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October 9, 2015

Scapegoating Muslims

Judith Maclean Miller

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The attack on the niqab is, quite simply, an attack on Muslims. It is the despicable tactic of a government, in this case the Conservative government of Canada, determined to hold power at any cost.

Voters are encouraged to link the niqab, terrorism, Muslim extremists, migrants and wars in the Middle East. They are urged to be afraid.

We do not often use the word “scapegoat.” But we should think about it.  To “scapegoat” is to blame an individual or a group unfairly.  More than that, to scapegoat was long ago to load sins onto a goat and drive it into the desert to die. Centuries ago it was done to goats. We are doing it to people.

This government has loaded onto Muslims all sorts of imagined sins, but in addition it has loaded on its own sins and shortcomings.

Targeting Muslims in the way Stephen Harper and his government are doing is a way to distract attention, to move it away from their own sins of commission and omission, their lies and failure to serve the population of Canada, humiliating the civil service, burning books, cutting grants to vital services including the CBC, stifling scientific inquiry, limiting immigration, neglecting immigrants and refugees . . . the list is horrendous.

Sadly, many Canadian citizens have followed the example of their government. Instead of looking closely into the reasons why we have unemployment, shrinking social services, a lower standard of living, a sense of unease, we have accepted the distraction and have focused on blaming (scapegoating) Muslims.

Encouragingly, there are some signs of sober second thought, as people realise that this shoddy politics of blaming and targeting, of hate crimes, is not the Canadian way, not something we want to participate in. There are alternatives--political leaders who take principled stands, who believe in inclusion and generosity. We must vote.

Personally, I feel compelled to offer an apology to Muslims and to other recent immigrants who have been treated so badly. I am aware that we are all immigrants in this place and that together we have been trying to build a society of compassion and cooperation. It gets cold here. We need one another.

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