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      Vancouver Out in the Streets: No to Islamophobia!

      By Janine Solanki

      Islamophobia has been on a steady rise for years, but since the election of Donald Trump it has taken a sharp and dangerous spike. Following months of Islamophobic rhetoric from Trump, on January 27, 2017 newly inaugurated President Trump signed an executive order banning nationals from seven Muslim-majority nations from entering the United States. This was quickly recognized as a racist, Islamophobic Muslim ban and met with huge protests at airports and city centers across the US, from people of all faiths and backgrounds.

      This state-sponsored Islamophobia has done much to encourage and embolden racist attacks in both the US and Canada. This was made tragically clear on January 29th when a terrorist attack on the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec in Quebec City, Canada, resulted in six Muslim men being gunned down and killed. The terrorist in this case was a white man who supported Donald Trump. While this attack got the attention of the news, in Canada there are often unreported incidents of arson attacks, racist graffiti and vandalism against mosques, Muslim women being attacked for wearing the hijab, and other Islamophobic attacks.

      February 4

      In Vancouver, peace and justice loving people felt the necessity to come together against Islamophobia. On Saturday February 4th, members of the Muslim community in Vancouver organized “Love Over Fear: Rally Against Islamophobia”. The rally was preceded by a vigil at the Vancouver mosque Al-Jamia Masjid, before nearly a thousand people from all faiths and backgrounds filled the Jack Poole Plaza in Downtown Vancouver. Protesters held candles in the freezing snow and many brought handmade signs, some saying “Love Over Hate” “Refugees Welcome” “in Solidarity with Our Muslim Community” “We Stand with Muslims” and “If You Build a Wall My Generation will Knock it Down!” Many people stopped to take a photo beside a banner reading “No to Islamophobia! No to War and Occupation!” brought by Mobilization Against War and Occupation (MAWO). The rally featured prayers and speakers from many different faiths and organizations, with a message of love and unity.

      February 25

      A few weeks later on Saturday February 25th, Vancouverites came together again to continue standing against Islamophobia. On this day the infamous “Trump Tower” hotel in Downtown Vancouver was having its official opening with two of Donald Trump's sons, which was met with protests. This rally, organized by two young Muslim women in high school, was called under the banner “Resist 4 Peace” against Islamophobia. The rally started off with a welcoming by Indigenous elder Kelly White, powerful drumming and a speech from Musqueam Indigenous activist Cecilia Point to bring attention to Canada's colonial history and the fact that this rally was taking place on unceded Indigenous land. After a program of speakers, high school student and rally organizer Nora Fadel led hundreds of protesters in marching and chanting through the streets, up to the US Consulate. At the US Consulate a moment of silence was held, and the entire crowd turned their backs to the US Consulate. The march then returned to the Jack Poole Plaza and heard from some final speakers, including a passionate poem from high school student Angie and a speech calling for unity against Islamophobia, war and occupation by Azza Rojbi, executive committee member of MAWO.

      With these actions and more Vancouverites are joining people around the world who are organizing and protesting against Islamophobia. In response to fear mongering and hate, more and more stories are coming out of communities standing up for each other, especially between Muslim and Jewish communities. Another rally will be held under the banner of “Love Over Fear: Rally Against Racial Discrimination” on Sunday March 19th at 11am at Jack Poole Plaza (1085 Canada Place, Downtown Vancouver).

      No to Islamophobia!
      No to War and Occupation!

      Follow Janine Solanki on Twitter: @janinesolanki

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