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Emad Barsoum writes: Islamophobia and the Other

On the same day, two news pieces surfaced on social media and news sites. The first stated that the Peel District School Board voted unanimously to adopt the anti-Islamophobia strategy, a detailed plan to affirm Muslim identities and dismantle Islamophobia! Second, the Prime Minister announced the appointment of Canada’s first Special Representative on Combatting Islamophobia!

Despite the enormous controversial reaction to this news, that is still going on in the media and social platforms between supporters of these decisions, who witnessed it as a victory in a crusade, and those who saw it as a divisive decision.

Between both reactions, most Canadians are questioning whether such moves are political maneuvers aiming to win more votes in the upcoming federal elections or, in fact, is a divisive approach.

Among all the heated opinions and social media verbal combats, we could watch a flashback of several anti-discrimination or anti-apartheid movements during the last century. However, it is astounding and saddening that after all the progress that humanity has achieved towards fighting and dissolving any form of discrimination or segregation, especially in the free democracies and progressive regimes and among multi-cultural societies, we realize that our community is taking some steps backward. Instead of ending any form or attempt to classify citizens on a racial or religious basis, we are deepening the crack in society.

Indeed we have suffered from a few cowardly and atrocious acts that targeted certain people based on their beliefs, and undoubtedly, any act of aggression towards any human being is wholly rejected. Those meant to make our nation the best place to live in, the most understanding and accepting among all countries. But the role of media must be clearly defined on how to tackle these malicious incidents in a manner that represents our core principles and values.

We have to create the true principle of citizenship, all people have to stand up while our national anthem is played, it is our pride and honor, and such behavior cannot be compromised. Once we unite all citizens under one flag, one destiny, one secular nation, then there will be no need to put any fence or guards around any group of people who are affiliated to a specific race, geographical location, religion, sect, language, dress code or any implicit or explicit trait.

Fighting Islamophobia in such a fashion that the federal or municipal governments are following would lead to the appearance of many other “religiophobias”, taking us to the rise of significant segregation in society, and would create separate schools, neighborhoods, ghettos, hospitals, and maybe one day separate Police or Military forces for every group, which is in the darkest imagination would be the indices of a civil conflict.

The solution lies in the hands of the media, the education system, and the narrative in all different religious institutes through affirming the principle of the acceptance of the Other, no matter who is the other, once the doctrine of the acceptance of the other is correctly implanted then all the others will be one united society with no fear from the Other.