The Xenophobic Pattern in Anti-Mask Protests

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a man at an anti-mask rally with the center of his mask cut out to expose his mouth and nose wikipedia commons

Questioning the motive of deniers’ protests

by hammad ali, Contributor

For anyone who has had to venture out in that direction, the protesters around Albert Street bridge have been a constant fixture pretty much since last summer. I am not aware whether they were also there during the brutal cold snap we had for the past couple of weeks. For their own, sake I hope good sense prevailed, but I concede that the chances of that are rather slim.

While I never saw the point of these protests, as long as they are just holding up signs and standing there I see no reason why they should not be allowed to exercise their democratic rights. Recently though, things have taken unpleasant turns more than just once.

I believe it was a couple of months ago that some of these protesters went on a rant about the Chief Medical Officer of Saskatchewan, Dr. Saqib Shahab. If citizens of this province feel Dr. Shahab is not good at his job, or is not spending enough hours at his job, or is not doing the best that he can to protect our interests, then I would absolutely and wholeheartedly agree that he is not above criticism, rebuke, and maybe even a well-crafted insult.

In fact, most of what was said about him that day were insults. Unfortunately, none of them had anything to do with how well he is doing his job or whether his credentials are good enough. Maybe because even his worst detractors know that Dr. Shahab has an unassailable track record, even more so since the beginning of this pandemic. It has been extremely evident how many hours he has been putting in, and how stressful the situation is for him.

It is thus not surprising, that the issue they chose to talk about is his name and appearance. You know, the fact that he is a member of a visible minority, with a name that does not quite roll off the tongue. It appears that the man who has been leading our province’s medical and public health response with all his might is guilty of looking like a foreigner, whatever that means.

While Scott Moe, among others, denounced them, a disturbing precedent had been set. Just over a month ago, a group of protesters thought it would be a good idea to show up at Dr. Shahab’s private residence, on a weekend, to voice their displeasure with his work. Once again, it would appear that they did not have very many concrete criticisms of exactly how Dr. Shahab has failed at his job. Other than, you know, being called Saqib Shahab. Thankfully, law enforcement intervened, and no physical harm was done to the good doctor, his family, or his home. Once again, Scott Moe said some words about how unhappy he was with this development and increased police presence was ensured for Dr. Shahab’s home. I have not seen any news about whether the protesters guilty of this breach of privacy faced any consequences.

I wish that were the entirety of this saga. Shortly after the protest, people decided to show up to his residence again, this time as a show of support. Perhaps I am a hopeless utilitarian, but I feel that the best way to show your support for the Chief Medical Officer is to follow public health orders and ensure that healthcare funding is adequate. If I were in Dr. Shahab’s shoes, I would rather see our policies working and our taxes going to proper services, not a cheering crowd outside my living room window.

Just one last thought before I finish. All across Canada, provincial and national chief medical officers are trying to do the same thing. Can someone explain to me why the news is replete with protests, rants, and threats of violence to only those with names like Saqib Shahab, Mustafa Hirji (Ontario), and Theresa Tam (federal)? Are people mad about being issued public health orders, or because of who is announcing those orders in the media?

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