As the details of the massacre committed in Canada in recent days are further revealed, the extent of the Islamophobic craze threatening the country has also been exposed. While in reality the victim of the incident is a Pakistan-origin family of five, the real threat of this terrorist violence that targeted them is Canada itself, both as a country and a society. The details revealed in relation to the attack are truly horrific. The driver, who plowed his pickup truck into pedestrians on the footpath in the city of London, Ontario, killed four people, one of them a 15-year-old girl, and heavily injured a 9-year-old boy.
National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) Chief Executive Officer Mustafa Farooq says, a man got into his vehicle, and seeing a Muslim family walking, he decided that they did not deserve to live. The aggressor did not know the victims. The first identification that formed in his mind in relation to them was nothing other than the fact that they are Muslim.
Quebec City was scene to a mosque attack in 2017, in which six people died and five were injured. Thus, the Muslims in Canada had become acquainted with Islamophobic violence. While stating that all such attacks are a terror attack targeting Canadian territory, and that the matter should be approached in this respect, Farooq is also touching on a social principle regarding which Canada is most sensitive.
Canada’s multiculturalism policies are widely known to be a level ahead of the rest of the world. So much so that there is even a special ministry of multiculturalism to regulate the duty of evaluating the demands of different ethnic and religious groups and expanding their areas of freedom accordingly. Since its population is completely based on migration, this is a complete matter of presence and perpetuity even for Canada.
Canada has no other option but to represent multiculturalism at the highest level. Any ethnic or religious hate that is a threat to the multicultural fabric will drive the country to collapse. Thus, while providing an atmosphere of freedom, which will ensure that the Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists, indigenous populations, Jews, Christians, or Muslims practice their faiths freely, which will prevent any harm to their freedoms in this respect, there is also a fully institutionalized sensitivity, which will ensure this is regulated in a manner that maintains social stability.
The Canada model, which has served as a resource for numerous philosophies and literature on multiculturalism, faced its real test regarding tolerance towards Muslims. It is seen that though Canada achieved success in tolerance boundaries and the multiculturalism model against all other segments, it faced a great crisis in terms of Muslims – it fails to prevent the increasing Islamophobic discourses and actions.
In fact, the way to prevent such actions is possible by considering discourses as actions as well. In an atmosphere which even criticizing Israel’s felonious aggressions is immediately labeled as anti-Semitism, the hate speech spread about Muslims and Islam by fanatical enemies of Islam is considered to be within the scope of freedom of expression, and is thus not even subjected to any sort of control or criticism. There is no doubt that this presents a serious question of perpetuity for Canada to the extent this situation stirs violence against Muslims and anti-Islam sentiment, and for the U.S. to the extent its claims are similar.
Yet, while we are complaining about Islamophobia in Canada or other non-Muslim countries, we continue to encounter worse Islamophobic discourses and actions right under our noses.
A hijabi academic, Neşe Nur Akkaya and her friend were sitting at a park in Istanbul’s upscale residential area, Nişantaşı, when Eray Çakın attacked them with punches after saying, “We do not want the likes of you here. Go elsewhere, to Gaziosmanpaşa.” Çakın’s attack is like a warning that we first need to solve Islamophobia in our own country before we can solve it in Canada, the U.S., or in Europe. Yet, what other than anti-Islamic sentiment was the hijab ban, which was implemented in this country for years? This ban was not solely a practice – it was accompanied by a series of discourses as well. All the discourses used to legitimize or explain that ban did nothing other than strengthen anti-Islamic sentiment.
Though we open this subject with how the aggressor’s behavior in Nişantaşı, an area that is encoded in our minds as the self-proclaimed center of modern life, represents the most archaic hillbillysm, it is futile. We have always seen the anti-Islam circles in Turkey that consider themselves worthy of the “modern-secular” label in all its glory exhibit the most brutal and most savage behaviors against women through this excuse. The understanding that believes it has the right to dictate to women what they should and should not wear, and forced women to obey this, did even this cowardly for years by hiding behind the shield of state rules.
This understanding, which we are thankful that it may be a thing of the past, re-emerges like a zombie whenever it finds the opportunity, and when it does, all vulgar, despicable, anti-Islam circles remind of their ugly face again.
Islamophobia contains an element of fear, and unfortunately it is a denomination that can present it as legitimate at certain levels. Yet, the aggressor in this case does not seem to be in fear at all. On the contrary, he is the one spreading fear through his coarseness and aggression. May God forbid.