National council representative speaks out on Islamophobia

Feb. 17, 2017

The communications director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims will be engaging in an open discussion at a series called Ask Women Anything on Feb. 23.

The discussion will focus on media representations of Muslim Canadians, as well as the need for government action following the recent Quebec City mosque shooting.

Media Action, a volunteer based organization that promotes reflective and respectful media representation for all people, launched the series three years ago.

Amira Elghawaby will be addressing some of the issues the national council raised in an open letter to the government, and will emphasize the importance of standing up to Islamophobic and racist comments and attitudes.

“We’re working very hard to make fellow Canadians and our parliamentarians understand that this is really about quelling a form of hatred that is on the rise,” Elghawaby said.

Elghawaby also said she is troubled by the fact Canadian Muslims only feature prominently in the media when something is wrong.

“I’ll reflect on what it’s like to constantly be in the media spotlight for all the wrong reasons, and how it’s so important to try to include more positive narratives,” she said about the upcoming talk.

Six lives were lost in the horrific mosque shooting in Quebec City. The victims were family men who left their countries of origin to live without fear, in Canada.

Prime Minister Trudeau described the act as cowardly and contrary to the diversity and religious tolerance Canadians value.

The council released an open letter to all levels of government on Feb. 8 suggesting areas where the government can take immediate action.

The open letter recommends police training on hate crimes, publicly released annual reviews of hate crimes, the creation of provincial Anti-Racism Directorates, and for Parliament to support Motion 301, which calls on the government to find ways to reduce systemic racism in Canada.

The letter urges Parliament to declare the day of the shooting, Jan. 29, “National Day of Remembrance and Action on Islamophobia.”

“If the shooting doesn’t alert everyone there is something going on and that we need to be proactive then nothing will, and we’ll stay in this place of complacency,” Elghawaby said.

Amanda Parriag, the president of Media Action said the Ottawa community is in need of a discussion about what has happened in Quebec.

“Having Amira there to lead the discussion and to bring her insight to the table is huge. We need to have these types of forums where we can openly talk about our hopes and fears in this community,” she said.

Elsa Taylor, a volunteer at Media Action said she believes having conversations with people directly involved with community issues is important in order to end stigma and build support for those who need it.

Taylor said Elghawaby will be speaking both as a representative of the National Council of Canadian Muslims and as someone who has firsthand experience with the issues she will be addressing.

The discussion will take place on Feb. 23, 6 p.m., at Bar Robo, located at 692 Somerset

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