“I want to take this opportunity to speak with our brothers, the Taliban. We call on you to ensure the safe and secure passage of any individual in Afghanistan out of the country. We call on you to immediately stop the violence, the genocide, the femicide, the destruction of infrastructure, including heritage buildings.”
Those words were spoken Wednesday by Maryam Monsef, Canada’s minister for women and gender equality. Unsurprisingly, her use of the term “brothers” generated a firestorm. “The language used by the Trudeau government is completely unacceptable,” Conservative leader Erin O’Toole riposted. “I think of the women and girls in Afghanistan who are at risk with the Taliban regime once again coming into place. Canadians deserve a government that will always stand up for our values.”
Monsef, who was born in Iran to Afghan refugee parents, defended her remarks as a “cultural reference”, but was called out on social media, including by Muslim journalist Fatima Syed who tweeted “FACT: ‘brothers’ is a term of respect FALSE: Muslims call the Taliban ‘brothers’ OPINION: this was dumb SOLUTION: Move on; there’s lives on the line.”
But the opposition has not moved on. That’s because, while foreign policy is traditionally not a ballot question, when a gaffe like this feeds a larger narrative, it can shift the course of a campaign.