My Racist Neighbour and the Barbarian Invasion

This was a note I wrote on Facebook before the Canadian national election in 2015. I am personally relieved that I was wrong about how the anti-muslim rhetoric would give the Conservative Party of Canada an edge, but the subject is as important as ever. Here is the link to the original posting: https://www.facebook.com/notes/faisal-lutchmedial/my-racist-neighbour-and-the-barbarian-invasion/10153674299869108
And below is a copy of the note.
My neighbour went to the police to inform on the Muslim woman who lives in our building, accusing her of hating Canadians, and that a relative of hers who worked in construction was potentially building a bomb. I am unsure about what he thinks about the headscarf she wears.
Yes, she is a hijab wearing Muslim student, and lives with her sister. My neighbour told me that she said something to the effect that she sometimes thought Canadians were stupid, which, let’s be honest, is a thought that goes through most Canadian’s heads from time to time. But my neighbour became deeply suspicious of these sisters, and the man who “they say” was a family member. Why did they come to this country if they thought Canadians were stupid? Who was this man? Why were they so secretive? Were they here to do no good? “Those Islamics”, he said, were invading his precious country and trying to change it into something unrecognizable.
All this would have been easier for him, and people like him, with the new handy “tip line” Conservative government is setting up. Now anyone can hate monger from the privacy of their own home.
I should say that my neighbour is an old bigot who is losing his grip on reality, which is why, after calming down, I concluded nothing would come of this. In all probability the police officer he talked to either ignored him or dropped it quickly after. But I must confess when he first told me what he had done, I lost it. He shuffled away on his walker as I yelled, in no uncertain terms, that people only come here to look for a better life, just like my family. I knew that it was very unlikely that the police would listen to this crazy old man, but it’s exactly this kind of thing that can get on somebody’s record and make life difficult for them. It can affect citizenship, it can affect job opportunities, and it can affect travel / visa approvals. With our country becoming more and more a police state with laws like C-51, a small blemish on your file can destroy your future.
I write fiction, and work in the film and television industry, so this is a subject I think about a lot. I often find myself internet searching things that could raise red flags if anyone was monitoring me. And since Edward Snowden tells us that “they” are monitoring everyone all of the time, I assume a lot of red flags have been raised next to my Muslim name over the years. Imagine trying to write an action script and every time you wanted to know more about guns, or explosives, you hesitated typing in the search because it might make someone think you are a terrorist. It sounds ridiculous but this is a worry I have every single time. I’ve actually taken pretty elaborate steps to keep myself as anonymous as possible on the net because of this. Though, even the fact that I’ve done things like use a VPN or insist on using DuckDuckGo instead of Google probably raised some of those red flags somewhere – if he doesn’t have anything to hide, why is he hiding?
A lot has already been written about how redundant the “tip line” is considering people have so many avenues to report crime. Targeting Muslims as potential “barbarians”, and then saying that it is their best interests you have at heart, is disingenuous to say the least. It’s obviously racist, and incites racism and racist violence.
The idea that this election is making an already bad situation worse makes me sick to the stomach. Like anyone of colour, I’ve felt racism in my life, but what I am seeing here in my own country is truly making me scared. It’s not that the police are going to round us all up and throw us in a camp – but that more and more incidents of violence will occur against the group the Prime Minister and my racist neighbour believe to be “barbarians”. The kids in Quebec that tried to pull of a hijab off a pregnant woman and knocked her down probably got their heads full of hate through these kind of politics, and then took it out on this poor person.
As a young man I was once cornered in a phone booth and two men kicked the hell out of me, yelling that I should “get the hell out of their country, you stupid fucking Paki.” I was sent to the hospital with many scrapes and bruises but it was more my psyche that was damaged that night. My parents raised me, like all immigrant families, to love the country that had adopted them. I do. But I realized then that despite being born in Canada, I would never be seen as Canadian to some. This is a horrible thing for a person to feel, especially when their sense of home and citizenship was already complicated by being a child of immigrants.
I wish I could tell that Quebec woman that the assault against her was an isolated incident. That there are lots and lots of wonderful people in Canada who don’t hate her for the clothes that she chooses to wear. But she’s apparently too afraid to leave her home now. This is exactly what happens when the self-righteous try to “save” people from themselves. And besides, I don’t believe this was an isolated incident. It’s a thing that is going to happen more and more if we don’t put a stop to it.
I feel like someone has invaded my country and is making it unrecognizable, and that person is the Prime Minister. He famously said that “You won’t recognize Canada when I get through with it” and I think he’s delivering on the promise. We’ve all seen the memes of black and white babies holding hands that declare racism is learned – well, the Conservatives are serving up a masterclass right now. It’s a disgusting display of pandering to the lowest common denominator to win an election, and it looks like it is working.

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