by Khadijah Ali (Main Stories, Crescent International Vol. 48, No. 4, Ramadan, 1440)
On May 15, the Toronto City Council, Canada’s most multicultural municipality, passed a motion stating that city property would not be allowed for use to hold “hate rallies.” On the face of it, this sounds commendable. Who could be opposed to confronting racists and bigots that have spread like poison ivy in Canada and indeed all over the Western world? The terrorist attacks on masjids in Christchurch, New Zealand (March 15, 2019) and Quebec City, Canada (January 29, 2017) are chilling reminders of what hate can produce.
The devil, as they say, is in the details. At no stage did the City council, or its executive committee, define what constitutes hate. There were generic references to anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and other hate speech that target people based on ethnicity or race.
Even that would be OK but for the fact that the motion was instigated by pro-Israeli groups as well as the notorious hate group, the Jewish Defence League (JDL). For the record, JDL is banned in the US as a terrorist organization yet it continues to operate freely in Canada and terrorizes people participating in peaceful rallies denouncing Israeli crimes against the Palestinians.
The Toronto City Council’s motion was instigated against the highly successful Quds Day rallies that are held in numerous cities across Canada as well as 800 cities worldwide. The most successful rally in North America is the one held in Toronto at which speakers from all faith communities — Muslims, Christians, and Jews — address rally participants. The Zionists have made scandalous allegations against speakers at al-Quds rallies and even resorted to blatant lies. These include but are not limited to alleging that Toronto police have on several occasions warned organizers that they are being investigated for hate speech. At no stage have the police said any such thing, notwithstanding the spurious allegations made by such pro-Israeli groups as B’nai B’rith (BB). This group of Zionist fanatics accuses anyone who is not 100% pro-Israel and its murderous policies against the Palestinians, of anti-Semitism.
The Toronto City Council motion reveals several disturbing aspects. First, it is beginning to look and feel increasingly like the Tel Aviv City Council. The motion was pushed through executive committee by councillor James Pasternak with the mayor, John Tory in tow. The other 10 members of the executive committee were passive spectators, perhaps too terrified to open their mouths lest they upset the lobby. Of the full 26-member council, 23 voted in favor of the motion with not a single nay vote and three abstentions.
A brief background is in order. The Toronto City Council took up the matter in November 2017 at the instigation of Pasternak who in turn was guided by B’nai Brith (for the record, Pasternak’s office is just behind the office of B’nai B’rith!). Most members of the City Council were not even aware that Quds Day rallies were being held in the city because the mainstream media simply ignored them despite the participation of thousands of people, and that these rallies have always been peaceful. Had they been involved in hate speech or caused any damage, there is little doubt it would be widely reported with lurid details.
The Council asked the police to provide a report about any hate incidents at the Quds rallies. They came up blank. The city’s legal department also presented a report saying the city should desist from any action since there are already laws in place against hate speech. Further, it was a matter for the Provincial Attorney General’s office to deal with. When approached, that attorney general’s office also had no reports of hate speech. The Quds Day rallies had not done anything illegal, ever!
The pro-Israeli warriors were undeterred. When the city’s legal staff did not produce a report to their liking, the Zionists forced the council’s executive committee to send them back to revise their report. To their credit, the legal staff stuck to legal matters and refused to produce a report that suited any lobby’s interests.
During numerous hearings, Quds Day rally lawyer Dmitri Lascaris, as well as civil society groups among them Jewish individuals made representations to the executive committee. These include such human rights defenders as Stephen Ellis (Human Rights lawyer), Professor (emeritus) Michael Keefer, Professor (emeritus and former UN consultant) Atif Kubursi, Karen Rodman (Rev), Karin Brothers (of the United Church), Suzanne Weiss (child of Holocaust survivors), Emily Green (Independent Jewish Voices), and Robert Massoud (Zatoun House) among others. They not only defended the peaceful Quds Day rallies but also told the council in no uncertain terms that they would defend the rally organizers’ right to free speech and peaceful assembly.
Two other points are worth mentioning. During executive committee deliberations, representatives of B’nai B’rith and the Centre for Israel Jewish Affairs sat separately from Meir Weinstein, the head honcho of JDL. During breaks, they all huddled together with Councillor Pasternak. The mayor repeatedly interrupted Quds Day rally defenders’ presentations but sat silently — almost obediently — when the three Zionists made their presentations!
Nothing could better illustrate where they were getting their directions from. When he loses his position as mayor of Toronto, John Tory can look forward to a lucrative job in Tel Aviv or even an honorary Israeli citizenship, perhaps even full citizenship since his grandmother was Jewish.
The Toronto City Council’s conduct reflects the blatant assault on Muslims’ fundamental rights in Canada. It is not only racist groups like Soldiers of Odin, Never Again Canada, or Jewish Defence League (JDL) and a host of other racist outfits that have mushroomed across the country, attacking Muslims. Rather, all three levels of government — municipal, provincial, and federal — are involved in attacking Muslims through various forms of legislation.
