Canada election: Muslim candidates on tackling Islamophobia and facing discrimination

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A record number of Muslims won seats in the Canadian Parliament in the 2019 federal elections.

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As Canadians head to elections on September 20, dozens of Muslims from different parties are running for office once again this year.

Exact numbers are difficult to establish because the Library of Elections Canada and Parliament do not collect information about candidates’ religious affiliations.

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Muslims make up only three percent of Canada’s population, but candidates feel more representation in government is needed amid the rise of Islamophobia in the country.

Granthshala News spoke to six Muslim candidates from the Liberal Party of Canada and the New Democratic Party about campaign challenges, key voter issues, and what they plan to do if elected.

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Granthshala News also contacted Muslim candidates from the Conservative Party for this story but the request was either denied or there was no response by the time of publication.

Mohamed Hammood

For the second time, Liberal candidate Mohamed Hammood is riding London-Fanshawe in Ontario. The 53-year-old was unsuccessful in his first outing, finishing second only to New Democrat Lindsay Mathiesen, who was elected to the Southwest Ontario riding.

Originally from southern Lebanon, Hammood immigrated to Canada with his family in 1976 at the age of eight. As a Muslim growing up in St. Thomas, Ont., he says he faced a lot of racism and bullying as a child, and this is what Hammoud told Granthshala News as he grew up , it got worse.

While his personal challenges inspired Hammood to make his voice heard, he admitted that he also felt disheartened and distressed by the hatred that has made its way onto the campaign trail as well.

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“Recently in this campaign, people have been sending me personal messages like ‘I won’t vote for either of you. There’s already a f—ing Mohamed at City Hall, we don’t need another,'” He said in reference to London councilor Mohamed Salih.

In 2019, his car was stopped outside the campaign office and on another occasion, he found a letter on his car that read: “Get the F out of our country and go back to Saudi Arabia because you did the Twin Towers.” was blown up.”

“As a Muslim, I want to make sure that some of the concerns of my community that may not be being discussed in Parliament right now, I want to make sure they are,” said the Liberal candidate.

To address the issue of Islamophobia and other concerns, Hammood encouraged the Muslim community to be more active and engage with the government and other stakeholders.

“We can’t look to the government to fix things,” he said.

“It really is up to us to be part of that conversation and to make sure we feel empowered and hold the government and our elected officials accountable for making sure they are translating words into action. “

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salma zahidi

Liberal MP Salma Zahid is running for re-election at the Scarborough Center, having held office twice.

In the past year and a half, 51-year-old Zahid has served as the chairman of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration.

As an immigrant of Pakistani origin himself, Zahid said that he is well aware of the struggles and sacrifices that people face when they move to a new country, which is why he is taking those issues into the political arena. wanted to bring to light.

In an effort to unite the local community, Zahid created the Scarborough Center Multifaith Council, which brought people from various religious organizations under one umbrella.

Being a woman of color and a Muslim, she said she faced challenges trying to win over voters.

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“As I am campaigning every day, many times people have made racist remarks that, ‘I will never vote for a Muslim.'”

Zahid recalled that in her previous missions, she was asked to go back to where she comes from.

The deadly June 2021 attack on the Canadian-Pakistani Afzal family in London, Ontario, particularly resonated with Zahid, as she herself often walks around her neighborhood wearing a hijab and traditional shalwar kameez.

“When I heard about this news about the London incident, it was really close to my heart, and I told myself it could have been … us.”

She said that several young girls in her ride have told her that they are too afraid to wear the hijab in public.

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“We’ve done a lot of work over the last six years to make sure we fight racism of all kinds, but I think there’s a lot more work to be done.”

Going forward, Zahid says that it will be important to tackle online hate and create awareness and education about it.

If re-elected, she aims to push for appropriate funding for the Anti-Racism Secretariat, which was launched two years ago as part of Canada’s anti-racism strategy 2019–2022.

Arif Virani

First elected in 2015, Liberal MP Arif Virani has already served two terms in parliament, riding Parkdale-High Park in Toronto.

He came to Canada as a refugee from Uganda in 1972 when Ugandan dictator Idi Amin deported 7,000 Asians from the African nation.

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