Justin Trudeau came to town. He came to town for an Eid Dinner and I had no interest in attending. ARK asked me if I wanted to go. I told him I would be happier at the protest outside.
Then I reflected on the fact that I had been a card-carrying member of the Liberal Party of Canada for more than 20 years. I was a Youth Provincial member, a University of Toronto Exec member and volunteered with candidates in my ridings. I stopped caring and believing a few years back but my hope in politicians was restored with Jack Layton. When he died so did my faith in politicians.
I decided to attend the dinner with the intention of disrupting Justin’s speech. I knew he would be pandering to a grateful and captive audience.
I also knew he would be using this community as a place to peddle his shallow calls for “peace”. And of course, I felt incumbant to reitereate that THERE IS NO PEACE WITHOUT JUSTICE.
ARK and I were encouraged to go with our dear friend Teepu. ARK and I arrived early, just as the protest started. I met my friend Fizza and also met a few other protestors. I respected their position to not attend the dinner and also respected the position that others had to boycott it. I decided that attending the dinner might be of value if we were able to be heard and our frustration expressed; it might embarrass him and actually not allow him to drown out voices and ignore us. We met Teepu at Verdi Banquet hall and we were very early. We hung out, prayed and waited some more. I went to visit my friends who were protesting and promised to send a woman a few pictures. I took a selfie with my friend.
I really felt I belonged on the outside and prayed that some good might come of going inside. I grew up attending such political events with the hobnobbing and schmoozing and I really was not interested in it anymore.
All the “civil engagement” and pretentious “dialogue” does nothing for 2000 dead people in Gaza, the destruction and the continued aparthied.
We went into the hall and our table was at the very back on the right side facing the stage. I noticed a few others wearing kefiyyeh (unspoken statements) and they were seated close to our table.
Teepu, ARK and I talked about our ideas and plans for speaking out and what we should do. We all agreed that staying silent was not going to happen. We weren’t there to mingle or meet or network.
There was so much schmoozing, picture taking and people from my past and present were there to be noticed and get attention and name drop.
There was no real Justin movement until close to 7:30 p.m. when an eager MC requested we sit down or it would “cut into the time” we had with Justin.
And he “might not get a chance to talk” to us as planned. He was going to be making rounds and greeting people.
When Justin walked in there was a flurry of activity and people runnign with cameras to get a picture of the possible, future Prime Minister of Canada.
They ran to him and he was engulfed in a crowd of Liberal Lovers.
I tweeted: “@Justin Trudeau just entered. People clamouring for pics with him. Like he is Brad Pitt. Only, Brad Pitt supports #Gaza.”
The MC addressed those still standing quite sternly. She reminded people to take their seats.
There was a Qu’ran recitation and the singing of O’Canada, lead by the MC, who was 2 bars behind with her lyrics. Annoyed me because I was singing. I am not unpatriotic. And I love our anthem. I will also add that I was messaging my friend Hoda outside and giving her updates. The protestors did not see Justin enter. He probably came in through the back, avoiding them.
Omar AlGhabara introduced Justin. I like Omar. He is a really nice guy. And I trust him. But I try to reconcile that with the fact that the Liberal Party has taken a similar stance on this issue to the Harper Government.
Justin came up and greeted us with the usual “Salaam” and went on to talk about how great Ramadan is and how we all want “peace”. That was my trigger. I decided when he said “peace” I would yell out “JUSTICE”.
When I first did, he didn’t even pause. Probably didn’t hear me. Those around me seemed so irritated and I got a bunch of dirty looks. I didn’t care. It was after he mentioned that the Liberal Party gave a public statement on the crisis that another man shouted out “SHAME!”
We all joined him and repeated “Shame!”. ARK stood up and was also yelling. There were some more cheers.
ARK got up from our table and walked to the middle of the room so he was facing Justin from the back. He had taken off his black dress shirt and was wearing a #FreePalestine t-shirt. Security immediately came over to him. He was calm and just standing. I could tell one man asked him to sit down. He did not move. Might also be good to mention that he is 6’5” masha’Allah. I am sure that helps.
I stayed at our table but was standing. When Justin began to speak about how “Muslim and Jews both want peace for their families and their friends” I yelled out that this is not a religious conflict. I found it so upsetting that he was reducing a genocide to a religious difference. What about Christians? What about war crimes? ARK yelled out” What about the occupation? End the occupation!” He was yelling Justin stopped and seemed taken aback. He had no response.
