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Canadian Prime Minister uses anti-Muslim comments to garner votes
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been campaigning with an anti-Muslim message in recent days before Monday's election. Will it pay off? - photo by Herb Scribner
On Monday, Canadians went to the polls to vote in the countrys federal election.

In the days leading up the political vote, many headlines focused on how Canadas Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who heads the Conservative Party, which is running against the New Democratic Party and the Liberal Party in the election, has been under fire for allegedly making anti-Muslim comments, according to Dean Obeidallah of The Daily Beast.

Harpers anti-Muslim message has centered around his support for banning the niqab, a religious piece of cloth that covers the face along with a hijab, from the Canadian workforce, The Daily Beast reported.

His comments escalated this week after two Muslim women reported they were assaulted because they wore their niqabs in public, CBC reported. In one case, two teens attacked and tried to rip off a pregnant womans hijab. And in another, a woman was elbowed by a man for wearing the niqab, according to the CBC.

"Look, I don't think you can use that kind of thing to discredit legitimate political debate," Harper told CBC's Rosemary Barton, host of Power & Politics. "Violence against women is unacceptable, which is why our government has brought forward laws to crack down on such violence."

The Conservative Party nominee also said he would appeal a Canadian court ruling from earlier this year that allowed a Pakistani woman to wear her niqab when she was sworn in as a citizen, The Daily Beast reported.

Political commentator John Oliver spoke of it on a broadcast of Last Week Tonight on Sunday, and both liberals and conservatives attacked Harper for what he said.

But Harper's support for the ban isnt a surprising issue, since more than 72 percent of Canadians also support the niqab ban, according to the CBC.

And his words may help him win Mondays election, which is a tactic not lost among American politicians, too.

So what made Harper transform from a mild-mannered guy who looks like a Midwestern high school guidance counselor to a guy stoking the flames of hate versus Muslims? asked The Daily Beast. Well, the same reason U.S. conservative politicians do it: They think it will help win elections. This isnt rocket science, folks.

As The New York Times Martin Patriquin reported, Harper had a stroke of luck and found a political issue that he could rally people behind, like some U.S. politicians have done.

Effectively, Mr. Harper hopes to win his fourth term on Oct. 19 in part by demonizing those few who wear the niqab and much of Canadas Muslim population by extension, Patriquin wrote.

And so far, its worked and had some initial success, according to Patriquin.

Patriquin likened this controversy to American politics, specifically of Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ben Carson. He said normally Canadians wouldnt hit on the issues like Carson and Trump have None of our politicians, many of us would like to believe, would dare invoke the Trumpian galaxy of Mexican rapists, or ponder publicly, as the Republican candidate Ben Carson did, that Europes Jews would have fared better against Hitler if only the Third Reich hadnt instituted gun control but Harper has.

Patriquin isnt far off in comparing Harpers actions to GOP politicians. As I wrote in September, both Trump and Carson were under fire for comments they made against Muslims during media interviews.

Trump let an audience member question Obamas religion and nationality, in which the audience member said Obama was Muslim, as I reported. Carson, meanwhile, said that Islam wasnt compatible with the U.S. Constitution, and a Muslim couldnt be president of the U.S., I wrote.

These comments, like Harpers, were meant to fuel political voters.

These negative views about Muslims have been fueled by a virulent minority on the right that has been pushing the claim for the past several years that President Obama is seeking to populate his administration with members of the Muslim Brotherhood as part of a secret plan to bring Sharia law to the United States, according to CNN.

And while the jury is still out on whether or not these comments will affect the U.S. election, it looks like the initial success of Harpers words has faded.

In fact, Patriquin wrote that the Liberal Party is in the lead and most likely to win the election year, showing that targeting a religious group as Harper did may not be the best political strategy for candidates.

Though Mr. Harpers anti-niqab gambit had some initial success, there are indications it might not ultimately be a winning strategy. The latest poll numbers have the Liberals ahead of the Conservatives for the first time in this campaign. The separatist Parti Qubcois tried similar fear-stoking in last years Quebec election, but the tactic failed miserably.
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