Former Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi is urging politicians to stand up for Amira Elghawaby
Former Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi addressed concerns about Islamophobia in Canada virtually before the Senate Committee on Human Rights Monday afternoon.
During his presentation, the former mayor urged politicians to stand up for Amira Elghawaby, Canada’s first special envoy to counter Islamophobia.
Elghawaby has been mired in controversy since being tapped to the role as a result of a 2019 opinion column on Quebec’s religious symbols law — widely known as Bill 21 — that she co-authored. She has since apologized.
Nenshi, who was a vocal critic of Bill 21, says he has been “extremely upset” at the lack of political response to the situation in recent weeks.
“The fact that the special adviser was intimidated, harassed, lectured, forced to meet with people who aren’t interested in listening to her but are interested in scoring political points with her — to me, really lifts a lot serious problem in our country,” Nenshi said in his presentation.
He points to steps the Alberta government has taken to prevent vandalism of religious institutions, but says it only goes so far. Politicians must also stand up for those who are affected by hatred, he says.
“I thought it was important to make a statement in the corridors of power in Ottawa, in the institutional framework of government, to say, ‘People… as a politician, you have to actually be able to have a little bit more guts,'” Nenshi said at 6 p.m. on the CBC Calgary News.
“We talk about it as if it’s about courage or bravery to stand up for people, but it really isn’t. It’s the easiest thing in the world and it’s really all about doing the right thing.”
recommendations to the government
At the meeting, Nenshi was asked to list three recommendations for the committee to make to the government to tackle Islamophobia.
“I would like to see this committee directly condemn religiously bigoted laws in this country, including Bill 21 in Quebec,” he said.
The committee must also emphasize the importance of accepting people from different religious backgrounds, he says, and make a strong statement on anti-racism and anti-religious bigotry.
Nenshi says he knows the committee can’t legislate, but they can take moral positions with the federal government.
“It really comes down to rethinking the permission space officers have to do their jobs so they can do them better,” Nenshi said in an interview with CBC News.
“We have to do our part”
Imam Fayaz Tilly of the Muslim Council of Calgary says it is important for Nenshi to address Islamophobia in the country.
“I think it’s important that we don’t hide behind Canada’s multiculturalism,” Tilly said. “Unfortunately, in the last five or six years, Canadians have had someone [are] Muslims have been survivors – if not unfortunately victims – of hate and anti-Islamic rhetoric.”
According to Statistics Canada, the number of police-reported hate crimes against Muslim religions increased by 71 percent from 2020 to 2021.
Tilly says individuals and all levels of government must do what they can to curb this hatred or the Muslim community will become increasingly vulnerable to hate crimes.
“We have to do our part, we have to raise our voices, we have to use our resources to ensure that not only my community or my own generation, but the generation to come are safe and have equal opportunities.”