I also stared yelling “NO JUSTICE NO PEACE” and a wonderful Uncle volleyed my chant back to me and we did it a few times in solidarity. A few people joined in.
At this point, four or five men ran over to ARK and he most of the room was looking back at him and in our general direction.
I kept taking pictures but was trying to shout as well. I stopped live-tweeting so I could listen and focus on Justin’s speech.
A few of us were standing and a man I know came over to me and said: “Shireen, is ARK angry? Like, really angry?” I haven’t seen this man in about 10 years (I do not count him as a friend) and replied sharply: “No, but I am. And shouldn’t we all be?” He scurried off. A few men asked me to sit down with the proverbial “Sister, this is rude!” and my favourite “Don’t interrupt” I ignored them. Justin droned on about how he doesn’t like divisive politics and Canada is a place where the impossible is possible. He sounded like a bloody stupid Adidas commercial gone wrong. I kept looking over to ARK who was approached by a very short (although in fairness, most people are short in relation to ARK) man who was engaging him in a heated discussion. I saw my husband be calm (he has a calm, composed, “I don’t give a damn” face) and the small man was becoming upset.
Teepu was taping everything. After Justin was finished there was tremendous applause and a standing ovation from half the room. ARK walked out and I waited a minute. Just beyond the ballroom was a large foyer. ARK was exiting the building and I saw this same little man shouting after him and I was totally taken aback when he yelled out “Terrorist-supporter!” at my husband. He was blocked by a few men so he couldn’t go after ARK.
I walked by him and told him to calm down.
He told me that that guy was “hijacking” and went off on a rant. I had no idea who he was at the time but when he started to accuse ARK and myself of supporting terrorism, shit got real. I yelled at him to “correct his vernacular, son” (he screamed back at me. Was probably offended by me patronising him) and i told him he was “shameless”. He was shouting at me and all these men came and tried to pull me away. One older Uncle put his arms around me and said: “Let’s go beti” but I politely requested he not touch me. I DID NOT WANT ANYONE EFFING TOUCHING ME. Bas.
There was a man with a phone video taping while Teepu was telling him to turn off his camera. And a few men interjected and said to the rabid little guy “Don’t speak to a sister like that!”I told the phone camera man to “Go ahead and put it on Youtube”.The angry dwarf says to me “You support terrorism!”
I yelled back “What about Israeli Terrorism?! You pick and choose what terrorism is?”
By this point I was being moved away from the ballroom doors. It was getting quite loud. Teepu said he heard someone say “Just forget Mobeen, he is high on crack anyway.” A man I do not know came up to me and said: “Shireen, your husband wants you.”I snapped at him: “WHAT. DID. YOU. SAY. TO. ME?”
All the men quieted down and this random white dude looked stunned. “No, no” he quickly apologised “he asked me to come and get you.”I walked away, joined ARK and Teepu who confirmed it was Mobeen Shaikh and went out. He said he was leaving but got worried when I got into it with Mobeen. I joined my friends outside and told them what had transpired with the soulless, piece of crap.
He was on Justin Trudeau’s payroll. Lovely.
My objective was to go and make some noise. Although my friends outside had a different strategy, I appauld and support them for chanting and waving flags, and providing support to this movement.
May God accept our efforts. And may He protect us from the enemies among us.
*Just adding that this is my form of political participation. I refuse to accept that Trudeau is the lesser of evils. That is not good enough for me. If some of you are disappointed in my behaviour and feel like I behaved inappropriately, and did not represent our community well, you are entitled to you opinion. Dissent and objecting are part of the process. As much is this fictional “dialogue”. I refuse to be a compliant and silent supporter of genocide. And I refuse to accept pandering from disingenuous politicians.*
**UPDATE: Aug.14 I was personally contacted from a staff member on Justin Trudeau’s campaign who clarified and reiterated that Mubin Shaikh is in NO WAY affiliated or associated with Justin Trudeau, his staff or the Liberal Party of Canada in any way shape or form. He bought a ticket and attended the event. Mubin Shaikh has deleted any of his public posts about being involved with security. Justin Trudeau does not have a security team.**