It was great seeing everyone who made it out to the rally and march today: from Thorncliffe, Flemingdon and beyond! We sent a strong message of anti-racist solidarity.
Many thanks to our speakers for their inspirational speeches throughout the action:
Check out all the media coverage: Redeye, CBC, CP24, Global, CTV, Toronto Sun and 680 News!
Redeye Collective: Interview with TRT Organizer Zabia Afzal
CBC Toronto: Rally against Islamophobia takes off in city’s north end –http://www.cbc.ca/…/ca…/toronto/rally-islamophobia-1.3329463
CBC: (Video: Extended footage)
CP 24: Residents in two North Toronto neighbourhoods rally against Islamophobia
Global News: Councillor @m_layton at rally against racism we’ve seen in recent days #StandWithMuslimsTO many non Muslims herehttps://twitter.com/PeterKimGlobal/status/668169350914834432
Global News (Video): Rally in Toronto decries recent racism against the Muslim community
CTV: (Live: Video no longer available) #Toronto Community Rally Against Islamophobia
Toronto Sun: Hundreds Rally Against Islamophobia
680 News: Video: Communities joining together to rally against violence, Islamophobia
November 21, 2015
Thorncliffe & Flemingdon Communities Rally Against Islamophobia
Grassroots groups calling for unity against racism impacting Muslim communities in Canada and abroad
Saturday, November 21, 2015, 2pm. Rally at Valley Park Middle School (130 Overlea Blvd)
Toronto – Muslim, immigrant and refugee communities in Flemingdon and Thorncliffe are rallying against Islamophobia after a Muslim woman was assaulted picking up her children from school earlier this week. The attack in Flemingdon Park occurred days after a mosque in Peterborough was burned, a temple in Kitchener was vandalized and a Somali Muslim man was shot by Peel police. Reports have also emerged of multiple Muslim women being targeted on the TTC in recent days and a Black woman being assaulted because her scarf was mistaken for a hijab. Community members are calling for an end to wars of aggression in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq which have fanned Islamophobia in Canada, and exacerbated anti-refugee and anti-immigrant sentiment. Hundreds of local residents are expected to attend.
“The attack on a Muslim woman in Flemingdon on Monday has caused hurt and anger in the local communities, but not shock” says rally organizer Zabia Afzal from Thorncliffe Reach-Out Teach-In. “There’s nothing new or unexpected about racism in Canada, but with each incident our communities are becoming less afraid and more united.”
A Muslim woman was picking up her children from Grenoble Public School in Flemingdon Park on Monday when she was attacked by two men screaming racist and anti-immigrant epithets. She was punched, her hijab was ripped off and her cellphone was stolen.
“To be clear, we condemn both the attacks in Paris and the anti-Muslim attacks that have followed,” adds Suraia Sahar from Afghans United For Justice. “But we must not forget that these are not even glimpses into the terror and violence that people in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq have been suffering for years. Shamefully, this country has a long tradition of actively participating in this imperialist violence which is directly connected to Islamophobic violence here.”
According to Nadia Kanani, a Muslim woman living in Flemingdon Park, “Working class communities like ours are constantly battling injustices in the forms of precarious and exploitative work, poor housing conditions, unequal access to education and being shut out of citizenship. In such a context, incidents like this one can be all the more humiliating and painful. They are an assault on our dignity, and cannot be allowed to continue.”
In the neighbouring, predominantly Muslim community of Thorncliffe Park, residents have had many encounters with Islamophobia over the years. Routine experiences of harassment and abuse have been punctuated by flashpoint conflicts over community institutions. For example, many decried the construction of a local mosque in 1995 under the pretext of inadequate parking spaces. Similarly, there were protests held when the TDSB allowed Muslim children to pray at Valley Park Middle School. In light of this history and given its geographical position as the bridging point between Thorncliffe and Flemingdon, it has been chosen as the site for rallying against islamophobia.
The attack on a Muslim sister in Flemingdon Park is just the latest incident of Islamophobic violence following the Paris attacks last week. Over the weekend, Peterborough’s only mosque was set on fire and a temple in Kitchener was vandalized.
In the face of such racism, when we are being threatened in our own homes, our schools and our communities, it is important that we stand united.
TRT will be organizing a public gathering this Saturday at 2 pm in front of Valley Park Middle School to bring our communities together.
For more information, please check out the facebook event page:
Calling on all residents of Ward 26!
Our MP, John Carmichael, is a firm supporter of the dangerous anti-terror Bill C-51. If it passes, more of us will be labelled as terrorists, arrested, spied on and deported without evidence. Let’s see if he is really interested in representing us! Demand that he vote No for Bill C-51. Sign the petition!
By: Davide Mastracci
On March 21 in Thorncliffe Park, a group gathered to discuss the “twin terrors” facing Muslims in Canada: Islamophobia and imperialism.
The event’s first speaker, Syeda Sadaf, described how Canada has changed for the worse since she arrived from Pakistan nearly a decade ago. Sadaf pointed to Bill C-51, increasing Islamophobia, and a law prohibiting niqabs from being worn at citizenship ceremonies as examples of Canada’s downward spiral.
Sadaf also argued that Muslims must fight back against these intrusions on civil liberties, as opposed to being silent or apologetic. According to Sadaf, “Nothing will be changed by closing your eyes; it will only increase the darkness.”
Sadaf’s statement sums up the consciousness raising mission of the event, held by Thorncliffe Reach-out Teach-in (TRT), a group dedicated to bringing community members “together to discuss and address issues of concern.” Approximately 40 people, mostly Thorncliffe community members, did exactly that in the Jenner Jean-Marie Community Centre.
