FUREY: The rise of the organized Muslim vote in Canada
A number of puzzled columnists and policy experts are currently trying to figure out why it was that Canada under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has broken with its tradition of voting down United Nations resolutions that denounce Israel and – as happened last week – joining the pile-on to condemn the only Jewish state in the world.
So far the working conclusion they’ve arrived at is that it was done because Trudeau covets a two-year seat at the Security Council and this is one way to win over votes at the notoriously anti-Israel body. That’s no doubt part of it.
There could be something else at play though: Maybe this is just what Canadian voters want. Or at least what one highly motivated and increasingly influential segment of the electorate wants.
In the months leading up to the election, a group called The Canadian Muslim-Vote (TCMV) was unapologetic in predicting the power the organized Muslim vote could yield over the 2019 federal election results.
“The Canadian Muslim community has the numbers to decide the winners and losers this election, which directly impacts the composition of the government we will have,” TCMV executive director Ali Manek wrote in a press release that went out on October 17 – just days before the election. “Muslim voters have turned out to the Advance Polls over Muslim Vote Weekend and we will be there on election day because we understand that we speak the loudest when we vote.”
TCMV also released the results of an online survey, finding that the top three issues selected by Muslim voters were immigration (64%), foreign policy (60%) and healthcare funding (58%).
The poll did not further break down what particular foreign affairs issue animated Muslims in Canada. However, the controversial Canadian Muslim Voting Guide – authored by Wilfrid Laurier University professor Jasmine Zine with support from a federal grant – had sections on foreign policy that pushed Muslim voters to judge the issue solely through the lens of boycotting Israel while supporting Muslim majority countries in North Africa, South Asia and the Middle East.
What do you think the answer would have been if TCMV had polled to ask which way Canada should vote on UN resolutions concerning Israel?
Now it would be entirely unfair to say that all Muslims in Canada are de facto anti-Israel. For example, the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee regularly has Muslim allies helping to organize and boost their events. And there were Muslim activists and candidates happy to campaign alongside the Conservative Party of Canada, which is proud of its pro-Israel stance.
But let’s not kid ourselves either. Whether it’s the recurring news stories of imams preaching anti-Semitism or events like the recent anti-Israel violence that erupted on York University campus last week, there’s a running theme going on that’s pretty easy to figure out.
While the Muslim community has always been targeted as a special interest voting bloc – what my colleague Tarek Fatah laments as the ghettoization of politics – this was in the past an ad hoc operation. It was a community affair that happened riding-by-riding and was more about political strategists organizing them than Muslim groups organizing themselves.