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On Tuesday, Ottawa’s official Islamophobia watchdog, Amira Alghawaby, cited figures from the Toronto Police saying that while antisemitic hate crimes were up 200 per cent, hate crimes against Muslims and Arabs had spiked by 900 per cent.
The statement makes it seem like hate incidents against Muslims are dramatically outpacing hate incidents against Jews. But the exact opposite is true. Of the 98 hate crime occurrences recorded by Toronto Police since Oct. 7, 56 were against Jews, while 20 were against Muslims and Arabs.
Alghawaby was able to cite the 900 per cent figure only because Toronto Jews already faced outsized levels of hate crime. For the same period in 2022, there were 18 antisemitic hate crimes versus two committed against Muslims or Arabs.
In the more than two months since the Oct. 7 massacre, Canadian politicians have often made a point of never condemning antisemitism without also condemning Islamophobia. Last month, after bullets were fired into two Montreal-area Jewish schools, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in his official reaction “violence, hate, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia … all of that is unacceptable.”
According to the available evidence, however, the two are not the same: Since Oct. 7, incidents of anti-Jewish hate have far outstripped those against Muslims — while being directed against a much smaller population.
Montreal, like Toronto, has been a centre of extremist anti-Israel rallies. And while police-reported anti-Islam and antisemitic incidents have both risen considerably, Jews have been getting the brunt of it.
In the first month after Oct. 7, Montreal Police tallied 17 hate crimes against the Arab-Muslim community and 48 against the city’s Jews — a spread of almost 300 per cent.
Antisemitic incidents are also of a severity that aren’t showing up in recent incidents reported against Canadian Muslims and Arabs. This would include the recent arrest of an Ottawa 15-year-old who allegedly possessed bomb-making materials and intended to use them against Jewish targets.
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In addition, it’s been exclusively Jewish addresses targeted by attempted fire bombings, including a synagogue and two Jewish community centres hit by improvised petrol bombs in Montreal.
Although, in late November the Toronto Islamic Centre reported a man assaulting several people outside their front door with a bike chain. A 28-year-old arrested for the attack is also suspected in two bear spray assaults against visibly Muslim individuals in the surrounding area.
In the wake of this and other incidents, Muslim communities have noted that it was only six years ago that a Quebec City mosque was subjected to one of the worst hate-motivated attacks in Canadian history. In Jan. 2017, a Quebec 27-year-old motivated by racist, anti-immigrant sentiments shot and killed six worshippers at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City.
In a Wednesday Angus Reid Institute poll, Canadians ranked the country’s anti-Muslim prejudice as being almost exactly on par with its anti-Jewish prejudice. Of respondents, 22 per cent said anti-Muslim hatred and prejudice is “a major problem requiring serious attention,” while 26 per cent said the same about antisemitism.
The majority, however, characterized both issues as “a problem, but one among many others.”
These figures changed dramatically when directed at either Jews or Muslims. Three-quarters of Jewish respondents said antisemitism was a “major problem requiring serious attention” and another 23 per cent said it was a problem “among others.” Among Muslims, meanwhile, nearly half said antisemitism was either a “minor problem” (17 per cent) or “not a problem at all” (32 per cent). Thirty-eight per cent thought it was a problem among others.
When Muslims were asked about anti-Muslim prejudice, 48 per cent said it was a major problem with 38 per cent saying it was a problem among others. Among Jews, 26 per cent said anti-Muslim prejudice was a major problem, 55 per cent said it was a problem among others and only four per cent said it was “not really a problem.”
While Muslims may not be receiving the same number of hate incidents as Jews, the Angus Reid Institute poll does add to data showing that Canadian perceptions of Islam have dropped precipitously in recent months. The survey asked Canadians to give their impression of whether select religious groups were “benefiting” or “damaging” Canadian society. Only Islam attracted a plurality of respondents characterizing it as “damaging” (43 per cent), against 13 per cent who called it beneficial.
IN OTHER NEWS
Toronto just announced that it is removing the Dundas name from several civic landmarks due to its alleged associations with slavery. As has been detailed in this newsletter, those associations are pretty tenuous. But Toronto may well have replaced the Dundas name with a word that’s just as associated with slavery if not more. The city’s iconic Yonge-Dundas Square will be renamed Sankofa Square. The word is taken from Ghana’s Akan people, who just happen to have been one of West Africa’s most enthusiastic slave traders at the height of the Atlantic slave trade. As noted by National Post columnist Rahim Mohamed, it’s still a fine word, but helps to illustrate that history “is complicated.”
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