KAMLOOPS - As Quebec City recovers from the terrorist attack on a mosque Sunday and the U.S. deals with the fallout from a broad ban on people coming from some Muslim nations, a Kamloops councillor is speaking up for an inclusive community.
Coun. Arjun Singh made a statement to council yesterday, Jan. 31, calling for unity and support of the Muslim community in and around Kamloops and says there’s a dangerous tone in discussions around Muslims and immigrants.
“I think with Muslim-Canadians, Muslim-Americans and Muslims generally around the world right now, there’s definitely some misconceptions on a broad scale about what that religion is and what that culture is like,” he says. “To take any huge religion, or even small religion, and broad brush it with a blanket statement or ban like what’s happening in the U.S., is very troubling.”
He’s concerned American President Donald Trump’s rhetoric is influencing the discussion in Canada bringing with it a troubling level of mistrust.
“The rhetoric in the States, parts of it, are very troubling, especially coming out of the most important seat in the U.S.” he says. “I think it already has [influenced Canada], when you look at Kellie Leitch and potentially Kevin O’Leary, talking about Canadian values, which is a dog whistle for anti-white people, it’s very troubling.”
Singh, who comes from an immigrant family, says Kamloops has a place in the conversation because the city has been a leader in diverse political leadership, from city councillor John Smith Fremont, to Mayor Peter Wing to Len Marchand Sr., the first aboriginal federal cabinet minister. However, racism can exist anywhere.
“People in Canada and Kamloops have experienced racism in many ways through the years,” he says. “Our record as a community is largely very good.”
However, after the shooting in Quebec, it’s important to assure minority groups in Kamloops that they’re supported by the broader community.
“Kamloops is very good around that, mainly, but we need to be vigilant,” he says. “What happened with the mosque shooting in Quebec; we never thought that could happen in Canada.”
To that end, it’s important to be aware of how we label people, he says.
“It’s a very important message that we don’t stigmatize one religion or another, extremism is everywhere,” he says. “This fellow who killed people in Quebec, maybe he was a Christian, maybe he was an extremist Christian, but you don’t necessarily hear those terms put together often these days. What you often hear is Islamic extremism.”
Instead of negativity and division, Singh is hoping community and diversity will remain the norm in Kamloops.
“My major concern is that we don’t enable racists and discriminatory behaviour, we don’t make it ok to say ‘That guy is a Muslim, let me go and bully him, or attack him, or worse,’” he says. “I think it makes it much more important that we all stand up and say there’s a place for women, there’s a place for people from different ethnic backgrounds, different religions.”
Currently a Kamloops group is working to dispel rumours around Islam, for more, click here.
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