Authors: Dr. Barbara Landau and Shahid Akhtar
Source: Canadian Association of Jews and Muslims
As Co-Chairs of the Canadian Association of Jews and Muslims, we are deeply saddened by the competition for victimhood unleashed by the response to M-103. Standing up for each other – and against all forms of racism and hatred has been our mandate for 20 years. We are thankful that as Canadians our Federal and Provincial governments have already made statements similar to M-103 condemning anti-Semitism. Currently the world has made the lives of peaceful Muslim citizens a source of anxiety. Jews understand the experience of fear and hatred directed at us because of our identity – not for any actions individuals have committed.
In friendship and empathy, Barbara joined other Jews in the inspirational “Circles of Peace” initiated by Rabbi Yael Splansky, and participated in by more than 300 members of 9 Jewish congregations. That is the community that speaks for me as a Jew! Our caring was met with heartfelt appreciation and enthusiastic warmth. This is community building. This is Shared Society.
Immediately after the outpouring of positive media, we were startled to receive a message from CIJA referring to a sermon given 2 years earlier in Montreal by a visiting speaker whose message was antisemitic, but with no context as to the relationship of this individual to the Mosque or any hateful actions as a result. The sermon was clearly inappropriate and should not have been on the Mosques’ website.
Coincidently CIJA’s message was sent to its listserve just as motion M-103 was tabled. It was immediately followed by a message denouncing M-103, and raising the spectre of threats to freedom of speech and potential hate crimes charges for speaking out against Islamic extremists. The impact instantly shifted our communal response from sympathy toward innocent co-religionists to shameful public conflict between two faith communities that share the distinction of being victims of hatred.
Instead of building on the emerging mutual support between our faith communities, CIJA and others introduced divisive hypothetical roadblocks to a simple motion for recognition, study and an approach to end systemic racism and religious discrimination, including Islamophobia in Canada. In light of the rise of racism and faith based bigotry since Trump’s election, this is a missed opportunity we cannot afford.
Dr. Barbara Landau, and Shahid Akhtar, Co-Chairs, Canadian Association of Jews and Muslims