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  Challenging Racism and Violence in the Media Through Education  

 
 

Arab, Muslim and Anti-racism groups call for an end to discrimination 

(Canadian Arab Federation (CAF) - 09 September 2002)

Arab, Muslim and anti-racism groups came together to remember the victims of September 11 and to call on Canadians to reflect on the diminishing civil liberties and the legal, social and political changes in Canada over the past year. 

“Today, as we commemorate the tragic and fateful events of September 11, 2002, it behooves us as a society to reflect on how we have handled ourselves over the past year in the face of fear, hate and violence,” said Raja Khouri, CAF National President. 

The Canadian Arab Federation (CAF), Muslim Lawyers Association (MLA) and National Anti-Racism Council of Canada (NARC) examined the impact of racism, mass detentions, the Anti-terrorism Act, and the actions of CSIS on the Arab and Muslim communities.  They found an overwhelming sense of fear, alienation and marginalization.

These communities are being “viewed as suspect and having to explain themselves as loyal citizens.  Arabs, Muslims and other minorities have had to defend their religion and demonstrate its goodness, and at times have hidden or denied their ethnicity in a bid to escape scrutiny,” said Mr. Khouri.  The effect on our communities is that, like our Japanese Canadian counterparts during World War II, we too have become victims of psychological internment.”

CAF released the findings of a comprehensive, national study of the needs and aspirations of Arab Canadians held between November 2001 and February 2002, titled Arabs in Canada: Proudly Canadian and Marginalized.  The study found that while Arab Canadians are proud to be part of Canada’s culturally diverse society and are integrating well into Canadian life, they face racism and discrimination and government indifference to their concerns.

NARC, which has been monitoring the effect of September 11th on communities of colour and immigrant and refugee communities, criticized the Canadian government's actions following the fateful tragedy.   “We are extremely concerned that our government has in fact engaged in activities which reinforce racial hatred, particularly towards Canadians of Arab descent and the Muslim faith, and towards immigrants and refugees,” said Avvy Go of NARC. “The Anti-terrorism Act only adds to the illogical fear about Muslim and Arab Canadians and makes racial profiling a legitimate measure to counter terrorism.”

In commenting on the Anti-terrorism Act, Ziyaad Mia of the MLA said the Canadian government, motivated more by economic fears than the fear of terrorism, “cynically used the hysteria of fear and emergency to justify the introduction of unprecedented and permanent powers, many of which are an affront to the fundamental principles of justice and threaten our civil rights.”

Mr. Mia called on the Canadian government to undertake a number of measures, among them:

1.  Act decisively to ensure that Muslims and Arabs in Canada are not vilified or stigmatized

2.  Engage Canadians in an open, accessible and inclusive public review of the need for the Anti-terrorism Act

3.  Undertake an open, accessible and inclusive public review of the use of police and CSIS powers in the fight against terrorism

4.  Undertake a substantive review of the impact of police and CSIS powers under the Anti-terrorism Act on Canada’s Muslim, Arab and other minority communities

CAF today also released CSIS and Your Rights: An Arab Canadian Guide, listing the role of CSIS, the rights of Canadian citizens in dealing with it, and guidelines and resources for community members.  CAF feels that in light of the recent history of CSIS’s dealings with the Arab and Muslim communities, such a guide is warranted to prevent abuses and ensure everyone is aware of their rights.

The complete and summary versions of the study report Arabs in Canada: Proudly Canadian and Marginalized and CSIS and Your Rights: An Arab Canadian Guide may be downloaded from CAF’s web site at www.caf.ca


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