Montreal's Muslim community feels 'used' by political parties

Some leaders in Montreal’s Muslim community are accusing the federal political parties of using their religion to score points with voters.

Canadian Muslim Forum gets calls after NDP election signs defaced with anti-Muslim messages

Several of Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe's campaign signs in Pierrefonds-Dollard were vandalized with this anti-Muslim message. (Submitted by Samer Majzoub)

​Some leaders in Montreal's Muslim community are accusing the federal political parties of using their religion to score points with voters.

This comes after several election campaign signs have been found vandalized with anti-Muslim messages.

"Here we are again — the same situation repeated in each and every political big event, such as elections," said Samer Majzoub, president of the Canadian Muslim Forum.

Majzoub said he got many calls after Montreal Muslims spotted several defaced election signs around the city.

In the riding of Pierrefonds-Dollard, the words "No Muslim, no terrorism"  were scrawled on pieces of paper glued to the signs of NDP candidate Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe.

Majzoub said he called Blanchette-Lamothe's campaign office, and volunteers were dispatched to take down the signs.

On one sign in the Papineau riding, someone spray-painted a niqab over the face of NDP candidate Anne Lagacé Dowson.

Majzoub said members of his community have also complained about the graffiti on a sign of NDP leader Tom Mulcair in Outremont, where vandals also spray-painted a niqab on his likeness.

Montreal police said they were also alerted about the signs by a citizen. No official complaint was filed, however, and no investigation is planned.

Majzoub believes the NDP signs were targeted specifically because of the party's stance on the niqab.

On Wednesday, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said he supports the current requirement that women show their faces at some point in the citizenship process but that they should not be forced to remove a face covering while taking the oath of citizenship.

"This [stance] may not be liked by others," Majzoub said. "It is being used as political foible."

The Bloc Québécois released an ad last week attacking the NDP's position on allowing niqabs during citizenship ceremonies. 

Meanwhile, the Conservatives vowed to reintroduce the niqab ban at citizenship swearing-in ceremonies within 100 days of re-election.

​'This should not be an election issue,' Majzoub says

Majzoub fears a small minority is turning a minor issue that affects few Canadians into a major one.

"We strongly believe it is being used for a political reason, to increase this anti-Muslim sentiment, hoping to earn or reduce the support of the Liberals or NDP, especially in Quebec," Majzoub said, adding that only an extremely small percentage of Canadians wear the niqab.

"I, myself, have been here for 27 years. I haven't ever seen a lady with a niqab, except for on television," he said.

"We're not talking about a majority issue. We're talking about a minority of women with niqabs. So suddenly, to have it on week eight of the elections, it is so clear that it's being used as a political football to earn votes."

With files from Sarah Leavitt


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