Quebec Muslims are used as ‘political footballs’ says advocacy group

Quebec Muslims are used as ‘political footballs’ says advocacy group
Vice-president of the Canadian Muslim Forum, Kathy Malas, speaks to reporters as Sameer Zuberi, Samer Majzoub, and Samah Jabbar look on at a news conference in Montreal on Friday, February 20, 2015
Vice-president of the Canadian Muslim Forum, Kathy Malas, with Sameer Zuberi, Samer Majzoub, and Samah Jabbar at a news conference in Montreal on Friday, February 20, 2015

(February 23, 2015) – Quebec Muslims are being “used as political footballs” to gain points in opinion polls, according to the advocacy group, Canadian Muslim Forum.

“In 2013 and 2014, we saw the Muslim community being used in a debate around a values charter,” said Sameer Zuberi of the Canadian Muslim Forum at a press conference held in Montreal last Friday. “The objective was to solely gain political points in the opinion polls – this attempt utterly failed.”

“However, some are again attempting to play the game of fear and division in an effort to grab attention and headlines – this demonstrates the worst form of political discourse,” added Zuberi. “The result of this exercise is that, instead of creating a more unified, and cohesive and prosperous Quebec, fear and division rein in an attempt to advance some.”

The Canadian Muslim Forum (CMF) is a community organization that advocates for the protection of the civil rights of Quebec and Canadian Muslims and aims to promote the participation of citizens in society.

“Our children are being targeted at schools because of their faith, our women in the streets are being spit at and sworn at because of their dress, our men are being deprived sometimes of jobs because of their names,” said Canadian Muslim Forum President Samer Majzoub.

Sameer Zuberi noted that Muslims are contributors to Quebec society and they have been vocal in their rejection of terrorism.

“For one, two and three generations, Muslims have chosen Quebec and Canada as their home,” said Zuberi. “Like other citizens, through work, building families and societal participation, Muslims contribute to the advancement and enrichment of our society.”

“Let us say clearly, as we have for over a decade, the Muslim community rejects all forms of radicalization leading to violence and terrorism.”

The opposition Parti Québécois (PQ) recently tabled a bill to name a special observer to study religious fundamentalism in the province. The bill was passed at the first reading in the National Assembly with a unanimous vote. The PQ said that it intends to appoint a special observer whose job would be to collect data on radical groups.

“The instrumentalization of the Muslim community to gain headlines and points has contributed to a number of consequences,” said Sameer Zuberi. “First is increased Islamophobia or irrational fear of Muslims.”

“Intolerance to any group is a threat to us all and to Quebec social cohesion,” he added. “Secondly, as a result people who are perceived as Muslim face hurdles from fully participating in societal, cultural and economic fabric of Quebec society. This has negative impacts on the psychological well being of individuals and the productivity of our society as a whole.”

“Third, there has been an increase in hate speech and incidence of anti-Muslim violence.”

“Politicians and police forces must reinforce and apply existing laws to ensure that hate crimes are investigated and reported,” urged Zuberi.

Another political leader, Francois Legault of the opposition party Coalition for Quebec’s Future (CAQ), recently said that all mosques in the province should be investigated prior to being allowed to open.

“We call to all who care about the well being of our society to be mindful of how Muslims are currently being used as a plaything in the public discourse,” said Sameer Zuberi. “If we aren’t careful we run the real risk of creating societal tensions and inequality. This is something the vast majority of citizens do not want to see.”