The number of Canadian Muslims has surpassed the 1 million mark, it is also growing at a steady and fast pace, doubling at the turn of each decade for the past 3 consecutive decades according to Statistics Canada. Muslims Canadians now represent 3.2% of Canada’s population, with the median age standing at 28.2 years old. While this may seem like an insignificant number, Canada’s first past the post electoral system gives Muslims a sweeping advantage in many ridings.
Statistics Canada has reported that Muslims compose 12% – 19% of the population in 19 federal ridings across Canada. In those 19 ridings it is highly likely that the impact of Muslims voting can make or break a MPs bid at a seat in parliament. In order to win an election, parties must win the majority of the 650 seats in the House of Commons, giving Muslim Canadians a much more concentrated impact on Canadian politics than many would think. Currently, all three major parties are neck in neck in the polls, never before has every single vote counted as it will in this upcoming elections.
Should the Conservatives hold on to power, the message that Muslims communities have sent to Canadian politicians is quite simple; ‘You can defame us, you can politicize our religion, you can use us as tools of fear, you can ignore our community needs AND you can remain in power.’
Mr. Harper has proven that he does not intend to lend a hand to Muslim communities nor is he
interested in ending their marginalization. In fact he seems to be more interested in marginalizing Muslims and using the fear of “islamicism” to introduce legislation such as the infamous Bill – C51.
Further than this the case may be made that voting in this election is not only a civic duty but an Islamic one.
“The one who sleeps and awakes without being concerned with the affairs of the ummah is not one of us”.
Muslim communities should ask themselves: Will abstaining from voting improve or harm the Muslims of Canada? Will another 4 years of fear mongering by Harper’s Conservatives increase the chances of young Muslims having equal employment opportunity? Will the lack of attention to the rise of Islamophobia improve the student lives of teenage Muslims in their high schools? Better yet, will the unrelenting drive toward increased Canadian military action in Muslim majority countries improve the lives of Muslims abroad?
The importance of the Muslim vote cannot be overstated. It is even evident in the attitudes of other party leaders who seem to understand how important Muslim communities are to the success of their own parties. Canadian-Muslim Vote is an organization which has launched in an effort to engage Muslim communities in Canadian politics. They contacted party leaders for statements they would like to give to the Muslim communities. Mulcair, Trudeau and Elizabeth May all responded with video messages, Harper has of course not yet responded to the organization. Another sign that he really does not care to address or engage Muslim communities, a purely political decision that tells you what you need to know about his attitude towards Muslims.
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by Hassan Haidar