At the provincial level, there is Bill 21 that the ruling Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) presented in the Quebec National Assembly on March 29. It aims to prohibit all religious symbols worn by a wide range of persons “in authority.” It would prevent teachers, childcare providers, judges, police officers, jail guards, public transit operators, health and social service workers, municipal and administrative tribunal and board officials, etc. from wearing symbols of their religious beliefs while exercising their functions. How does wearing the hijab (by Muslim women) or turban (by Sikhs) affect their ability to perform their duties?
Quebec Premier François Legault threatens to implement as a priority the CAQ’s plans to prohibit the wearing of “religious signs” among state-employed persons in positions of “coercion.” Legault has made no secret of his anti-Muslim bias. He insists there is no Islamophobia in Quebec despite the January 29, 2017 terrorist attack on a Quebec City masjid that killed six worshippers and injured 19 others. When confronted by the media, Legault insisted Islamophobes are a tiny minority in Quebec.
Bill 21 would make Islamophobia official. True, it will affect other religious minorities as well such as Sikhs because of the turban but the real targets of the bill are Muslims and more particularly Muslim women. Many observers have pointed this out.
The Quebec bill runs counter to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms but the CAQ regime has resorted to the “notwithstanding” clause. This is meant to circumvent the Charter and preclude court challenges. Legal experts have said that despite the “notwithstanding” clause, the bill could still be challenged in a court of law because it would discriminate against Muslim women. Gender-based discrimination is not protected by the notwithstanding clause.
So how should one interpret CAQ’s headlong pursuit of a bill that targets religious minorities under the rubric of maintaining laïcité (secularism) in Quebec? There can be two interpretations. The Quebecois suffer either from an acute sense of inferiority complex, or they are racist. They may be both.
Debate about laïcité (secularism) in Quebec is not new but with CAQ’s rise to power last fall, it has assumed virulent form. A “grandfather” clause that exempts employees in their current jobs would effectively bar them from promotions or other public employment. Again, this is discriminatory.
An Angus Reid poll of last December shows there is great anti-Muslim bias in Canada with Quebec leading the way. There is much broader acceptance of other religious symbols: the Nun’s habit, Star of David, and the Crucifix (see table below).
|Star of David||15%||11%||10%||8%||11%||32%|
BC: British Columbia, AB: Alberta, SK: Saskatchewan, ON: Ontario, and PQ: Province of Quebec
It would be tempting but wrong to assume that the problem is confined to Quebec only as the table below for other provinces shows (http://angusreid.org/religious-symbols-workplace-quebec/). Canada’s largest and most multicultural province Ontario is little better. It currently has a Conservative government headed by Doug Ford, a former City Councillor. He is a high school dropout and has vowed to ban Quds Day rallies in Toronto and indeed throughout the province. He has also cut funding for schools and universities. The message he is sending is: if a high school dropout can become the premier of Canada’s largest province, what good is education.
Under Zionist influence and pressure, Ford has allowed a private member’s bill — Bill 84 — presented by MPP Roman Baber, another Zionist, in the provincial legislature that seeks to ban “hate rallies.” Without defining what constitutes “hate,” the bill has already passed second reading and is now before the Justice Committee. Speaker of the Provincial Assembly, not a judge in a court of law, would determine what constitutes “hate.” This is clearly politically motivated and is aimed at banning Quds Day rallies by labeling them as “hate rallies.”
At the federal level, the situation is little better. When Justin Trudeau became prime minister in October 2015, he touched all the right buttons and spoke against Islamophobia and other forms of racism that his predecessor Stephen Harper had indulged in. The telegenic Trudeau was seen as providing the healing touch but beyond rhetoric, his actions have been anything but.
Take his May 15 message to the Jewish community in Canada on the occasion of Israel’s independence day. Trudeau not only congratulated them but said anyone involved in the non-violent BDS campaign (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) against Israel was anti-Semitic. This comes straight from the Israeli hymn book and is aimed at complete delegitimization of the Palestinians’ struggle for freedom and dignity.
There is also a bill before the Canadian Senate where Linda Frum has used Trudeau’s designation of the BDS campaign as “anti-Semitic.” Trudeau presents himself as a liberal and has spoken out against Islamophobia — his favorite line during the 2015 election campaign was, “our diversity is our strength” — but when it comes to Israel, he is as hardcore as the Conservatives. His “Sunny ways” are beginning to look distinctly gloomy and dark.
When different levels of government embark on implementing laws that specifically target Muslims or ban rallies that draw attention to ongoing Israeli atrocities against Palestinians, these are green lights to racists and bigots to continue their attacks on innocent Muslims. Not surprisingly, there is an alarming rise in the number of white supremacist groups in Canada. There were only 13 such groups in 2015; today there are more than 80.
Attacks on Muslims and their places of worship have similarly escalated throughout Canada. The various pieces of legislation working their way through different levels of government will only increase attacks on Muslims.