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Feature: Canadian Muslims call for government support to combat Islamophobia

Xinhua, February 9, 2017 Adjust font size:

Whether U.S. President Donald Trump's latest travel ban targeting seven Muslim-majority countries inspired the deadly attack on a Canadian mosque is a question that could only be answered by the murderer whose shooting spree left six dead and 19 wounded.

But Alexandre Bissonnette, a 27-year-old resident of Canada's French-speaking province Quebec, where the carnage occurred, might provide some insight into his motivation once he goes on trial for the six counts of first-degree murder and five counts of attempted murder he now faces.

There have been deep concerns within Canada's Muslim community, which comprises the second largest religious group in the country only behind Christianity, that the assault against worshippers at the Islamic Cultural Center in Quebec City is a deadly manifestation of Islamophobia running through the Canadian society.

On Wednesday, a coalition of Canadian and Quebec-based Muslim organizations held a news conference here and released an open letter calling on the government to act against all forms of systemic racism and discrimination against Muslims in Canada.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims, which led the coalition, wanted the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage to undertake a study that could in part gather data on hate crime reports, provide assistance to the impacted communities, and develop a policy to reduce and finally eliminate Islamophobia and other forms of hatred and prejudice in Canada.

Canadian Muslim leaders also recommended that the country's 10 provinces, including Quebec, create a mandatory high school course on systemic racism that focuses on the impacts the xenophobia, anti-Black racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia have on Canadian society.

At the municipal level, the coalition wanted cities to train their police forces on how to both deal with hate crimes and avoid profiling people based on such characteristics as race or religion.

Hate crimes have already been tracked in Canada, and Muslims increasingly targeted, according to the numbers released last year by Statistics Canada.

In 2014, police recorded 99 religiously motivated hate crimes against Muslims across the country, more than double the 45 cases reported in 2012.

Within three days of the massacre in the Quebec capital, police in the province's largest city Montreal received 29 reports of hate incidents, arresting a man charged with uttering threats and inciting hatred through social media.

Mohamed Boudjenane, acting president of the Canadian Arab Federation, called on the Canadian government to enact strong measures to ensure that all Canadians, regardless of their origin, "are protected and feel secure" when traveling to the United States.

However, as the Muslim groups said, the Canadians they represent need to be protected and feel safe at home. Ottawa has provided some assistance in this regard by offering to partly cover the cost of security at Canadian mosques. Endi