Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau has been in hot water after photos came to light featuring him in blackface and brownface makeup in 2001 when Trudeau worked as a teacher in a private school in British Columbia. In another short video clip Trudeau is seen in blackface makeup mocking black people by facial gestures and stuffing his pants to portray a stereotypical cliche about black men’s genitalia.
Following widespread criticism Trudeau
apologized for his racist behaviour and committed to unwavering fight
for inclusion and diversity.
The National Council of Canadian
Muslims (NCCM), the leading advocacy group for Muslims in Canada,
issued two statements on the same day regarding Trudeau’s
In the first statement NCCM denounced
Trudeau’s behaviour and urged him to apologize and in the second
statement NCCM accepted Trudeau’s apology.
The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) is calling on the Prime Minister to apologize for wearing “brownface”/”blackface” at an Arabian Nights Party in 2001. “Seeing the Prime Minister in brownface/blackface is deeply saddening,” said NCCM’s Executive Director Mustafa Farooq, “The wearing of blackface/brownface is reprehensible, and hearkens back to a history of racism and an Orientalist mythology which is unacceptable. While we recognize that people can change and evolve over two decades, it is critical that the Prime Minister immediately and unequivocally apologizes for his wearing of brownface/blackface.
The Islamic Heritage month is
celebrated in Ontario every October. The Toronto District School
Board (TDSB) issued a Resource Guidebook For Educators, that includes
basic information about Islam and Muslims in Canada.
Approved by senior Muslim scholars and
educators, this booklet provides to non-Muslim students background
information about the hijab, a modest attire for Muslim women that
includes a veil to cover the head, ears and the neck.
What is Hijab? The hijab is a headscarf worn by some Muslim women who have reached adulthood as defined by the onset of puberty. The hijab is a piece of cloth that covers the hair, ears and neck, exposing only the face. The Arabic word khimar, as mentioned in the Qur’an, is a more traditional term used to denote the hijab. A minute sub-segment of Muslim women in Canada (estimated at less than a few hundred) choose to wear the niqab, which is a face covering in addition to the hijab. Women who choose to cover their heads are not exclusive to Islam; some Christian, Jewish, Sikh, Hindu, and Rastafarian women also wear a form of head covering as part of their religious or cultural practices. This theme is captured in the children’s book, Hats of Faith by Medeia Cohan-Petrolino.
Do all Muslim girls/women wear the Hijab? Female Muslim students may or may not wear the hijab, based on individual choice. Sometimes, they may wear the hijab regularly for a period of time, and then decide not to wear it. Many identity and societal factors are at play with regards to wearing the hijab – including parental pressure. In a popular Marvel comic titled, “Ms. Marvel”, one of the Muslim characters expresses her frustration when asked if her father forced her to wear the hijab, stating, “Actually, my dad wants me to take it off. He thinks it’s a phase” – an experience shared by some Canadian Muslim women (Wilson, 2014).
Shaikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior Imam at
the Islamic Institute of Toronto, has a different view about the
Islamic definition of the hijab and its application on Muslim women.
“I have been wearing a hijab for as long as I can remember but to me it is just something that covers my head. I have decided that I no longer want to wear it. I am now an adult and so I would be facing the consequences of not wearing it. Does this make me less of a Muslim?”
Shaikh Ahmad Kutty issued
an Islamic legal opinion on this matter:
“Hijab in the sense of modest attire for woman that covers the whole body excluding face and hands is ordained by Allah in the Qur’an. This is the understanding of the Muslims from the time of the Companions (the first addressees of the Qur’an) down through the centuries. There is not a single scholar or mufassir (interpreter of the Qur’an) of the past that I know who has questioned this ordinance. Once it has been proven to be the order of Allah, no Muslim or Muslimah can reject it on the ground that I am an adult, and I can decide for myself. Allah says: “When Allah and His Messenger have decided on a matter that concerns them, it is not fitting for any believing man or woman to claim the freedom of choice in that matter: whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger is far astray.” (Qur’an: 33: 36). May Allah inspire us to see the truth as truth and follow it, and to see the error as error and shun it—aameen.”
A court case recently reported
by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) revealed how the
Islamic ruling on hijab in practised by Canadian families in
“A Quebec youth court judge has removed a 16-year-old girl in Victoriaville from her family after she was forced into a marriage with an older man who insisted she wear a hijab, rifled through her cellphone and controlled who she could see. The girl was so afraid in the weeks before the ceremony was to happen last spring that she ran to a neighbour’s house and locked herself in a bedroom. After a noisy and violent confrontation between the neighbours and the girl’s family, police escorted the girl to safety. In July, a youth court judge granted the girl’s request to be placed in hiding with a foster family until she turns 18.”
Racialized ministers in Justin Trudeau
government are “disappointed” to learn about the blackface/ brownface photos of
Trudeau, but nevertheless all accept his “sincere” apology and continue to
portray him as a “champion of diversity and inclusion.”
Here are the statements of five “racialized” ministers:
Singh Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development
(September 19, 2019):
These past 24 hours have been difficult. I’m of course, disappointed by the images that have surfaced, but having known Justin both personally and professionally for many years, I know he’s a champion of diversity and inclusivity. Please see my full statement below.
