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Standing with Muslim and Jewish Students

As hate crimes increase, we must oppose Islamophobia and antisemitism in Canada

Since October 7, reports of Islamophobic and antisemitic hate crimes across Canada have reached record highs. People from all corners of the world are feeling the effects of the conflict in Israel and Palestine. In our October 30 editorial, The McGill Daily called upon the Canadian government to urge for a ceasefire – a position we wish to reiterate as the violence continues and the death toll rises. As section 2.2 of our Statement of Principles states: “we recognize that power is unevenly distributed, especially – but not solely – on the basis of gender, age, social class, race, sexuality, religion, ability, and cultural identity. We also recognize that keeping silent about these relationships helps to perpetuate oppression.” As a student publication, we believe that this principle is especially important when it comes to the well-being and safety of our student body, and we oppose any violence against Palestinian, Muslim, Jewish, and Israeli communities. 

Hate crime reports released for the month of October showed that in Toronto, which has the largest Muslim and Jewish populations of any city in Canada, hate crime rates were more than twice those of October 2022. In response to this horrifying increase, Toronto Chief of Police Myron Demkiw met with local Palestinian and Jewish communities to discuss concerns. He reported: “I’ve heard directly that they are not only concerned for their family and friends living in the conflicted regions but they are also fearful for their own safety right here in our city.”

These fears have been echoed in other provinces. In BC, a rabbi’s home was egged and marked with a swastika, while in Ottawa, a mosque was desecrated. To see such heinous acts of hatred become so widespread is both disturbing and incredibly disheartening.

Unfortunately, this rise in hate is also close to home for many McGill students. In Montreal, the first 12 days following October 7 saw 12 reports of hate crimes and 13 reports of hate incidents against the Jewish community, while four hate crimes and seven hate incidents were reported against the Arab-Muslim community. In the following weeks, incidents only escalated. On November 6, both a Jewish community centre and the Beth Tikvah synagogue were firebombed. Only days later, two Jewish schools in Côte-des-Neiges were attacked by gunfire. Additionally, a report from Canada’s Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights released just this past week found that Islamophobia, especially in Quebec, has risen over the past year with expectations of worsening in light of current events. For many, such reports evoke the traumatic memory of the 2017 Quebec City Mosque shooting, the effects of which are still felt today. The culmination of so many incidents has understandably contributed to heightened fears for Montreal’s Muslim and Jewish communities over their safety. 

During this time of hurt and division, it is paramount that we uplift one another – especially when it comes to those who are the most vulnerable. It is important to recognize the history of Islamophobia and antisemitism in Canada, and to stand against the terrifying rise we are witnessing today. Muslim and Jewish communities in Canada have faced a long history of oppression. A Statistics Canada report from July 2023 found that despite making up less than one per cent of Canada’s population, Jewish people are the most targeted religious group in Canada when it comes to hate crimes. On October 19, Prime Minister Trudeau’s special representative for combating Islamophobia Amira Elghawaby gave an address warning against allowing the situation in Israel and Palestine to become a “rekindling” of the antagonism against Arabs and Muslims following 9/11. She explained that in the years following 2001, Arabs and Muslims “felt collectively blamed, stereotyped and racially profiled.” We must  recognize and call out the false and dehumanizing narratives pushed by politicians and media on Palestine. Conflating the ideas and actions of extremists with those of all Muslims will only put this community at a greater risk of racial profiling and violence in Canada. The conflation of Jewish people with the ideas and actions of the Israeli government is equally incorrect and equally dangerous.

Actions are being taken across the nation in an attempt to combat this rise in Islamophobia and antisemitism. Over the past several weeks, over 80 Canadian business leaders have signed a joint letter calling for municipal, provincial, and federal governments to increase safety initiatives for Muslim and Jewish communities. The letter states: “No person, regardless of their background or beliefs, should ever feel threatened in the place they call home. Every Jew, Muslim, Israeli, Palestinian, and every individual living in Canada deserves unwavering assurance that our leaders and institutions will protect them from bigotry and violence.” In a November 8 statement, Trudeau also spoke in solidarity with Canada’s Muslim and Jewish communities: “We’re seeing right now a rise in antisemitism […] and Islamophobia across this country and around the world […] This needs to stop. This is not something that is acceptable in Canada, period.” However, we urge Trudeau to show his solidarity through actions as well as words by calling for an immediate ceasefire and stopping the sale of Canadian arms to Israel.

According to a 2022 report from the Initiative against Islamophobia and Antisemitism (IAIAS), 11 per cent of McGill students identify as Muslim and 7.8 per cent as Jewish. We recognize that a significant portion of McGill students are directly affected by the situation in Israel and Palestine, and we believe that we have a responsibility to support and uplift those in our community who are feeling isolated or targeted right now. We call upon McGill to uphold their 2022 IAIAS promise to “listen, learn, and change course where necessary” when it comes to Islamophobia and antisemitism on campus. At the time of writing, Canada has not yet called for a ceasefire, and as such, we encourage our readers to continue to contact their elected representatives to demand that they advocate for an immediate ceasefire. To our Muslim and Jewish students who are going through a difficult time, consider reaching out to the Muslim Students Association, Independent Jewish Voices, or the Student Wellness Hub for community events and resources.