Canada Appoints First "Special Representative on Combatting Islamophobia"

After a series of attacks against Muslims in Canada, the Canadian government appointed the country’s first-ever Special Representative on Combatting Islamophobia to fight rising anti-Muslim discrimination and hatred in the country.

On January 26, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the appointment of award-winning journalist and human rights advocate Amira Elghawaby in the new post. The Special Representative on Combatting Islamophobia is mandated to support Canada’s efforts to fight Islamophobia and offer counsel on government programs, legislation, and policies.

Diversity truly is one of Canada’s greatest strengths, but for many Muslims, Islamophobia is all too familiar. We need to change that. No one in our country should experience hatred because of their faith.” Trudeau said in a statement.

He also described Elghawaby’s appointment to the post as “an important step in our fight against Islamophobia and hatred in all its forms.

In Canada, diversity is a fact, but inclusion is a choice. Our government has listened to the lived experiences of Muslim communities from across the country and is taking action in the fight against Islamophobia.” Ahmed Hussen, Canada’s Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion, added.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims advocacy group welcomed Elghawaby’s appointment to the post, calling it a “historic moment for Muslims in Canada.” Elghawaby also previously worked with the organization.

This is the first time the fight against Islamophobia will have an established home in the Canadian government,” Stephen Brown, the advocacy group’s CEO, said in a statement.

According to the Canadian government, the process of choosing the Special Representative started in June last year, and Elghawaby was chosen based on ”an open, transparent, and merit-based selection” conducted for the position. 

Leaders of the Muslim community in Canada have asked federal and state authorities to address issues of racism, hate-driven violence, and the rise of far-right groups for years.

In 2020, researchers discovered that the number of hate groups had tripled recently, with anti-Muslim rhetoric becoming one of the most striking topics among right-wing extremists in online circles.

The Canadian government previously hosted a virtual National Summit on Islamophobia last July 2021 to help identify ways to cooperate with the Muslim community in tackling violence and discrimination against Muslims. One of the recommendations given during the summit was the appointment of a Special Representative.

These efforts came after Canada saw several incidents of deadly attacks and harassment against Muslims, which raised the alarm and sparked calls for action. Four members of a Muslim family were killed in June 2021 when a man ran them over with his truck in London, Ontario. A gunman shot six Muslim men while praying in a mosque in Quebec City in 2017, while a caretaker of a mosque was murdered in Toronto in 2020.

Elghawaby posted a thread on Twitter thanking the Canadian government for her appointment as Special Representative.

I look forward to meeting with elected officials, policymakers, and community leaders across the country to amplify the voices of Canadian Muslims and work together to fight discrimination and hate in all its forms,” Elghawaby wrote.

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