Last night, I was disappointed to hear about the images most of you will now have seen. I listened carefully as the Prime Minister apologized sincerely and unequivocally. Like all of us, he has made mistakes in the past, and in front of all Canadians, he took full responsibility. I’ve known Mr. Trudeau both personally and professionally for a number of years, and I’m confident I know him well. And if you don’t, his track record speaks for itself. Consistently, he’s championed diversity and inclusivity, and he’s always fought for marginalized Canadians. He has constantly stood up for all our rights — no matter our race, creed, gender or sexual orientation. But as he himself has acknowledged numerous times, “better is always possible”, and I’m confident he will continue to live by these words — as we all should. I am proud to be a member of Team Trudeau, and everything we have accomplished for Canadians over the past four years, and I am hoping to earn your confidence so we can continue to build a more inclusive, fair and prosperous Canada.
Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, (September 19,
He is the first sitting Prime Minister to acknowledge that systemic racism exists in Canada. He committed Canada to recognize the United Nations Decade for People of African Descent and to carry out the obligations contained in that recognition. His leadership has resulted in a new Canadian Anti-Racism Strategy as well as dedicated funding to address challenges faced by Black Canadians.
I was disappointed by the blackface/brownface photos that have emerged recently in the media. They are hurtful images. I, like many of my constituents in York South-Weston, have dealt with racism in our daily lives. It is hurtful, it is disappointing, and it keeps Canadians of colour from achieving their full potential.
I am encouraged by the fact that Justin Trudeau has unequivocally apologized for his actions and acknowledged that his actions have hurt racialized Canadians. However, I, like most Canadians, recognize that a person can change and evolve over two decades.
Justin Trudeau’s drive for a more inclusive Canada was one of the main reasons I ran for office under the Liberal banner in 2015. I saw his commitment to breaking down systemic barriers and fighting racism. I believed in it then and, having witnessed him in action over the past four years, I believe in it even more now.
But, there is more work to be done. A lot more. I have been speaking with local residents & civic leaders over the past two days, and my hope is that this national conversation will allow us as a country to better understand the experiences of racialized Canadians and to dedicate ourselves to fight racism and discrimination in our society.
Monsef, Minister of International Development and Minister for Women and
Gender Equality (September 19, 2019):
I wanted to share my thoughts regarding the photos of the Prime Minister. Like many of you I learned of the existence of the photos of the Prime Minister yesterday evening. I was surprised and disappointed. I understand that this is opening up fresh wounds for people who have experienced anti black and other forms of racism every day This is also reminding many of their own personal experiences with discrimination and exclusion While we may not always acknowledge It, our society is still dealing with a painful legacy of colonialism and racism.
I have never experienced anti-black racism But 1 have experienced a different kind of discrimination I have experienced It In my political career, In my personal life, online and online. I have been told to go back to my country and 1 have felt the indignity of exclusion. I’ve felt that hurt.
I am also proud to find In Canada. A country where we have the ability to address our wrongs, acknowledge our mistakes, and strive to move forward together.
What the Prime Minister did was wrong. He apologized to Canadians and took responsibility for his actions. That was the right thing to do. The Prime Minister also reached out to me directly to offer his apology.
Over the past four years I have had the opportunity to work closely with Justin Trudeau. I’ve seen him work tirelessly, behind closed doors and In the public eye to move our country forward. I have seen a man who has always demonstrated, through his words and his actions a sincere commitment to build a stronger, better, more Inclusive Canada.
For these reasons I have accepted his apology. I remain committed to budding a community where everyone is welcome, and where everyone feels like they belong.
Sohi, Minister of Natural Resources, (September 19, 2019)
Please see my statement on the images of
the Prime Minister that have surfaced over the last 24 hours:
I was very disheartened and disappointed to see these images. These indefensible images bring back many painful memories of racism that I and other racialized Canadians have experienced throughout our lives. The Prime Minister has sincerely apologized and expressed his regret. The Justin Trudeau that I have comet know over the last four year is a champion of diversity and inclusion, and a strong ally of racialized communities. From defending the rights of the LGBTQ community, to speaking up against Islamophobia, to increasing funding for anti-racism work, he has demonstrated this through his actions. I have spoken with the Prime Minister to convey my feelings and reiterated that we must redouble our efforts to end racism in this country. I have spent my life fighting racism — in my city and my country — and I will continue to do so because there is more work left to do.
Many Canadians are disappointed by these images. Justin Trudeau has sincerely apologized for these actions & acknowledged that this was unacceptable. These photos do not represent the person he is now. I know Justin & the entire party will continue to build a more equal Canada.
Many Canadians are disappointed by these images. It was wrong then and it is wrong now. Justin has sincerely apologized for these actions and has acknowledged that this was unacceptable and that it caused pain to many communities. As I have gotten to know Justin, I know these photos do not represent the person he is now and I know how much he regrets it. He has shown through his actions that he stands up for diversity and demonstrated his commitment to an inclusive and accepting Canada. During this election, I hope that all Canadians will have a meaningful discussion about what work we can do to build a more equal country for every Canadian.