About 100 people gathered at Al Falah Islamic Centre on May 12th in Oakville for a panel conversation on the recent rise in anti-Muslim sentiment throughout Canadian politics. The discussion was hosted by the centre’s organizing committee and moderated by the author.
University of Toronto professor and Research Chair Mohammed Fadel spoke on the broad issues that underpin the topic, while Imam Ibrahim Hindy of Mississauga’s Dar al-Tawheed mosque also shared his thoughts. Imam Hindy had a chance to contribute from a personal point of view after receiving threats against his family and safety from anti-Muslim racists due to his work on the religious accommodation issue at the Peel District School Board (PDSB).
“These people aren’t interested in rational inquiry or criticism when it comes to Islam,” Fadel says in response to a question about the issue of rising right-wing activity on campuses. “They’re not here to subject any beliefs, least of all their own, to rational and reasonable discussions.”
Since the rise of Donald Trump in the American political scene about two years ago, there has been a resurgence of Canada’s anti-Muslim, racist elements, which feel emboldened by Trump’s bombastic and often hate-filled rhetoric. That Trump was then elected on such an anti-Muslim platform has only furthered this emboldening process.
For instance, two anti-Muslim demonstrations have taken place in front of downtown Toronto’s Masjid Toronto since February, while monthly Islamophobic protests have been happening (also since February) at Nathan Phillip Square, requiring consistent police presence due to its often violent nature.
“It’s important that the Muslim community is aware of this rising climate [of] hate,” Imam Hindy says. “We may not be able to solve these issues ourselves but there are people who have taken a lead and we should at least support them.”
The conversation was followed by a Q&A session that delved further into the issues, particularly around the problem of finding the right solutions. The questions were numerous enough that the scheduled Q&A time allotment could not accommodate all those who raised their hands.
The audience was then reminded by both the discussants and the organizers to support those within the community who are trying to create respectful spaces where critical conversations on social issues can be had from a Muslim perspective. The centre also provided an evening meal for those who attended before the event wrapped up at around 11pm at night.