Two days after the second anniversary of the gruesome murder of six Muslims at a Quebec City Mosque (January 29, 2017), Quebec Premier François Legault flatly denied there was Islamophobia in the province.
In response to reporters’ question on January 31 about designating January 29 as a national day against Islamophobia, Legault stated: “I don’t think there is Islamophobia in Quebec, so I don’t see why there would be a day devoted to Islamophobia.”
The Quebec premier effectively gave carte blanch to racists and bigots in Quebec to continue their murderous attacks against innocent citizens of the Muslim faith.
Since his election as premier last year, Legault has made a number of outrageously Islamophobic statements. He has done more: he has imposed a ban on services for Muslim women wearing the veil. He even said such women—a tiny minority to be sure—would not be allowed to board transit buses.
Those pronouncements were roundly condemned and Legault was forced to backtrack.
His latest outburst has also evoked strong reaction from a broad cross section of the Canadian society. The vast majority of people in Canada are not racist and have expressed dismay at such lack of sensitivity toward a targeted minority.
When Legault came under fire for his latest Islamophobic outburst, he backpedaled somewhat. On February 01 he tried to qualify his position by stating that discrimination against Muslims exists in Quebec but that it is “not widespread”.
The Quebec premier is either ignorant or is deliberately lying. The January 29, 2017 Quebec City Mosque attack was the worst incident in Canadian history targeting a place of worship.
In addition to the six people shot and killed while they were praying, 19 others were injured.
This horrendous attack occurred against the backdrop of a number of other attacks on mosques across the country. In Quebec itself, there have been a large number of Islamophobic incidents stoked by official denial that has only encouraged racists and bigots.
As recently as two months ago (November 2018) Statistics Canada published figures that painted a grim picture of the alarming rise in Islamophobic attacks from 2016 to 2017.
Of all religious groups in Canada, Muslims faced the highest increase in hate crimes against them. In the period under review, Statistics Can revealed that crimes against Muslims in Quebec alone tripled from 41 in 2016 to 117 in 2017.
Legault is either ignorant of these statistics or is deliberately lying. These bode ill for the well being of Muslims in Quebec.
Commenting on Legault’s remarks, Thomas Woodley, President of Canadian for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME), stated, “If Mr. Legault wants to know if there is Islamophobia in Quebec, he has only to ask his fellow Muslims who face Islamophobia in all aspects of their lives – especially when it comes to finding a job.”
CJPME president continued: “Legault’s comments could not be more insensitive and inappropriate, as they demonstrate a lack of respect for the victims and their families at this time, and show the provincial government is out of touch with the reality of Islamophobia in Quebec.”
There is broad support in Canada for declaring a national day against Islamophobia. In October 2018, CJPME and the Canadian Muslim Forum (CMF-FMC) launched the “I Remember January 29th” to call on the federal government to designate January 29 as a National Day of Remembrance and Action on Islamophobia.
The call has been supported by some 140 Canadian organizations and almost 80 academics. Nearly 4,500 Canadian individuals have also added their voice to the campaign online.
The Quebec premier is clearly out of touch with reality in his province but this is not surprising. He does not want to be the premier of all Quebecers, only of his racist constituency.
How many more Muslims must die before Legault will admit there is widespread Islamophobia in Quebec and it has assumed dangerous proportions?