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Amira Elghawaby victim of islamophobic acts

Sean Kilpatrick archives The Canadian Press According to Elghawaby, many Muslims and Arabs are afraid to publicly demonstrate their support for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.

Amira Elghawaby, Canada's special representative responsible for the fight against Islamophobia, has been the victim of Islamophobic acts since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas.

In an interview with

i>Duty, the first she has offered in French since the summer, she reveals that she was recently the target of aggressive behavior in an airport and that her office received death threats. “Because I am visible with my hijab, from time to time, I meet people who can be a little aggressive with me,” she confides, specifying however that “most Canadians are not like that.” .

Following these incidents, measures were taken to “prioritize Ms. Elghawaby’s personal safety and to manage and minimize risks,” her office said.

The federal envoy to the fight against Islamophobia emphasizes that she is not the only one to have been targeted since the outbreak of the conflict in the Middle East. “I have been informed that women wearing the hijab like me have been spat on. There is a woman who had [a substance sprayed] in her eyes. […] We have a lot of examples,” she relates.

I have been informed that women wearing the hijab like me have been spat on. There is a woman who had [a substance sprayed] in her eyes. […] We have many examples.

— AMira Elghawaby

A little less than a month ago, a report from the Senate Human Rights Committee noted that Islamophobia was spreading online and in the media, and that this situation was contributing to the increase in the number of hate crimes against documented Muslims in the country. Violent Islamophobic acts have reached a “worrying and unprecedented level in Canada” in recent years, we read in the document.

A criticized silence


When she learned of Hamas' surprise offensive against Israel on the morning of October 7,  Ms. Elghawaby was “Shocked” by these “painful” events, she says. But the immediate silence she maintained in public was denounced by many.

It took ten days before she issued a statement, a statement that did not explicitly mention the Hamas attacks. “Muslim communities tell me that we cannot let the Israeli-Palestinian conflict reopen such a painful chapter. The legacy of this dark period is revived today,” she then argued, referring to the “deep trauma” experienced in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States by Muslim and Arab communities.

“Everyone noticed that when she broke her silence, after 10 days, she did not say a word about the Hamas attacks, not a word about the massacre of civilians, the hundreds of kidnappings or the rapes . We were hoping for a conviction, we won't even have the right to a mention,” noted Bloc MP Martin Champoux in the House of Commons on October 20.

Everyone noticed that when she broke her silence, after 10 days, she did not say a word about the Hamas attacks, not a word about the massacre of civilians, the hundreds of kidnappings or the rapes.

—Martin Champoux

On November 7, its leader, Yves-François Blanchet, also deplored the silence of Ms. Elghawaby, but regarding the potentially criminal comments of Montreal imam Adil Charkaoui. “As for using government tools, there is a person who has been appointed to act as a bridge between the different communities. Where is Ms. Elghawaby now? Do we need her? » he asked the government.

Asked about the silence she kept during the first days of the bloody conflict between Israel and Hamas, the special representative instead said she was present on the ground, within Muslim communities, to “take the time” to understand the extent of the situation. “It was really important to take the time to understand how this attack [which is taking place abroad] […] will impact our communities in Canada,” she responded.

“ My role is to consult communities and raise their concerns and concerns with the federal government,” she says.

The shadow of September 11, 2001

The hateful acts recorded in Canada in recent weeks remind Elghawaby of the Islamophobia that proliferated in the wake of September 11, 2001. “But now it’s not just hate. “It's also a lot of people who feel like they can't express their opinion,” she points out.

According to her, many Muslims and Arabs are afraid to publicly express their support for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip for fear of facing repercussions at work and school. “We see not only an increase in Islamophobia, but also [concern about] our rights and rights and freedoms, which are at risk,” she says.

During a meeting with Justin Trudeau last month, she stressed to the head of government that the Palestinian, Arab and Muslim communities were urging Ottawa to request an immediate ceasefire and to play a peacemaking role in the Middle East. East. “It’s important, in my role as a representative, to share my community’s concerns with the government and the Prime Minister,” she says.

The Trudeau government, however, has still not called for a ceasefire in Gaza, preferring the establishment of “humanitarian pauses” in the territory.

Christmas holiday, racism?

Special representative Elghawaby, whose previous statements on racism in Quebec caused an uproar at the start of the year, did not move forward on the idea of ​​making Christian holiday of Christmas would represent “systemic religious discrimination” since she had not yet had the chance to consult the document at the heart of the controversy.

In its Discussion paper on religious intolerance, released in mid-October, the Canadian Human Rights Commission argues that “discrimination against religious minorities in Canada is rooted in the history of colonialism in Canada “. “This history manifests itself today in systemic religious discrimination. An obvious example is [Christianity-related] holidays,” it reads.

Is wishing “Merry Christmas” racist? His answer is clear: “No, not at all. It’s nice to be in a pluralist society. We have several religions and we want to understand everyone and their holidays. » She mentions in support a column she wrote in the pages of the Toronto Star in 2018, entitled “Is it OK to say “merry Christmas”? Yes,” where she asserted that saying “happy holidays” to avoid any religious references was not “a panacea” for inclusion.

Thursday afternoon, the Bloc Québécois tabled a motion in the Commons condemning the position of the Canadian Human Rights Commission. It was adopted unanimously by elected officials, like the one tabled the day before in the National Assembly of Quebec.

As for her priorities for the coming months, Ms. Elghawaby mentions the seventh commemoration of the attack against the Grand Mosque of Quebec on January 29, and says it is pursuing “other dialogues” with Muslim communities in order to better advise the Canadian government.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116