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Muslim groups say MPs won’t be welcome in mosques until they call for Gaza ceasefire

With Ramadan just around the corner, national Muslim community groups say members of Parliament won't be welcome in their mosques unless they call for a ceasefire in Gaza, demand restoration of funding for the UN's Gaza aid agency and condemn what they call Israel's "war crimes."

In letter to MPs, Muslim groups call for restoration of UNRWA funding, condemnation of Israeli 'war crimes'

Men and women in suits sit on the floor of a mosque.

With Ramadan just around the corner, a national Muslim organization and several local congregations are warning members of Parliament they won't be welcome in their mosques until they call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, demand restoration of funding for the UN's aid agency and condemn what they call Israel's "war crimes."

An open letter signed by the National Council of Canadian Muslims and a number of prominent mosques, obtained by CBC News, says MPs who refuse to make these pledges publicly will not be "provided with a platform to address our congregations."

"If you cannot publicly commit to all of the above, respectfully, we cannot provide you with a platform to address our congregations," the letter says.

"Ramadan is about humanity. This Ramadan, more than ever, only those MPs who share in our commitment to humanity will be welcome to address us in our sacred spaces."

The letter, which is being released today, also says MPs must oppose "the flow of arms and military equipment" to Israel and stand up for "the right of Canadians to express solidarity with the Palestinian people without fear of reprisal."

The Canadian Council of Imams (CCI) is one of hundreds of organizations that signed the letter. CCI director Abd Alfatah Twakkal said the letter is about sending a "message" to politicians.

"It's imperative that those who are in positions of power and responsibility … advocate in order to stop the killing," he said.

"We expect … government officials that are elected and put in these positions to represent the population. We are saying that this is what we expect in terms of representing the Muslim community and others."

The war in Gaza began after the Oct. 7, 2023 attack in Israel by Hamas-led militants in which 1,200 people were killed, including several Canadian citizens, according to Israeli accounts. Israel responded with a military assault on the Gaza Strip that has killed more than 28,000 Palestinians, according to Palestinian officials.

The region is bracing for an imminent ground invasion of Rafah, the last safe space in Gaza. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) claims Hamas fighters are sheltering there.

Late last month, the International Court of Justice issued an interim emergency ruling on South Africa's claim that the war in Gaza amounts to an act of genocide. The court ordered Israel to take measures to prevent and punish direct incitement of genocide in its war in Gaza, but stopped short of ordering a ceasefire.

That ruling split the Liberal government caucus, with some MPs calling for an immediate ceasefire and others pushing back against the genocide claim.

After Israel claimed that 12 or 13 employees of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) had participated in various capacities in the Oct. 7 attack, Canada suspended federal funding for the agency.

Twakkal said MPs who refuse to sign on to these pledges risk losing the "political capital within our communities."

Mosques and Muslim community organizations are popular stops for campaigning politicians. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has visited mosques across the country for pre-Ramadan events, where in the past he's been greeted by mobs of supporters.

Since October, however, Trudeau has found himself targeted by protesters infuriated by his government's approach to the war in Gaza.

Statements by Trudeau and Joly were widely misreported in mainstream media and on social media as dismissing the South African ICJ case and taking the side of Israel. In fact, their statements carefully avoided either rejecting or endorsing South Africa's case against Israel.

Twakkal said Canadian Muslims aren't willing to settle for "tokenism" or "empty words and false promises."

"We're beyond that at this point because people are dying and it needs to change," he said. "It needs to stop."

WATCH: Liberal caucus has had 'difficult conversations' on Gaza, Trudeau says

Liberal caucus has 'difficult conversations' on Gaza, says Trudeau

7 days ago

Duration 2:43

Asked about a leaked conversation in which Liberal MP Rob Oliphant sharply criticized the way the prime minister has approached foreign policy on Gaza, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said a diversity of opinions is a source of strength in the Liberal Party.

Shachi Kurl, president of the Angus Reid Institute, said the Liberals have been actively courting the Muslim community since 2015.

"Think back to the politics of 2014-2015, think back to the era of [Prime Minister Stephen] Harper's barbaric cultural practices hotline and other things that left Muslim Canadians feeling quite marginalized," she said.

Kurl said the letter suggests the Muslim community is unwilling to be "taken for granted."

"This is about a diaspora community in this country sort of flexing their political muscle at this time and saying, 'Don't come to our house, don't come into our community unless you're prepared to make certain commitments.'"

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Yasmine Hassan

Producer

Yasmine Hassan is a producer at CBC's Parliamentary Bureau.

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