“No empty words”: Muslim Canadians use Ramadan to urge action in Gaza | Israeli-Palestinian conflict News

Montreal Canada – Ramadan is a time of personal reflection, family and joy for more than 1.8 billion Muslims around the world.

But as Israel’s war on Gaza drags on, killing more than 31,000 Palestinians and plunging the small coastal enclave deeper into a humanitarian crisis, this year’s Islamic holy month — which began Sunday night — has a different feel.

In Canada, the Muslim community’s pain over the situation in Gaza – and the widespread belief that Canadian politicians are not doing enough to stem the crisis – has sparked an unprecedented campaign this Ramadan.

“We see our brothers and sisters in Palestine dying every day. We are seeing a number of horrific images coming in,” said Fatema Abdalla, advocacy officer at the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCMC).

“So this Ramadan is definitely going to be a lot harder for everyone.”

The NCCM is among more than 300 Muslim groups in the North American country that have issued an ultimatum to Canadian politicians: act to end the war and defend Palestinian rights, or you won’t get the chance to speak to worshipers at community gatherings this month.

The organizations, which include advocacy groups as well as mosques and cultural centers, demanded five things from lawmakers: condemn Israeli war crimes, oppose arms transfers from Canada to Israel and support a ceasefire. -immediate fire in Gaza.

“If MPs cannot publicly commit to responding to all of these demands, then unfortunately we cannot provide them with a platform to address our congregation,” Abdalla said.

‘Very disappointed’

Like other countries around the world, Canada has for months witnessed major protests demanding an end to the war in Gaza, which began in early October.

Israeli attacks on the besieged Palestinian territory have caused massive damage and displacement, and the Israeli government also continues to block much-needed aid deliveries.

The United Nations has warned of widespread famine and disease, while the International Court of Justice ruled in late January that there was a plausible risk of genocide in the enclave – and ordered Israel to prevent further Acts of genocide do not occur.

“We are very disappointed with the response of our elected officials [in Canada] to the catastrophic destruction in Gaza,” said Nawaz Tahir, a spokesperson for the Hikma Public Affairs Council, an advocacy group for Muslims in and around London, Ontario, which signed the letter.

“Historically, we have invited political leaders to our events, to our mosques, to celebrate the concept of community during Ramadan. “It’s difficult to do this when there has been such a lack of response to the massacre of our brothers and sisters in Palestine,” he told Al Jazeera.

Canada has enjoyed close ties with Israel for decades, and the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau remains a staunch ally of the country.

During the first two months of the Gaza war, Ottawa resisted public pressure to call for a lasting ceasefire, instead supporting a push for “humanitarian pauses.” In December, Canada reversed course and supported a ceasefire motion at the United Nations General Assembly.

But the Trudeau government faces continued calls to do more, including suspending the transfer of military equipment to Israel over fears they could be used in violations of Palestinian rights in Gaza.

The Prime Minister wished Muslim Canadians a happy Ramadan in a statement released Sunday, acknowledging that the holy month comes at a “particularly difficult time” due to the unfolding situation in Gaza. “Canada reaffirms our call for a lasting ceasefire in Gaza and safe and unhindered access to humanitarian relief for civilians,” he said.

Abd Alfatah Twakkal, a board member of the Canadian Council of Imams, a group that signed the Ramadan letter, stressed that Muslim Canadians want concrete action. “We do not want symbolic measures. We don’t want empty words,” he told Al Jazeera.

Twakkal said the letter also goes beyond just members of the Canadian government. “This is not a partisan issue. This is for any MP who sees the travesty and catastrophe of what has happened and continues to happen. [in Gaza],” he said.

“We cannot sit back and say nothing,” he added. “It’s at least something that we have to do, to speak up and say: ‘Look, we have to take all the measures that are within our means… to be able to put an end to the genocide that is going on.’ “

A man holds a rosary as Muslim Canadians pray on the first evening of Ramadan at the Anatolia Islamic Center in Mississauga, Ontario, March 10, 2024. [Mert Alper Dervış/Anadolu Agency]

Growing political power

Political analysts said the community’s letter reflects its growing political power.

According to the 2021 census, nearly 1.8 million people identified as Muslim. The percentage of Muslims in the Canadian population more than doubled from 2001 to 2021 from 2 percent to 4.9 percent.

Muslims went to Canada since the mid-1800sbut Naved Bakali, assistant professor of anti-racist education at the University of Windsor in Ontario, explained that “the majority of immigration to Canada from Muslim-majority countries arrived in the 1960s and 1970s.”

As a result, Bakali said this “relatively young community” was generally content with “performing, service-level engagement and basic representation,” such as visits from politicians to their places of worship.

Although the community is home to a wide range of political views, Muslim Canadians have traditionally supported Trudeau’s Liberal Party, according to Bakali.

Liberals have long presented themselves as defenders of multiculturalism and immigration in Canada, and Trudeau came to power in 2015 thanks in part to denouncing Conservative Party policies that critics call Islamophobic.

In this context, Bakali told Al Jazeera that the Ramadan letter is a signal that “if the [Muslim] The community does not have the feeling of being seen by a political party, I do not think that a political party can count on this unconditional support.

He added: “There is a lack of trust… and they don’t want to be used as a political element in all of this. They want to feel heard and respected as a community.

Protesters demand a ceasefire in Gaza during a rally in Montreal, Canada
Protesters gather in Montreal, Canada, to demand a ceasefire in Gaza, November 18, 2023. [File: Alexis Aubin/AFP]

“Show humanity”

This was echoed by Tahir. “There has been a political awakening within the Muslim community” in Canada following the war in Gaza, he said, “and I think that is leading to stronger engagement of Muslims in politics “.

Tahir explained that while some Canadian lawmakers immediately asked to sign up to the demands put forward in the Ramadan letter, others are taking the time to review the situation. But he added that he believed MPs were taking note of the community’s position.

“One MP told us his office had received 10,000 letters on Palestine since October,” he told Al Jazeera.

Tahir also linked between what is happening in the Gaza Strip and the anti-Muslim hate incidents in Canada, whichImmunity groups said the number of cases had risen sharply since the war began.

“We have seen the very real impact of Islamophobia in Canada,” Tahir said, referring to a 2021 attack that killed four members of a Muslim family. Authorities called it an act of anti-Muslim “terrorism,” and a judge recently sentenced the attacker to life in prison.

Ultimately, Tahir emphasized that Canada’s elected officials must act – both at home and abroad.

“We want them to be more aware of taking action rather than coming to our mosques, taking a few photos, sending a few tweets. We are past that now,” he said. “We want to see a real and sincere commitment to combating Islamophobia and demonstrating humanity in our foreign policy.”

Chad Sutton

"Typical zombieaholic. General twitter fanatic. Food fanatic. Gamer. Unapologetic analyst."

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