‘Unity is pow­er­ful’

Cape Bre­ton­ers join na­tion­wide protests against Is­lam­o­pho­bia


On one of the cold­est days of the year, Cape Bre­ton­ers came to­gether to show warmth to­ward those feel­ing the chill of change in some gov­ern­ments’ poli­cies to­ward those of the Is­lamic faith.

For Mus­lim So­haila Abdo, the 60 peo­ple who gath­ered in front of the Cape Bre­ton Re­gional Mu­nic­i­pal­ity Civic Cen­tre on Satur­day af­ter­noon were an in­di­ca­tion of hope for a bet­ter fu­ture for im­mi­grants to this area.

“Racism and neg­a­tiv­ity comes from fear,” said Abdo, who came to Canada from Egypt and now works as a set­tle­ment coun­sel­lor with the Cape Bre­ton Is­land Cen­tre for Im­mi­gra­tion. “The so­lu­tion to that is not only to ac­cept dif­fer­ences but to wel­come it.

“Unity is pow­er­ful — we don’t be­lieve in bans or walls or caps.”

Those who at­tended the rally Satur­day af­ter­noon were part of a se­ries of na­tion­wide protests, Na­tional Days of Ac­tion Against Is­lam­o­pho­bia and De­por­ta­tions, be­ing held over the week­end to protest the growth of Is­lam­o­pho­bia in the U.S. and Canada.

U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is­sued an ex­ec­u­tive or­der last week that put a hold on peo­ple from seven pre­dom­i­nantly Mus­lim na­tions from en­ter­ing the U.S. A fed­eral judge in Wash­ing­ton State tem­po­rar­ily blocked the or­der on Fri­day that ap­plied na­tion­wide, re­open­ing the bor­ders for the time be­ing and the U.S. state depart­ment re­versed the can­cel­la­tions of visas un­der Trump’s or­der.

In Canada, an at­tack on a Que­bec mosque that left six dead and re­cent acts of van­dal­ism have also given rise to ten­sions in this coun­try.

Abdo says she know from work­ing with im­mi­grants that learn­ing about their dif­fer­ences can be re­ward­ing and can changes lives. She asked those at­tend­ing the rally to open their minds and their hearts to the new res­i­dents.

“In­vite your new neigh­bour to supper,” said Abdo. “Get to know them as peo­ple. Learn about their dif­fer­ences, learn about their ex­pe­ri­ences and where they come from. This is what is go­ing to make a dif­fer­ence. It’s that ex­pe­ri­ence that will erase the fear and will di­min­ish the racism, whether it’s here or any­where else in the world.”

Her mes­sage was echoed by Jeff Ward from Mem­ber­tou, who spoke about how the Mi’kmaq wel­comed ev­ery­one to this coun­try.

“What is the op­po­site to love? It’s not hate. The op­po­site of love is fear — peo­ple fear what they do not know,” said Ward, who re­minded the au­di­ence that the Mi’kmaq were this coun­try’s orig­i­nal greeters. “So peo­ple don’t know about Mi’kmaq peo­ple, they don’t know about Is­lamic peo­ple, Arab peo­ple, Mid­dle East­ern peo­ple, wher­ever the peo­ple are from they don’t know about them so they fear one an­other. We need to learn about one an­other. How do we bat­tle fear and how do we bat­tle that is through knowl­edge and to share that knowl­edge with each other.”

Dr. Monika Dutt, one of the or­ga­niz­ers of Satur­day’s rally, said peo­ple in this com­mu­nity need to work on this coun­try’s is­sues and work to ad­dress them.

“As much as we’re a wel­com­ing di­verse coun­try, which we hear a lot of, I think we also need to look at the prob­lems we have here but as a com­mu­nity talk about them and then work to ad­dress them,” said Dutt. “I don’t think Cape Bre­ton is dif­fer­ent from any­where else.”

Amanda McDougall, who was in­volved in bring­ing Syr­ian refugees to Cape Bre­ton, said Cape Bre­ton­ers may have been hes­i­tant at first about the pro­gram but once they learned more about it, quickly ex­tended a wel­com­ing hand.

“Cape Bre­ton­ers are re­mark­able,” said McDougall. “In the span of only a cou­ple of months, tens of thou­sands of dol­lars were raised, fam­i­lies ac­tu­ally came here and con­tinue to live here which is an amaz­ing thing. They feel wel­comed and feel they’re a part of the com­mu­nity so at first, yes, it may be a lit­tle dif­fi­cult but it’s the most beau­ti­ful thing to do.

“I don’t want to sound cliché but I do think love is stronger than hate. ”


So­haila Abdo, a Mus­lim who now works with im­mi­grants, was one of the speak­ers at a rally in Syd­ney on Satur­day af­ter­noon against Is­lam­o­pho­bia and de­por­ta­tions. About 60 peo­ple at­tended the rally.


Jeff Ward from Mem­ber­tou beats a tra­di­tional drum dur­ing a rally in Syd­ney on Satur­day af­ter­noon, part of a na­tional week­end of protests, against Is­lam­o­pho­bia and de­por­ta­tions.


About 60 peo­ple at­tended a rally in Syd­ney on Satur­day af­ter­noon against Is­lam­o­pho­bia and de­por­ta­tions.



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