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Anti-Muslim hate exists not because of bad people, but because good people view Muslims as undesirable

Anti-Muslim hate exists not because of bad people, but because good people view Muslims as undesirable
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Look, there’s no point pretending to be shocked by overt anti-Muslim hate in our country. In the days after into a Muslim family out on a stroll in London, Ont., wiped out three generations from it and left a 9-year-old orphaned, we may be taken aback by its violent iterations but we cannot be surprised by the virulence of its existence.

These sentiments against Muslims have been emboldened over the years. They emerged through the “clash of civilizations” rhetoric at a global level, through dog-whistle politics, and openly Islamophobic political leaders at a national level , through business practices and hushed-tone “why can’t they just get along with everyone” conversations at a neighbourhood level.

We are all responsible for this moment that has left many Muslims, and those who can be perceived to be Muslim, fearful of stepping out of their homes.

Of course, at the level of interpersonal violence Canada is safer than most countries around the globe. Of course, what happened in London is not a daily occurrence, or this attack wouldn’t be news. Of course, Muslims of all shades will continue to be in the public spaces even after the attack. The setback is in the hesitation, the doubt, the letting loved ones know you’re out, just in case. Just in case there’s a person who decides you don’t get to live because of what you wear and whom you pray to.

Women of all races experience this fear. Black people do, too. But instead of addressing these experiences, we are expanding them; both women and Black people who are visibly Muslim must now withstand an exponential brunt of hate.

The word “hate” itself has become a convenient catch-all, one that elides naming of a specific oppression.

A day before the Muslim family was decimated in London, a group of men yelling homophobic slurs punched and kicked a 24-year-old Toronto queer man. He was left unconscious, with broken bones on his face and in need of surgeries.

This was within days after the remains of an estimated 215 children were found at the Kamloops Residential School in B.C.

If we must call it hate, we’re bubbling in a cauldron of it. Anti-Muslim hate. Anti-Black racism. Homophobia. Coloniality. Sure, Canada is safe — with caveats attached.

How do we address this hate?

Politicians sprinkled pretty words of condolences at a vigil in London on Tuesday. “We must all stand together and say no to hatred and to Islamophobia,” said the prime minister. “Repel evil with good,” said the opposition leader, reciting from the Qur’an.

Is there anyone but the most twisted who disagrees with these generalities? In the context of the London attack, their non-specificity renders these words meaningless. The most virulent anti-Muslim people I have met — and I have met many — believe they are motivated not by hate but by the urge to repel evil, where evil is code for Islam.

The good-and-bad binary sets the stage for the argument that every society has bad people. The logical conclusion often left unsaid is that there’s nothing to be done about it. Thus ends the need for accountability. There’s no reason then to think of, say, missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls or to consider Indigenous and Black children in government care in the context of white supremacy and colonialism. All crimes, all injustices become individual, dissociated from the oppression that created them.

It’s childish to pretend anti-Muslim hate exists because bad people live among us. It exists because good people view Muslims as inherently undesirable, their articles of faith as an assertion of domination, their public display of piety as a threat.

It exists because these good people become bystanders and stay silent, in at least partial agreement, when Muslims are posited as outsiders, extremists and terrorists in private conversations and policy positions.

It exists because such positions serve the particular geopolitics of Muslim-minority countries.

In Canada, good people stayed silent when the ruling Conservatives under Stephen Harper pledged to set up a police hotline in 2015 to report what they openly called “ barbaric cultural practices ,” to protect women and girls “from forced marriage and other barbaric practices” as then immigration minister Chris Alexander called it.

Anti-Muslim animosity doubled in a two-year period around this time according to Statistics Canada, but good people turned a routine non-binding motion asking the federal government to study discrimination against religions into a controversy and led protests amid faux fears that the word “Islamophobia” would impede free speech. M-103 only passed after a white man gunned down the faithful gathered at a , and killed six Muslims.
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