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EDITORIAL: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, will now have to do more than acknowledge that "Islamophobia is real. Racism is real" and that "we must stand together and say no to hatred" as his country and indeed the rest of the world struggles to come to terms with the brutal, cold-blooded murder of four members of a Pakistani-Muslim family in Ontario. Information about the 20-year-old killer, who drove his pickup truck over the family in plain sight, is still sketchy for some reason but it is clear that this was one of those crimes where the victims, perfectly law-abiding citizens, were targeted just for their religion - the faith they professed, the kind of clothes they chose to wear, etc.

The government of Pakistan is right to call this attack an act of terrorism because a young man deciding to crush to death an innocent, harmless family with his vehicle one fine evening just because he didn't like who they were and where they came from is indeed the most naked form of terrorism. The poor family was, after all, the epitome of the good, hard-working, middle-class immigrants that chose to make Canada their home because they felt it would give them a better chance to live peacefully and progress. Now their lives have been cut short in the most brutal way possible and the youngest member of their family, a nine-year-old boy who is expected to survive his serious injuries, is left alone in this world with the burden of this great grief.

It's pretty clear that not only does the Canadian government suddenly find itself pretty helpless in the face of hate crimes against minorities, it is also struggling to control ugly xenophobic cleavages that are widening in their midst. Because the large gathering to mourn the victims, for which Canada's special pandemic rules banning just such large gatherings had to be lifted, attracted non-Muslim minorities as well, a lot of whom complained of hate crimes and even spoke of instances where they had been physically attacked in broad daylight; though mercifully not with guns or trucks. In 2019 alone, police reported 1,946 hate crimes in Canada, and though there was a slight reduction in crimes that involved religion, there was still a 10 percent increase in attacks against Muslims over the previous year.

The Trudeau administration is trying to appear front-foot by promising to introduce legislation to do something about online hate speech, but that is not going to be enough to soothe angry and bitter minds at this moment. Canada is now expected to take the lead in putting its foot down and dealing with such crimes as a matter of national emergency. At stake is not just the lives of people and the need to prevent an ugly clash of civilisations of sorts on the main roads of some of the most progressive countries in the world, but also the so-called utopian image of countries like Canada where people like the poor, now dead, Pakistani family can go to and build a better life than they would have been able to in their native countries.

Perhaps Prime Minister Trudeau can take a leaf out of the book of his counterpart in New Zealand. For, the actions of Prime Minister Jecinda Ardern in the aftermath of the horrible mass mosque shooting in her country a couple of years ago, including offering a heartfelt apology on the part of the state and practically bending over backwards to make sure that such things never happen again, won her the respect and admiration of the whole world, especially Muslims. Her devotion to their suffering didn't bring any of their relatives back, but it did make them and a lot of people just like them sleep much better at night. And for countries that, despite their impressive natural endowment and riches, depend on immigrants to run the wheels of their economies, such things ought to matter.

So the world watches as PM Trudeau pulls his sleeves up, hoping for a precedent that will force other countries to acknowledge and tackle Islamophobia, and put the fear of God in young, ignorant upstarts who are allowed to feel that it is fine to load their guns or fuel up their trucks and go hunting completely innocent and defenceless people.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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