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Vancouver clergy coalition urges government to take on Islamophobia

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Reported by Jason Gilder

Vancouverites gather at Jack Poole Plaza Saturday Feb. 4 to honour the victims of the Quebec mosque shooting, amidst increasing Islamophobia. The Clergy Coalition is one of several local groups to form in support of Muslims. Photo by Stuart Neatby

Members of different religious faiths in Vancouver are banding together to urge the Canadian government to allow the entry of refugees affected by the United States travel ban.

The Concerned Canadian Clergy for Refugees was formed in response to the travel ban ordered by U.S. President Donald Trump. The multi-faith coalition was spear-headed by Rabbi Dan Moskovitz of Temple Sholom on Oak Street and West 57th Avenue, after he wrote an open letter urging Canada to accept refugees stranded by the ban.

“I pitched the idea to the immigration lawyer we have here at the synagogue, and then I emailed the letter to various lists on Saturday afternoon,” Moskovitz said. “By Saturday evening, I had over 200 signatures on the letter.”

Jewish, Hindu, Christian and Muslim leaders from across the country lent their support.

The executive order restricts people with citizenship from the Muslim-majority countries of Syria, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Yemen, Libya, and Sudan from entering the United States. Thousands of travellers, immigrants and refugees have been affected by the ban. The ban has been temporarily halted by a court in Seattle, whose ruling was upheld Thursday by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Moskovitz said the group is also disappointed with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Trudeau initially said Canada would welcome refugees displaced by the ban, but the government is planning to accept thousands fewer refugees than last year.

Former Langara student Abubakar Khan, helped recruit Sikh leaders to the clergy coalition.

“They are with us, they know that this is messed up,” said Khan. “It is a beautiful thing because it is uniting everyone regardless of religion, ethnicity, culture or whatever it may be.”

Vancouverites support Canadian Muslim community

In response to both the travel ban and the horrific shooting at the Islamic Cultural Centre in Quebec City, thousands of Vancouverites have attended vigils supporting the city’s Muslim community. At a Saturday vigil at the Jamia Masjid mosque on West 8th Street, Haroon Khan, a trustee with the mosque, urged attendees to embrace tolerance.

“Let’s open up our mosques, let’s open up our churches, let’s open up our synagogues…and our temples so that we can all understand one another, as human beings,” he said.

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