racist acts are on the rise.

Thousands demonstrate against hate after a fatal attack on a Muslim family in 2021. (AFP)

Last week, six young Canadians were charged with multiple hate crimes after assaulting a young Syrian refugee. The assault, videotaped and widely shared on social media, happened on September 8 near Gloucester High School in Ottawa. In the video, the 15-year-old Syrian orphan can be seen surrounded by other young boys, one ripping a necklace from his neck before being pushed to the ground and punched and kicked.

The six face charges including robbery, conspiracy to commit an indictable offense and intimidation.

Externally, Canada has a policy of welcoming refugees. About a fifth of the country’s population was born abroad and Canada has welcomed more than a million refugees since 1980, according to the UNHCR.

In 2017, immigrant-friendly Canada turned its Olympic Stadium in Montreal into a haven for hundreds of refugees who crossed the Canada-US border to seek asylum. (Getty Images/AFP)

However, not all Canadians are equally welcoming to refugees, especially when it comes to those from the Middle East. A May 2022 poll by the Angus Reid Institute found that only 35% of Canadians support accepting more refugees from Afghanistan, and only 31% support welcoming Syrians. .

The attack on Syrian youth is far from an isolated incident, and the past decade has seen intolerance against Muslims increase in Canada. In September 2014, a group of Muslim students at Queen’s University in Ontario were attacked by men shouting racial slurs. In May 2016, an Iranian-born student at the University of Western Ontario was assaulted by an attacker who called him an “Arab”.

In January 2017, a gunman attacked the Islamic Cultural Center of Quebec, killing six and injuring 19. Three years later, a volunteer with the International Muslim Organization was stabbed in Toronto.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joins mourners during a funeral ceremony for three of the victims of the fatal shooting at the Islamic Cultural Center of Quebec in Montreal, Quebec, February 2, 2017. (AFP file)

Many Muslim women wearing the headscarf have also been victims of verbal and physical attacks; in December 2020, two Muslim women wearing headscarves were verbally and physically assaulted by a man in Edmonton.

Last year, an entire family – Talat Afzaal, 77, his son, Salman, 46, his wife, Madiha, 44, Yumna, 15, and Fayez, nine – were hit by a van in London , Ontario. All but Fayez died, and police later said the attacker had Islamophobic motives.

Mourners and supporters gather for a public funeral for members of the Afzaal family at the Islamic Center of South Western Ontario on June 12, 2021 in London, Canada. (Getty Images/AFP)

In March, worshipers at the Dar Al-Tawheed Islamic Center were shocked to find a man entering the mosque and spraying pepper spray at the 20 worshippers, but they were quick to subdue the hatchet-wielding attacker .

Government agency Statistics Canada conducted a study in August 2022, revealing that the number of documented Islamophobic attacks fell from 84 in 2020 to 144 in 2021.

In many cases, Muslim women wearing headscarves have been physically or verbally assaulted. (AFP file)

Racist and xenophobic attacks in Canada can be justified in the minds of those with a propensity to commit hate crimes by the policies of the Canadian government. Since 2010, local and national governments have tried to implement laws banning the headscarf. In 2017, the National Assembly of Quebec passed a law prohibiting the wearing of face coverings when providing or receiving services from the state, which essentially means that women who wear the niqab or burqa do not can no longer work in government offices or even use public transport.

Polls conducted in 2017 by Ipsos and the Angus Reid Institute found that 76% of Quebecers and 70% of Canadians outside Quebec supported the law or a similar law.

Although Muslims are the most hated group in Canada (by 28% of Canadians, according to a 2016 FORUM poll), they are not the only victims of the wave of hatred that is sweeping the country. The number of hate crimes overall rose from 2,646 in 2020 to 3,360 in 2021, according to Statistics Canada, and attacks targeting Jews rose 47% over the same period.

The hateful rhetoric has even spread beyond religious minorities and foreign-born people. Although the United States has often been singled out for its horrendous treatment of Native Americans — called First Nations peoples in Canada — Canada’s record is not much better. Last year, a mass grave containing 215 Indigenous children, some as young as three years old, was discovered at the site of the Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia.

The “cultural genocide,” described by a National Truth and Reconciliation Commission, created as part of the government’s apology and settlement of schools, marks a dark chapter in Canadian history.

Indigenous peoples in Canada suffered greatly in these schools, with many exposed to mental, physical and sexual abuse as teachers attempted to assimilate them, forcing them to convert to Christianity and forbidding them to use their native names and language or to wear traditional clothing. Several thousand people also died for lack of adequate medical care.

Although decades have passed since the closure of the last residential schools and the Government of Canada website states that it supports “the right of Indigenous peoples to self-determination, including the right to freely pursue their economic development, political, social and cultural, “First Nations people in Canada continue to be victimized.

During his tour of Canada last July, Pope Francis apologized to the Indigenous peoples of Canada for decades of abuse in residential schools run by the Catholic Church. (Getty Images/AFP)

In Canada, a colonial state, systemic racism is deeply rooted in the country’s policies, processes and system. This means that the systems were designed to benefit white settlers while disadvantaging the native populations who lived there before colonialism.

According to Statistics Canada, more than one-third of people who were sexually or physically abused while in government custody were Indigenous. According to a 2013 report by Human Rights Watch, hundreds of Indigenous women and girls have been murdered or gone missing across the country in recent decades. The report also documented at least ten incidents in which Canadian policy violated the rights of Indigenous women and girls.

Canada’s image as a clean, tolerant and tolerant nation is belied by the strong undercurrent of hatred and intolerance, which has only been rising in the country. To his credit, in 2017, the 42nd Canadian Parliament passed Motion 103, which stated that members of the House of Commons called on the Government of Canada to condemn Islamophobia and conduct studies on how to reduce racism and discrimination.

Canadian anti-Islamophobia protesters march in Montreal on March 28, 2015 against supporters of the German-based anti-Islam group PEGIDA. (AFP file)

Although the bill passed, it sparked widespread protests, with anti-Muslim and far-right groups organizing against it. The MP who introduced the bill, Iqra Khalid, reportedly received tens of thousands of hate emails after proposing the bill.

Last year, the Canadian government hosted a national summit on Islamophobia and announced plans to declare January 29 a day of remembrance for the Quebec mosque attack.

While Canadian Muslims have welcomed the filing of charges against those responsible for the attack on the 15-year-old Syrian refugee, they say much more needs to be done to bring Canada’s reality into line with its blameless image .

Speaking to CBC Canada in September last year, the former CEO of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, Mustafa Farooq, said: ‘What Canadians need to keep in mind is that these (policies ) are unfortunately somewhat of a drop in the bucket in terms of actually solving the problem. .”

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