The Canadian Council of Imams says the Conservative candidate in Nova Scotia’s Central Nova riding must resign because his apology for Islamophobic media posts was an insincere attempt at damage control.
Two weeks ago, Steven Cotter apologized on Facebook for earlier posts he made about Shariah law and supporting a ban on the burqa worn by some Muslim women.
However the imams say when Cotter met with local Muslim leaders on Sept. 15, he repeated his apology but “refused to say anything else” in answer to questions about what he would do to address Islamophobia.
The imams say they can only interpret Cotter’s silence as a refusal to reflect and learn as he promised to do in his apology, and they say requests to the Conservative party for further engagements were turned down.
“As Muslim community leaders, we deeply appreciated the commitment to engage with our community. We recognize that everyone makes mistakes, and the best of us repent from our mistakes,” said the release.
“Our only question was: is this apology sincere or was this entirely an attempt at damage control? Unfortunately, after our engagement with Mr. Cotter, we have little choice but to believe the latter.”
In an interview with Global News, the chairman of the board of the Ummah Mosque and Community Centre in Halifax, said their jobs as community leaders is to ensure that no form of hate exists within government.
He added that community leaders are “tired of politicians and government saying they will fight hate in any form.”
“We will continue to put pressure on any individual who is an elected individual who does spread hate in this country,” said Ahmed Hussein.
“Whether you’re elected or not, it doesn’t make a difference. Hate is hate and it’s unacceptable.”
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole fired a Toronto candidate over Islamophobic social media posts she claims are not hers but he kept Cotter in the race.
O’Toole told The Canadian Press on Sept. 11 that he wanted to retain candidates on a team that would unite the country and help restore the economy.
Cotter didn’t respond to an emailed message to his Facebook site, and the spokesman for the Conservatives wasn’t immediately available for comment about the council’s statement.
Cotter’s apology posted on Facebook Sept. 5 said he had shared social media posts in the past “without thinking about how these posts might hurt of offend others. I have deleted these posts and apologize unreservedly.”
“I recognize that what I posted was not simply hurtful, it was animated with Islamophobic and anti-immigrant tropes,” he said.
Cotter is running in a riding won in the past by prominent Tories Peter MacKay and Brian Mulroney, and currently held by the Liberals’ Sean Fraser.
— with a file from Global’s Alicia Draus
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 19, 2021.