Muslims in Canada have had to face the brunt of racist attacks following the terrorist acts in Paris last Friday. A Mosque has been set on fire, a woman in hijab was attacked and two others were subjected to racist slurs on the Toronto subway. These are disturbing developments. While the immediate reason is the Paris attacks, some politicians and media outlets have also played a role in stoking anti-Muslim hatred.
Friday November 20, 2015, 12:07 EST
Since last Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris (November 13), Muslims in Canada and the US have also felt the heat of hatred. Racists and bigots have taken it upon themselves to blame peaceful law-abiding Muslims in these countries for what has happened in Paris.
While the US is infested with racists and bigots—several contenders of the Republican Party’s nomination for presidency, such as Donald Trump and Ben Carson (an African American!) for instance—have made openly Islamophobic statements, even normally peaceful Canada is not immune from this virus.
A day after the Paris terrorist attacks, a mosque in Peterborough—the city’s only mosque—was set on fire. Two days later (November 16), a hijabi woman was physically assaulted by two white males in Thorncliffe Park, a predominantly Muslim neighborhood of Toronto. The woman was on her way to pick up her children from school.
Her hijab was pulled off and the two men kicked and punched her, knocking her to the ground. Her wallet and cell phone were snatched as they shouted racist slurs at her telling her, “Go back to where you came from.”
The Muslim woman and all her siblings were born in Canada. Her extended family also lives in the Thorncliff Park neighborhood. Two hijabi Muslim women were also accosted on the TTC (the Toronto subway) and again told to “go back to where you came from.” Both the mayor of Toronto, John Tory and the TTC chair have condemned the racist slurs as well as the Thorncliffe Park attack.
The police forces in various municipalities have been equally vigilant. They have contacted the mosques in their jurisdiction to assure Muslims the police are there to protect them. These calls were made in the wake of the Peterborough arson attack.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has also expressed deep concern about these attacks. While attending international conferences in Turkey and the Philippines, he released the following statement on November 18.
“I have noted with deep regret a number of highly disturbing acts aimed at certain Canadians, including the fire at the Mosque in Peterborough, the smashing of windows at a Hindu Temple in Kitchener and the attack on a Muslim woman in Toronto.”
He further added: “Diversity is Canada’s strength. These vicious and senseless acts of intolerance have no place in our country and run absolutely contrary to Canadian values of pluralism and acceptance.”
These are reassuring words coming from the prime minister and will certainly come as relief to Canadian Muslims. What is undeniable, however, is that Islamophobia has been made respectable by some politicians as well as segments of the media.
The recently defeated Conservative government led by Stephen Harper specialized in stoking fear and hatred of Muslims. His regime gave Canadians such expressions as “barbaric cultural practices” referring to the wearing of niqab and even established a tip line for people to snitch on their Muslim neighbors if they indulged in any “barbaric cultural practices.”
When officials at the highest level indulge in such hate-filled rhetoric, it encourages the bigots and racists to come out of the woodwork. This is precisely what has happened.
Further, there are a number of opportunistic Muslims claiming to be progressive, that have joined the campaign against Muslims. They are given projection in some segments of the media. These media outlets promote racism and hatred against Muslims and use these so-called progressive Muslims to spew venom.
These media outlets and the so-called progressive Muslims need to be exposed if Islamophobia has to be confronted in an effective manner.
On Saturday November 21, there will be a rally in Thorncliffe Park starting 2 pm to protest the attack against the hijabi woman. It is expected to be attended by Muslims as well as non-Muslims to show their abhorrence against acts of racism and bigotry.
It is equally important that those that indulged in racist slurs or acts of violence against Musilms must be apprehended and given exemplary punishment to send a clear message that such conduct is totally unacceptable.