Dufferin News Municipal Politics

Dufferin Muslim Groups Make Demand of Local Politicians

Local Muslim Group Requires Support For Palestinian Rights From Dufferin Politicians

Local Muslim organizations are wielding their political strength to demand Dufferin County’s politicians support fundamental human rights for Palestinians abroad.

On May 18, 2021, the following was posted to the Facebook accounts of the Muslims of Dufferin and the Muslims of Shelburne Centre accounts.

“All Politicians: Next time you visit any Canadian Mosque during an election campaign, please be sure to bring public evidence of your support for Palestinian rights. (Printed or digital).”

The message from the local religious groups ended as below.

“Not following this recommendation may lead to an election loss.”

As reported by the New York Times, the latest rise in hostilities between Israelis and Palestinians stems from Israeli police officers raiding the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem during the first day of Ramadan. The intent was to shut down the prayer broadcast. There were concerns that it would drown out the Israeli president’s speech for the country’s memorial day. The Times says the police declined to comment, but six mosque officials confirmed the details. Twenty-seven days later, a rocket was fired from Gaza, leading to the swift resumption of war between Israel and Hamas, a militant group in charge of the Gaza Strip. Some have called the warfare between the two parties ‘asymmetrical’, as Israel possesses substantially more support and resources. This assertion is strengthened by the fact that the New York Times states Palestinian deaths (at least 145) are over 10x the amount sustained by the Israelis (approximately 12). More details on the conflict, provided by Amnesty International, can be found here

According to the Imam for Muslims of Dufferin and Muslims of Shelburne Centre, Yehya Soliman, an adequate show of support by local politicians could be as simple as putting out a statement acknowledging and demanding an immediate stop to the human rights abuses occurring in Palestinian regions, in addition to calling for steps towards lasting peace.

“They have to be brave enough to say Palestine. This is a country, and they have to help and support them,” declared Imam Soliman to Dufferin News.

It was stressed that there is strength in numbers.

“The politicians know they’re not doing anything wrong,” explained the imam. “When we all do this, there will be solidarity and equity.”

Imam Soliman articulated to Dufferin News that the charge placed upon politicians is not about religion; it is about humanity.

“There are Christian Palestinians, Jewish Palestinians, Sikhs, Hindus, atheists. It doesn’t matter, they’re all dying.”, speaks Imam Soliman. “These people don’t have anybody to stand up for them.”

The average age of those residing in Palestinian territories is relatively young. According to the CIA World Factbook, 42.53% of those living in the Gaza strip are under the age of fourteen. Another 21.67% is between 15-24 years of age. The West Bank has a slightly older population, not by much, though, with over 55% under 24. UNICEF reported that at least 40 kids, with half being under the age of 10, were killed between May 10 and May 15, 2021. Even more were injured.

“The scale of violence is massive. Children are bearing the brunt of this escalation,” said Ted Chaiban, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

When asked if it was just those campaigning for federal and provincial seats in Dufferin that needed to make their support for Palestinian human rights known, Imam Soliman stated that these expectations are of presumptive leaders at all levels. He mentioned that there appeared to be ‘double standards’ among those who champion different human rights causes globally but ‘just close their eyes’ to what is happening with the Palestinians and other peoples.

“We have to see everyone and treat them equally around the world,” insists Imam Soliman. “They’re human beings just like us.”

Imam Soliman emphasized the importance of community and coming together, locally and globally, particularly with the Jewish community.

“We need to tell them ‘we love you like you love us. We all built this world together.'” shared the imam, highlighting that commonality of belief isn’t required for peace. “There are so many people; they’re not religious and they have great manners—more than millions of religious people.”

One local politician has already responded to the call put out by the local Muslim groups and is calling on his peers to join him. The below was posted to Facebook by Shelburne’s Deputy Mayor Steve Anderson on May 18.

“I want to lend my voice and platform to call for an immediate ceasefire in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. International laws must be respected and the senseless loss of innocent lives on both sides must come to an end! I encourage all of our elected officials, to use their voices and platforms to encourage peace and not war. A peaceful resolution respecting human rights is the only way forward.”

Dufferin News will provide updates on whether more of Dufferin County’s politicians will openly advocate for Palestinians to have access to their fundamental human rights.

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