Hun­dreds march againts Is­lama­pho­bia

Speak­ers em­pha­size com­pas­sion af­ter the Que­bec City at­tack

The McGill Daily - - Contents - Madi­son Duen­kler News Writer

On Satur­day Feb­ru­ary 4, around two hun­dred peo­ple marched through the streets of Mon­treal to take a stand against Is­lam­o­pho­bia and sup­port Que­bec’s Mus­lim com­mu­nity.

Around thirty peo­ple ini­tially gath­ered at Place Ém­i­lie- Gamelin at noon on Satur­day, hold­ing signs with slo­gans such as “united we stand, di­vided we fall” and “Jews for Mus­lims.” The march started on Berri, turned onto Maison­neuve Est, then onto Saint-de­nis, and back onto Berri.

De­spite the snow, the crowd grew rapidly as the march pro­ceeded. As peo­ple walked through the streets, they chanted, “Mus­lims at­tacked, Que­bec is shocked,” “this walk is a hug [...] for the or­phans,” and “no, no to ha­tred [...] yes, yes to peace” in French.

Bel Agir, an or­ga­ni­za­tion com­mit­ted to sup­port­ing the Mus­lim com­mu­nity in Que­bec and Canada, planned the march in re­sponse to the Sainte-foy shoot­ings at the Que­bec City Is­lamic Cul­tural Cen­tre, which killed six peo­ple. On the event page, the or­ga­ni­za­tion ex­pressed their de­sire to “con­vey a mes­sage of unity, love, and com­pas­sion” through the march.

Bel Agir also posted a call for demon­stra­tion on their web­site, stat­ing the main ob­jec­tives of the march were: “to [...] ex­press our unity and sup­port for the vic­tims against ter­ror­ists and their sup­port­ers” and “[de­mand] that our politi­cians take con­crete mea­sures to end all speech of Is­lam­o­pho­bia, ha­tred, and vi­o­lence, which has long been tol­er­ated, largely me­di­a­tized, and re­cently de­crim­i­nal­ized.”

Along with signs, there were many at­ten­dees car­ry­ing Uni­for flags – Uni­for is Canada’s largest pri­vate sec­tor union.

When asked about Uni­for’s pres­ence at the event, an at­tendee replied in French: “We’re here for the march against hate and for peace and for love around world. We are here to sup­port each other and our brothers who died as mar­tyrs, those who died in the last at­tack in Que­bec, and their chil­dren. We’re sup­port­ing each other. We are against racism, against dis­crim­i­na­tion, ei­ther for race or sex. We are against all forms of dis­crim­i­na­tion that ex­ist.”

The march ended back at Place Ém­i­lie- Gamelin and speeches com­menced. The first speaker was Thomas Dowd, a bishop in the Ro­man Catholic Church. “Hello my friends, my brothers, my sis­ters,” he be­gan, in French, “it’s an hon­our to be here with you to­day to share this mo­ment of sol­i­dar­ity. We saw, at the be­gin­ning of the week, a hor­ri­ble event, but I think we will see the best of the Que­be­cois peo­ple to come. We say, ‘you al­ways hear the tree that falls but you never hear the for­est that grows’ but here, we hear the for­est.”

Dowd went on to ex­plain his po­si­tion: “I am a bishop. You may know the ti­tle of priest, which is used for our re­li­gious lead­ers. A bishop is a leader of priests. I rep­re­sent the Catholic Church in Mon­treal.”

“In sol­i­dar­ity with all Chris­tians, we are here to­gether for peace,” he con­tin­ued.

Dowd also ref­er­enced a pas­sage from a text pub­lished by the Catholic Church. “In the six­ties, we had a great com­ing to­gether of all the bish­ops through­out the world in Rome [...] Dur­ing this meet­ing, there was a text, which was pub­lished on the re­la­tions in be­tween Chris­tians and Mus­lims, and I find this text prophetic and I would like to share it with you.”

He then quoted the text: “The Catholic Church looks with great es­teem upon Mus­lims […] If, through the cen­turies, many dis­sen­sions and hos­til­i­ties man­i­fested them­selves be­tween Chris­tians and Mus­lims, the coun­cil ex­on­er­ates them all and for­gets their past and puts it­self fully to mu­tual com­pre­hen­sion. There­fore, to­gether we will pro­tect all men, so­cial jus­tice, moral val­ues, peace, and lib­erty.”

