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Amira Elghawabi, a human rights advocate and journalist, pointed out that the specific sentence from a 2019 co-authored article that has sparked outrage—that Quebecers were affected by anti-Muslim sentiment—was not her opinion, but rather, a statement of the findings of a survey.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stood by his newly appointed special representative to combat Islamophobia as the country marked the sixth anniversary of the deadly Quebec City mosque shooting, while the Quebec government and federal Conservatives called on Amira Elghwabi to step aside.

The hue and cry over his appointment in Quebec dominated the headlines. The backlash stemmed from a 2019 article co-authored by Ms Elghwabi – a particular line of which was perceived as showing anti-Quebec sentiment. The article protested Bill 21, a Quebec law that prohibits certain public servants from wearing religious symbols such as the hijab.

In an interview with The Globe and Mail, Ms. Elghwabi, a human rights advocate and journalist, explained that the specific sentence that has sparked anger – that Quebecers appear to be affected by anti-Muslim sentiment – ​​was not her opinion, but rather, a Description of survey findings.

After being criticized last week, Mr. Trudeau said he expected Ms. Elghwabi to clarify her remarks, which she did, adding that she does not believe Quebecers are Islamophobic. Mr. Trudeau said Monday that he was satisfied and wanted to move forward.

Ms. Elghwabi’s mandate – to support the federal government in rooting out Islamophobia and to highlight the diverse experiences of Canadian Muslims – has become increasingly urgent. In recent years, hate crimes against Muslims have skyrocketed. And, over the past five years, Canada has taken the title of the Group of Seven black nation with the highest number of Islamophobic killings, advocates note.

“There is anti-Muslim sentiment across Canada,” Ms. Elghwabi said. “This is not a Quebec issue. This is a Canadian issue.

Amid the uproar, Ms Elghwabi’s appointment is being celebrated by Muslim and non-Muslim advocates alike.

Stephen Brown, chief executive of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, or NCCM, said he was very pleased with Ms. Elghwabi’s appointment, noting that she has a long history of advocating for Muslims, is bilingual and is very dedicated.

He said the recommendation for the role stemmed from the National Summit on Islamophobia, following the 2021 killing of four members of a Muslim family — the Afzals — in London, Ontario, which police said was motivated by anti-Muslim hatred. Six Muslim men were killed and another 19 were injured in a 2017 Quebec City mosque shooting.

Born in Egypt, Ms. Elghwabi was a child when her family immigrated to Canada, where her father worked for decades as an engineer with the federal government and her mother raised her and her siblings in the East End of Ottawa. Raised in suburbia.

When Ms Elghwabi decided to start wearing a head scarf – while studying journalism at Carleton University in the early 2000s – she remembered her father warning her against it. He worried about the obstacles a visible marker of faith might pose, he said.

“I remember telling him, ‘I really believe that Canada is a place where I can wear a head scarf and I can still contribute and I can still be successful,’” she said. Told.

Despite the realities of Islamophobia – realities that cause her to be cautious at the mosque – Ms Elghwabi said she always had high hopes for Canada.

In a career spanning more than two decades, Ms. Elghwabi has written for CBC News and served as a contributing columnist for the Toronto Star; Founding Board Member of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network; and worked with the National Council of Canadian Muslims and, more recently, for the Canadian Race Relations Foundation.

In interviews, several people said Ms. Elghwabi is known for her work building connections in communities.

Debbie Douglas, executive director of the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, told Ms Elghwabi she is deeply concerned about how Islamophobia is intertwined with issues of anti-semitism alongside women’s rights and anti-black racism.

“She calls attention to the need for real bridge-building and conversation,” Ms. Douglas said. “You often find that where there’s a lot of cross-cultural communication happening.”

Bernie Farber, president of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, called Ms Elghwabi “the perfect appointment”.

He said, ‘We are living in very bad times. “Most people let the darkness cover us. Amira is quite the opposite. She insists that there is Prakash.

He said Ms. Elghwabi has been instrumental in bringing the Jewish and Muslim leadership together for a difficult conversation. He also described doing training for police agencies – that on antisemitism and that on Islamophobia.

And together, the pair wrote a 2019 column that was criticized by some.

The pair wrote: “Sadly, the majority of Quebecers are swayed not by the rule of law, but by anti-Muslim sentiment. A survey conducted by Lager Marketing earlier this year found that those with negative views of Islam 88 percent of Quebecers supported the ban.

Ms. Elghwabi said the pair had seen the Montreal Gazette’s reporting on the poll, which noted that “anti-Muslim sentiment appears to be the main motivation for those who support a ban on religious symbols,” and that polling A majority of Quebecers supported Bill 21.

The NCCM’s Mr. Brown said that when Léger put out those numbers, it didn’t seem to anyone that Léger was “bashing Quebec”.

Sarah Mushtaq, a community advocate in Windsor, Ontario, who writes columns for the Windsor Star, said Ms Elgawabi’s kindness and wisdom – and ability to navigate stressful issues – have made an impact on her.

Being a Muslim in the public sphere means that, sometimes, “no one is happy with what you said,” she said.

“You never know how some comments are going to be dug up and misunderstood,” she said.

He said the role of a federal representative dedicated to combating Islamophobia is “long overdue” and it is important that a Muslim woman is filling it.

“Despite the naysayers, there are a lot of people who are grateful that this role exists,” she said. “We’re after him.”

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