The National Council of Canadian Muslims recently wrote an “open letter” to the Prime Minister regarding Canada’s weak stance with respect to Israel’s repeated attacks on Palestinians. There are an estimated three quarters of a million Muslims in Canada but up to now, they have not been very active in defense of Palestinians. Israel’s most recent attacks seem to have changed that. Read more.
A few weeks ago, Canada Talks Israel/Palestine urged “ministers, priests, imams and rabbis” to take up the issue of human rights for Palestinians in the face of Israeli attacks. That appears to be happening (though not due to CTIP’s call of course.)
In recent posts, we have documented interventions by Christian leaders and by some mainstream, but progressive Jews. Canadian Muslims are now getting more active. This is significant because an estimated 750,000 Canadians list Islam as their religion. And the number is growing rapidly. Twenty years ago is was less than 250,000.
In general, Canadian Muslims have been reluctant to take up the cause of human rights for Palestinians. The reasons vary. Recent immigrants to Canada don’t feel as secure in their rights as do native born Canadians. Most also feel somewhat threatened by a wave of Islamophobia that has resulted in many private “micro agressions”, principally against veiled women, and a few well-publicised horrible events like the shooting at the Quebec City mosque in 2017.
Add to that is also probably some ignorance. Canadian Muslims are not necessarily better informed about the situation in Israel/Palestine than most other Canadians.
But there are some encouraging signs that Canadian Muslims are starting to get engaged – in the Canadian political process generally, and specifically in defense of human rights for Palestinians.
“It wasn’t until we saw social media flooded with images of shots being fired upon worshippers and tear gas being thrown in the compound of the third most holy site in Islam (Al-Aqsa Mosque) that we awoke with a jolt,” wrote Aisha Sherazi in the Ottawa Citizen on May 19th. Sherazi is a well known Ottawa Muslim educator, writer and artist. She conducts workshops with Rabbi Menachem Blum in public schools on avoiding stereotypes
Now, in what appears to be a first, the National Council of Canadian Muslims has launched a strong campaign consisting of several elements urging Canada take a stronger role in defending the human rights of Palestinians.
The campaign started with an open letter to Prime Minister Trudeau from Canadian Muslim organizations
It was followed up by an extensive campaign which included:
- A full page ad in the Hill Times
- An invitation to NCCM members to write all Canadian political leaders demanding that Canada oppose Israeli violence against Palestinians.
- A letter to International Development Minister Karen Gourd asking that Canada immediately supply $26 million in humanitarian aid to Palestinian communities devastated by the Israeli attacks in Gaza.
- A letter to the Prime Minister signed by many other civil society organizations (Amnesty, Ontario Federation of Labour, etc.) demanding that “Canada issue a formal statement calling for Israel to immediately and unconditionally stop the violence, to stop the targeting of Palestinian civilians and end the expulsion of Palestinian families from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan.
A kind of awakening
“The experiences of Palestinians are no longer hidden from view, long held hostage by the Israel government’s broad narrative depicting Palestinians as terrorists, and unreliable partners for peace, and unworthy of the rights conferred unto them under international law”, wrote prominent Canadian Muslim Amira Elgawaby, in an op ed in the Toronto Star on May 19th. “A narrative shift on Palestinian experiences is disrupting the status quo“, she said.
The bottom line
It goes without saying that, in a Parliamentary democracy like ours, politicians are very interested in finding where the votes are. If the 750,000 strong Muslim Canadian community speaks up in favour of the human rights of Palestinians, politicians – of all parties – will notice.
Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) is the weekly newsletter of Peter Larson, Chair of the Ottawa Forum on Israel/Palestine (OFIP). It aims to promote a serious discussion in Canada about Canada’s response to the complicated and emotional Israel/Palestine issue with a focus on the truth, clear analysis and human rights for all. Readers with different points of view are invited to make comment.
Want to learn more about us? Go to http://www.ottawaforumip.org