The people have spoken: Justin Trudeau will be the new prime minister of Canada.
The Liberal Party candidate Trudeau toppled Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives with a stunning majority, taking 185 of the 338 seats in the next House of Commons.
And while much of the world is giving unnecessary – but well-deserved – attention towards his “photogenic” face and “nice hair,” let’s not forget the anecdote he shared about a Muslim woman in a hijab during his victory speech – and what it could mean for Canadian Muslims.
His comments come in the wake of rising Islamophobia in Canada where – only in the first week of this month – two Muslim women were attacked in separate incidents.
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Just two days after a couple of teenagers allegedly tried to rip the hijab from a pregnant woman’s head, a Muslim convert was reportedly attacked in a Toronto mall in front of her kids. Muslim women who wear the veil are “afraid to leave their homes unaccompanied,” Al Jazeera found.
As per a poll conducted by Angus Reid Public Opinion in September, exclusively reported by Maclean’s, anti-Muslim sentiment has gone up “markedly” across the country over the past four years while views on other religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Sikhism, Hinduism and Buddhism didn’t change much.
“It’s disturbing to see this growing level of mistrust,” Andrew Grenville, Angus Reid’s chief research officer, told the weekly Canadian current-affairs magazine.
Harper’s crusade against banning the niqab – a traditional Islamic face veil – has added to the stigmatization of Muslims. Around 82 percent of Canadians support the niqab ban, according to a March poll by Forum Research for the government, released right before the elections.
But Trudeau has promised to put an end to divisive politics in order to promote multiculturalism and diversity.
"I will be the prime minister of all Canadians," he told a rally in Montreal right after winning a historic Liberal majority government.
Not many Western leaders have specifically mentioned Muslims in their victory speeches, let alone advocate their religious freedoms. At a time when Harper is leaving behind a legacy of Islamophobia, Trudeau’s support for Muslims is not only refreshing but much-needed.