Ubuntu - we belong in a greater whole and are diminished when others are humiliated or diminished ~ Desmond Tutu
Recently dozens of flyers were distributed anonymously to mailboxes in Edmonton. Referring to Islam as a violent and "delusional seventh-century cult," they constitute the latest incident of hate in the city.
Now is the time to go beyond the online hashtag campaigns to confront systemic racism and hatred institutionally. An example is MacEwan's campaign against sexual violence and cultivation of a culture of consent.
It is equally important for a diverse array of community stakeholders to reach out to one another and issue joint responses against hatred in any of its ugly forms. This includes racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, homophobia and transphobia.
While it is important to protect free speech, it is also equally important not to let hate speech go unchecked, whether it is overtly from cowardly racists who dare not show their faces or subtly from hatemongors who hide behind the thin veneer of religious expression.
Unchecked hate speech has indoctrinated generations and fostered the systemic discrimination and persecution of Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan. Canada cannot afford to go down that path of hatred.
The flyers allude to the death punishments in Islam against apostasy and blasphemy. It is true that medieval Islamic legal manuals contain a whole array of capital punishments and some popular speakers espouse such punishments under an idolized theocratic Islamic State.
Canada is a democracy, not a theocracy. Ismaili, Ahmadi, LGBT and progressive Muslims categorically reject such laws and punishments. We believe a vast array of Sunni and Shia Muslims also reject the same. Indeed, a broad coalition of Muslims can unreservedly send out a strong message against draconian medieval laws and isolate popular exclusivists who taint religion with exclusivism and supremacism.
The LGBT community in Edmonton stands firmly against oppression be it against blacks, Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hindus, Sikhs or others. The reason is simple. We stand at the intersection of so many other communities.
We are a sexually, ethnically and religiously diverse community. Having borne the brunt of prejudice and hatred, we stand against racism and hatred in any of its ugly manifestations.
Specifically, the following LGBT community leaders would like to reach out to their Muslim family and friends to stand by them in this hour. We want them to know to not be afraid for they are not alone.
We stand by you!
Dr. Junaid Jahangir
Frank Testin, Dignity Canada
Larry Derkach, Chair of McDougall United Church Council and Executive Director of Jewish Family Services
Rev. Dr. Nancy Steeves
Mickey Wilson, Executive Director, Pride Centre of Edmonton
Dr. Kristopher Wells
Dr. Alvin Schrader
*A version of this letter was published in the Edmonton Journal here.
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