Candidate accused of being 'traitor to Islam'
TheStar.com - GTA - Candidate accused of being 'traitor to Islam'
Mississauga NDP candidate says he's been threatened since election in which Tory defeated Muslim MP
October 22, 2008
Mustafa Rizvi says he's been labeled a "traitor to Islam" for running against a Muslim MP in last week's federal election.
Rizvi ran a distant third for the NDP in Mississauga-Erindale, won by Conservative Bob Dechert, who eked out a 239-vote win over Liberal incumbent Omar Alghabra.
Rizvi, a 28-year-old insurance adjuster, said he's received nearly two dozen threatening phone calls since election day, accusing him of splitting the Muslim vote and costing Alghabra his seat in Parliament.
"I've been getting harassment and phone calls from angry people," he said. "But this isn't faith-based politics; this is a democracy. Everybody has a right to run anywhere in the country.
"I ran as an equal Canadian," Rizvi explained. "I ran as an NDP candidate. Just because I'm a Muslim running against a Muslim, why is that a question? Why is it not a question when one Christian runs against another Christian?
"The Muslim community is closed-minded in that sense and that's what I'm trying to look beyond. I have a future in this political business and I want to maintain it. I enjoy my religion, but I don't make it a part of my political life."
Alghabra said he doesn't think Rizvi's candidacy cost him the election.
"We just didn't get the voters out," Alghabra said in an interview from Ottawa, where he was attending a Liberal caucus meeting.
"We didn't get even the same number as last time. We got almost 3,300 votes less than in 2006. Obviously, the Conservatives did a better job of getting the vote out."
It's an explanation borne out by the numbers from election day this year.
Just 55,754 voters went to the polls in Mississauga-Erindale, more than 4,000 fewer than in 2006.
In the last election, Alghabra beat Dechert by more than 3,300 votes. This time, Dechert received just 271 more votes than in 2006, but it was enough to give him a slim win over the incumbent.
Rizvi polled nearly 1,900 votes less than the previous NDP candidate.
Alghabra said it was simply a matter that "too many Liberals stayed home."
"There will always be a few individuals who are over-zealous and frustrated and go over the top," he said. "That's unacceptable.
"In a democracy like Canada, we should be congratulating people who run for office, not threaten them. It's disappointing and disturbing that some individuals might do that.
"Voting for people based on ethnicity or religious background is an outdated notion," said Alghabra, who wouldn't rule out running again. "I don't think anyone voted for him or me based on those things.
"There may be a very small number of individuals that will vote against or for someone because of their ethnic background," he said. "Unfortunately they exist, but they are not representative of our riding or our country."