The range of speakers at the event reflected how intertwined TRT is with the local community.
The event began with a mock citizenship ceremony, put together by a group of teens from the community, that skewered the real process for its nationalist rhetoric, imposition of religious norms as witnessed in the niqab ban, and erasure of Canada’s violent settler history.
The audience who cheered throughout the performance, however, was not just made up of teens. Instead, a large group of parents and elders had also come to find out more about Bill C-51, while their children and others could be heard playing just behind the room’s divider.
Sadia Khan, one of the event organizers, and Riaz Sayani-Mulji, a University of Toronto law student, both gave talks to help inform the community of the new anti-terror legislation.
Khan offered a summary of Canada’s imperialist involvement, from the foundation of the nation on stolen indigenous land, to its current role in military operations in Iraq. Khan noted these missions are often funded by tax dollars, claiming, “Our hard-earned money is going to kill our own people.”
The presentation also looked at the role corporations, as well as Canada’s relations with the United States and Israel, have played in driving Canada into these violent excursions.
Yet Khan noted that Canada has also autonomously embarked on a range of harmful excursions, and therefore deserves to be critiqued to the fullest extent. “Canada is not just a dog, it’s not just a puppet,” Khan said.
Sayani-Mulji’s presentation focused on Bill C-51, with Khan translating his speech into Urdu to ensure the mothers in the audience could fully grasp his message.
Sayani-Mulji asked the crowd how many had experienced first-hand discrimination as Muslims. Most had, citing examples such as getting heckled by passing cars or receiving strange looks on public transport. Sayani-Mulji then noted that, “Islamophobia isn’t just these individual acts, it’s a system.”
Some audience members were completely unaware of Bill C-51, so Sayani-Mulji focused on summarizing the Islamophobic system in Canada, and how the bill will make matters worse. The audience also asked Sayani-Mulji a range of questions, in Urdu and English, and became visibly upset by the range of answers he offered.
The organizers noted the event seemed to achieve its purpose by raising consciousness in a range of Thorncliffe community members, not just the usual crowd of students and activists. As such, it appears Sadaf’s call to action was met, as most who attended the event left with their eyes more open to the ongoing events surrounding them.
Davide Mastracci is a Toronto-based activist and student of journalism. He writes for many news publications. You can follow him on Twitter (@DavideMastracci) or reach him by e-mail at Davide.Mastracci@ryerson.ca
TRT did some research to find out about the candidates who wish to represent us in city council. The positions of each candidate and TRT’s analysis was shared at a community event organized at the TNO Youth Centre. A pamphlet was also created by TRT and distributed to every apartment in the neighbourhood.
The event began with a presentation by Jason Kunin, a high school teacher and Toronto activist, who spoke about the candidates running for Mayor and school trustee. Next, Syed Muhammad and Sadia Khan, both organizers with TRT, delivered a presentation which highlighted the issue of class inequality in Ward 26.On one extreme are average yearly incomes of $250,000 for Leaside, while on the other end is Flemingdon, with the average income of $21,000. Thorncliffe falls close to the lower end at around $38,000. This income inequality determines the kinds of housing conditions families live in, and the kinds of children’s sports facilities and school conditions parents can fundraise for.
Somehow the candidates running in the election missed this reality about this ward. What they couldn’t ignore, however, is the tendency of politicians in Ward 26 to focus unfairly on issues in Leaside while neglecting the concerns of residents in Thorncliffe and other racialized communities. Perhaps this is not surprising. Since the creation of this ward, the councilors have consistently been white.
Another speaker at the event was a high school student, Hamna Naeem. She noted that “it’s just that the politicians don’t look like us, their wallets don’t look like ours either.” The money spent on this campaign by the top two candidates, John Parker and Jon Burnside, is more than what the average Thorncliffe family earns per year!
TRT organizer, Zabia Afzal, noted during her talk that two things become very clear from this. “One, that anyone can run in an election, but not everyone has a real chance of winning it. And two, that voting actually happens twice in this democracy: first, when you sign a cheque to donate money to your favourite candidate, and second, when you cast a ballot for them on election day. Candidates who get more of the first kind of vote have a better chance of getting more of the second kind.”
What does all of this mean for elections and for democracy? It is crucial to recognize when politicians (who are rich themselves, more often than not) present the interests of the rich as the interests of everyone. Class inequality means that everyone’s interests cannot be served equally. As long as this inequality exists it will benefit the rich over the poor in elections, as it does in every other aspect of life.
On July 19, 2014, TRT and CADiP (Campaign Against Drones in Pakistan) joined hands to organize an iftaar discussion and dinner at the Jenner Jean Community Center in solidarity with the victims of the war on the people of Waziristan. Under pressure from the West, the Pakistan military launched Operation Zarb-e-Azab, allegedly to root out militant havens in the region. This came after a decade of smaller operations and drone attacks in the area that have killed tens of thousands and displaced nearly 5 million. Zarb-e-Azab alone has left more than 600,000 homeless, but the operation still continues with no end in sight. Heavy bombardment and use of artillery gunships means that the region has been completely destroyed. Those displaced by the war are living in poorly managed camps, longing to return home. Read the rest of this entry »
When big businesses continue to make billions in profits even in times of widespread joblessness and governments keep repeating their promises of creating jobs, how can we believe that either of them really want to eliminate unemployment and poverty?
In fact, as Professor David McNally argued, unemployment and poverty are conditions deliberately created and maintained in the economic system we live in, capitalism. In order to maintain their high profits, businesses pay their workers the lowest wages possible, to maintain which they need people to be desperate enough to settle for whatever they are offering. There must always, therefore, be more people looking for work than jobs available.
Read the rest of this entry »