Combating Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism

This year, there has been a rash of acts of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism across Canada and the United States. Most notably in Canada was the January attack on a Quebec City mosque, which resulted in the death of six Muslim Canadians. More recently, students at Toronto’s Upper Canada College had their personal belongings vandalized with Nazi swastikas and hateful sentiments. The numerous reports of hate speech and vandalism targeting Muslim and Jewish communities have taken on more prominence amidst the current divisive global political climate.

In response to acts like this, the Parliament of Canada passed a landmark motion against anti-Islamophobia and religious discrimination, which called on politicians to condemn anti-Islamic behaviour and rhetoric. It encouraged the government to recognize the need to “quell the public climate of fear and hate.” Parliament has made a strong effort to build bridges amongst Canadians and to facilitate dialogue.

In the United States, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) reported an increase in Anti-Muslim incidents and expressed discriminatory sentiment by 1,035 percent in President Trump’s first 100 days in office. Meanwhile, anti-Semitic incidents in the United States rose 86 percent in the first three months of 2017, according to the Anti-Defamation League. These include a series of bomb threats called in to Jewish community centers and other Jewish institutions around the country.

A number of organizations are confronting this concerning trend and continue to lead the way in building connectedness and solidarity. The Movement to End Racism and Islamophobia (MERI) is a network that stands and acts together against all forms of Islamophobia and racism. In a time where many forces are inciting prejudice and hatred against Muslims, MERI works to confront and resist Islamophobia and racism by fighting the social, systemic, and ideological dynamics of hatred that may linger in our communities. The group also focuses on empowering individuals affected. MERI organizes workshops and teach-ins to educate communities on Islamophobia, anti-racism, cultural transformation, as well as on how to challenge local cases of Islamophobia and mobilize grassroots campaigns to counter people and institutions spreading hatred.

Jewish Voice for Peace is an organization that works together to end anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim, and anti-Arab bigotry and oppression based on six key guiding principles: (1) grassroots organizing, leadership development and relationships; (2) the capacity for people to change; (3) solidarity and accountability; (4) respect for the humanity of all people; (5) Jewish communities centered around justice; and (6) flexibility and tenacity for the long haul. Jewish Voice for Peace is a diverse and democratic community of activists inspired by Jewish tradition to work together for peace, social justice, and human rights.

AJC is a global Jewish advocacy organization that works to enhance the well-being of the Jewish community and to advance human rights and democratic values for all through global diplomacy, legislative advocacy, intergroup and interreligious coalition building and lastly, through communications.

In order to overcome divisive discourse, hatred and exclusion, all of us must find the ability and willingness to think for ourselves, be open with others, and, most importantly, to engage in conversation. We all must stand together against intolerance and foster understanding and solidarity between cultures and religions.