The next speaker, Haroun Bouazzi, di­rec­tor of Mus­lims and Arabs for Sec­u­lar­ism Que­bec (AMAL-Que­bec) a fem­i­nist, plu­ral­ist as­so­ci­a­tion of Que­be­cers, ac­cord­ing to its web­site, also spoke of hope, lib­erty, and unity. He first thanked Bel Agir.

“I would like to thank Bel Agir for hav­ing brought us to­gether to­day, for hav­ing pushed us to march. There have been many, many things that have been said this week, many beau­ti­ful things, lots of com­pas­sion, lots of union, lots of strong words from our politi­cians and many mes­sages of love from the peo­ple,” he said in French. “I think we can re­ally be proud of the re­ac­tion from the Que­be­cois peo­ple, no mat­ter where they are from, af­ter this tragedy that has touched us all.”

“To­day we marched for the mem­o­ries of the dead; to­day we marched for the love that unites us, for the jus­tice for which we are go­ing to fight,” he con­tin­ued.

Bouazzi also stressed the im­por­tance of re­main­ing ac­tive against hate. “The work will be­gin by de­mand­ing for our politi­cians, for the me­dia, for our en­e­mies, to put into place real po­lit­i­cal ac­tion against Is­lam­o­pho­bia, against racism. We need to de­mand from our me­dia that there’s a min­i­mum of ethics in pub­lic de­bate. We will re­mind them, mes­sage af­ter mes­sage, phone call af­ter phone call, that af­ter what hap­pened in Que­bec City, we will never ac­cept again the stigma­ti­za­tion [...] And us too, as cit­i­zens, our re­spon­si­bil­ity is im­mense be­cause with­out us, noth­ing will hap­pen.”

Sa­man­tha Lustig, an at­tendee at the march, shared her rea­sons for at­tend­ing the demon­stra­tion with The Daily. “My best friend in ele­men­tary school was Mus­lim, I had a num­ber of friends who were Mus­lim women through­out my life, teach­ers who are Mus­lim women [...]. I just feel like ev­ery per­son who lives in Canada de­serves to feel safe. I am an English as a sec­ond lan­guage teacher. I have stu­dents who want to im­mi­grate to Canada who are Mus­lim, and it’s nec­es­sary for them to feel safe here and to know that they are loved.”

When asked if she thought the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment was do­ing enough to sup­port the Mus­lim com­mu­nity, Lustig replied, “Nope. The im­mi­gra­tion cap is garbage and ev­ery­one should con­tact their lo­cal MP [Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment] stat­ing that re­mov­ing the im­mi­gra­tion cap is es­sen­tial for Canada.”

Nada Ab­del­hak, another at­tendee, felt dif­fer­ently about the ef­forts of the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment.

“The Cana­dian gov­ern­ment of Justin Trudeau ac­tu­ally I think is the best that we’ve had since I came to Canada,” Ab­del­hak told The Daily. “I’ve never felt as Cana­dian as I’m feel­ing now. I think that he is do­ing enough.”

While a lot of the speak­ers at the event fo­cused on the stigma­ti­za­tion of the Mus­lim com­mu­nity, Ab­del­hak said, “Peo­ple are so con­cen­trated on ter­ror­ism, they as­so­ci­ate it ac­tu­ally to Mus­lims and they don’t see that this is what di­vides us.”

“To­day we marched for the mem­o­ries of the dead; to­day we marched for the love that unites us, for the jus­tice for which we are go­ing to fight.” —Haroun Bouazzi Di­rec­tor of Amal-que­bec “The im­mi­gra­tion cap is garbage and ev­ery­one should con­tact their lo­cal MP [Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment] stat­ing that re­mov­ing the im­mi­gra­tion cap is es­sen­tial for Canada.” —Sa­man­tha Lustig At­tendee

Ellen Cools | The Mcgill Daily

De­mon­stra­tors at Place Ém­i­lie- Gamelin.

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