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Calls for Montreal anti-racism commissioner to resign a form of 'intimidation,' Muslim groups say

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A group representing Quebec's Muslim community is publicly defending Montreal's anti-racism commissioner and says calls for her to resign amount to "intimidation."

The Table de Concertation de la Communauté Musulmane du Québec (TCCMQ), or Quebec Muslim Community Roundtable in English, wrote to Mayor Valérie Plante on Wednesday to express its concern about how Bochra Manaï has been treated by a Jewish organization.

On Tuesday, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) called for her resignation after accusing her of being silent about recent attacks on Jewish institutions, including shootings at two Jewish schools in Montreal. CIJA claimed her "silence" was problematic because she has been outspoken about her pro-Palestinian stances.

The roundtable, which represents 19 Muslim organizations across Quebec, praised her work in their letter to Plante and condemned "any interference in her work or any hindrance to her ability to fulfill her unifying role in the fight against racism and discrimination within society."

"The type of intimidation we are witnessing today is extremely dangerous for democratic life and the freedom of expression we believe in. We are confident that Ms Manaï will not be subjected to any unfair or discriminatory treatment," the letter stated.

Groups that signed the letter include the Association Musulmane Du Canada/Muslim Association of Canada (MAC), the Centre Culturel Musulman de Montréal CCMM, and the Culturel Islamique de Laval Khalid Ben El Walid, among others.

A spokesperson for the roundtable declined an interview request from CTV News.

Manaï defended her record on Tuesday, saying in a written statement that she wasn't going anywhere and explaining that, while she serves the city, "I do not have a role of public representation."

She also explained why she attended pro-Palestinian protests in Montreal in recent weeks.

"As some of you may have noticed on my social networks, I recently took part in demonstrations in Montreal in support of a ceasefire. I see this individual stance as a duty of humanity. A personal stance, then, that of a woman committed to peace, saddened by the horror of this situation," she wrote.

She added that she is "vehemently opposed" to all forms of hatred and violence.

"The Islamophobic and anti-Semitic acts and behaviours that have taken place in Montreal in recent weeks are all unacceptable, and violence must be strongly condemned," she stated.

"Targeting Jewish schools and children with bullets is a crime that must be punished and has no place in a metropolis like Montreal. Targeting Muslim places of worship is just as wrong."

New statistics provided by Montreal police show that there have been 134 hate crimes and hate-motivated incidents reported to police between Oct. 7 — the start of the war — and Nov. 14. Of those, 104 reports came from the Jewish community, while 30 reports came from Arab-Muslim communities, according to police.

The president of the Canadian Muslim Forum told CTV News that he believes members of both communities are underreporting hate-motivated incidents and that the figures are likely much higher.

Mayor Plante refused to answer questions about on Manaï Wednesday, but issued a statement calling for "discretion."

"Municipal officials and commissioners have a duty of discretion. It’s expected that this will be respected. This message has been delivered to Mme. Manaï," the mayor's office said. 

In an interview Wednesday, Michel Séguin, a professor who specializes in ethics in the workplace and governance at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), said Manaï`s credibility could be called into question if she is found to not be neutral.

"To be in a position to fulfill that role, the commissioner needs to demonstrate neutrality when it comes to all cultural communities in the city," he said, "because anything else could give the impression she prefers one over the other and diminish her credibility."

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