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Photo courtesy the Genesis Centre

Anti-immigrant protester outside Genesis Centre indicative of homegrown Islamophobia

By Aymen Sherwani, March 27 2019 —

Not even a day had passed after 50 Muslims were butchered in their mosques by a gunman in Christchurch, New Zealand when a white man in Calgary verbally harassed and filmed immigrant families at the Genesis Centre. 

In a livestream, the unidentified man walked around the community centre, in some instances following children. The approached families while remarking that their presence was changing the Canadian demographic from “traditional Canadians” to a “UN global village” — implying that the presence of immigrants in Canada is associated with poverty and crises. This simply is not true. The man then posted the 15-minute video livestream on the social media accounts belonging to the National Citizens Alliance (NCA), a fringe federal party in Canada which asserts that it is “founded on its anti-globalist, Pro-Canadian, and Canadian people, and Canada First agenda.”

The NCA was founded by Stephen Garvey, a former member of the Worldwide Coalition Against Islam who has been very active in protesting M-103, a federal motion that condemns systemic and religious discrimination rooted from Islamophobia. It’s tragic that Garvey, an aspiring politician who failed to obtain a seat in parliament in the 2016 federal election due to his unfounded beliefs, has chosen to dedicate his life to hatred. Immigrants, many of whom have multiple master’s degrees, aren’t stealing your jobs, Garvey — you’re just an extremely incompetent human being who is blinded by his own parochialism.

Canada is a nation founded on immigration. So if the “traditional Canadian” that the NCA is referring to isn’t an Indigenous person, then this entire political party is founded on baseless white supremacism. White supremacists need to embrace the fact that the change in the demographics of Canadian society is an inevitable consequence of the West’s involvement in the Middle East and Pakistan. The rising instability in these countries in a post-9/11 world is exactly why highly educated professionals from the Middle East and Pakistan sought to find a home in countries like Canada and New Zealand. This is their home now because you destroyed theirs. 

The idea that immigrants are “stealing jobs” is just an excuse many people make because they’re in denial about their own inadequacy. In a society where Islamophobia and racism run rampant, no one is willing to give an immigrant a handout. The reason immigrants are known for their hard work and perseverance is because they often have to work twice as hard to get half as far as everyone else. 

As a Pakistani-Canadian kid who grew up going to the Genesis Centre, I always considered this community centre to be a safe space for people of colour and immigrant families. It is a place for local South-Asian businesses to promote their products and a source of celebration during Eid prayers, cultural bazaars and dance competitions. It is a place where my own brother tutors and mentors younger immigrant kids in hopes that they have a greater chance of achieving their dreams, too. The fact that this level of discrimination from the NCA against Muslims has stemmed from the death of 50 of them in New Zealand is unfathomably repulsive. The victims of the New Zealand mosque shootings were massacred in cold blood while they were bent down in prayer, a time of utmost vulnerability, both physically and spiritually. 

Did the unidentified white supremacist livestreaming and harassing people at the Genesis Centre, a literal day after the murder of 50 innocent people, expect his actions to be defended in the media as “protectionist”? The pattern here between the incident at the Genesis Centre and the New Zealand mosque shootings is that innocent Muslim immigrants are not the perpetrators of violence but are the most frequent targets of the hate, which stems from the fear of a belief system that many are ignorant about. This is an opportunity for people to get to know their Muslim neighbours and realize they’re not the dangerous terrorists as the media has portrayed them as for years. They’re your accountants, your doctors, your bus and taxi drivers and your engineers. 

Not to sound like a Molson commercial, but you’re not Canadian based on the colour of your skin. You are Canadian based on the values you share with the people around you in society, all striving to make the world we live in a safer place for the next generation, regardless of our race and religion.

Aymen Sherwani is a second-year business (accounting) major at the University of Calgary. She writes a column for the Gauntlet about issues that are affecting students called “Get It Together, People” 

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