Somali-Canadian rapper K'naan reacts to use of his song by anti-M103 demonstrators in Toronto
Apparent irony of group's use of song Wavin' Flag not lost on K'naan, who fled Somalia as a refugee
Somali-Canadian rapper K'naan is speaking out after a group appeared to use his song Wavin' Flag as the unlikely backdrop while protesting an anti-Islamophobia motion outside Toronto's city hall on Saturday.
The video posted to Twitter shows a group holding signs opposing M-103, a motion tabled in 2016 by MP Iqra Khalid to "condemn Islamophobia and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination."
All the while, the song by the Toronto-raised rapper, who fled Somalia as a refugee, can be heard playing in the background.
They're playing "Waving Flag" again. Here's a video. <a href="https://t.co/6veBMm9Ioc">pic.twitter.com/6veBMm9Ioc</a>—@canice
As it made the rounds on social media, K'naan himself caught wind of the video — and didn't mince words upon seeing it.
'Bigots' putting satirists out of work, rapper tweets
Everyone wants to complain about robots putting humans out of work but what about bigots doing the same to satirists? <a href="https://t.co/O4IX3b3WcL">https://t.co/O4IX3b3WcL</a>—@KNAAN
M-103 is a non-binding motion — not a bill or a law. Contrary to mischaracterizations by some critics, it has no legal force. It will be debated again in April.
Saturday's protest against the motion was organized by the Canadian Coalition of Concerned Citizens, which bills itself on Facebook as "an advocacy group comprised of men and women from all walks of life." The group's page has nearly 3,000 followers.
Earlier this week, the group's founder Georges Hallak told CBC Toronto the opposition stems from the worry that M-103 could stifle free speech. The motion has also sparked fierce debate in the House of Commons and beyond.
"I've talked to many Canadians that are very worried that the freedom of speech is going to be little by little taken away from us, whereas we cannot even mention anything regarding Islam and Shariah law," Hallak said.
While the group describes itself as pro-free speech, it has also come under fire for an apparent anti-immigrant stance.
'Unfair painting of protesters,' group argues
That's a concern that wasn't lost on the group as it planned for Saturday's rally. It asked demonstrators to create signs that focused squarely on M-103 and freedom of speech, rather than taking an overtly anti-Muslim tone.
A post on the group's event page on March 2 addressed to fellow "Freedom Marchers" states: "We have seen how previous, particularly anti-Islamization/anti-Shariah marches failed in the hearts and minds of the general public and in the media when signs were used using, 'NO MUSLIMS' or 'BAN ISLAM.'"
"The only results achieved from such marches were the unfair painting of those protesters as bigots," the post continues, saying such messaging has hindered and undermined the group's aim, which it described as having the public "rekindle their sense of Canadian patriotism to stand up for our rights of free speech and freedom of expression."
Speaking to CBC Toronto on Sunday, Hallak said he didn't choose the rapper's song himself but thinks K'naan misunderstood the group's goal.
"It looks like we're trying to divide people but we're are not. We are trying to get a message across that we are not happy," he said.
"It's not a question of hate even though there are obviously some hateful people," he said. "I cannot control everyone that's hateful."
For his part, K'naan offered another chant for the group's future use:
Just thought of a chant they could sing: "we want the work, not the force, we want the knowledge, not the source... <a href="https://twitter.com/canice">@canice</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/goldsbie">@goldsbie</a> (cont) <a href="https://t.co/CVWSEjLckA">https://t.co/CVWSEjLckA</a>—@KNAAN
Chant cont'd "we want the fruit, not the tree, let's sing the song! Oh god, don't tell me it's by a Somali refugee" <a href="https://t.co/CVWSEjLckA">https://t.co/CVWSEjLckA</a>—@KNAAN
With files from Adrian Cheung