Friday July 23, 2021
More often than not, islamophobia is viewed as isolated incidents, related to individuals like former Prime Minister Stephen Harper. In 2019, however, the National Council of Canadian Muslims reported 51 incidents of hate-motivated attacks nationwide.Most recently in Edmonton, Muslim women told Global News that they feel frightened to go out and run their normal errands due to an increasing number of assaults. In June alone, five Somali-Canadian women, all wearing hijabs, have been attacked or threatened. One of the women stated that she has also been assaulted in the past but is unable to share details due to trauma. Actions that are considered ordinary, such as using public transit or going to the grocery store, are now being avoided due to fears of harassment.
Edmonton police are currently investigating another attack in June of this year against a Somali Canadian woman who was wearing a hijab. Jibril Ibrahim, president of the Somali Canadian Cultural Society, described the incident: “A woman in her 50s was grabbed by her neck and pushed down to the sidewalk by an unknown person while she was out for a walk near Edmonton’s Northmount neighbourhood at about 9 p.m.” According to Global News, her injuries included a bloody face and loose teeth, and she spent that night in the hospital. Though the woman is now resting at home, she remains scared to go out and is traumatized by the incident, according to sources close to her.
According to Global News, victims have reported being pushed, beaten, screamed at, and in some cases had their lives threatened. Trent Daley, a member of Edmonton’s Anti-Racism Advisory Committee, told Global News that his organization is approached about an assault on a weekly basis, with most of the victims being Black and Muslim women. Calgary police have stated that between January and November 2020, they received 80 hate crime reports, with the Edmonton Police Service receiving 60. Edmonton’s Al-Rashid Mosque has begun offering self defence lessons for women following the recent attacks: the classes are full.
In June in London, Ontario, the Afzaal family was murdered, with only the 9-year-old son surviving, sustaining severe injuries. His father, Salman, mother, Madiha, sister, Yumna, and grandmother, Talat, were killed. Though the perpetrator has been charged as a terrorist, islamophobia remains at large throughout the country. In the days following this tragic attack, Muslims were constantly being interviewed by Canadian media about their grief, trauma, and possible fears: seemingly humanizing Muslims without questioning why the humanity of Muslims required proving.
Previous massacres, including at a mosque in Quebec in 2017 which killed six men, did not gather the same traction as the London attack. Despite it receiving more attention, the narrative remains the same. Islamophobia is seen as interpersonal hate, removed from regular state practices, which profit off the perceived expendability of Muslim life. The same national security agents who facilitate travel bans or propose legislation such as Bill 21 (Quebec’s ban on “visible religious symbols”), are considered authorities on how to combat anti-Muslim rhetoric.
According to Al Jazeera, Stephanie Carvin, a professor of International Relations at Carleton University, a national security analyst for the Canadian government, and a consultant to the U.S. Defense Department, admitted in tweets that she made cakes that celebrated drone strikes and targeted killings on Muslims. She is still quoted in the media discussing the London killings.
The islamophobia known to the public comes from media reports or news channels, however, one of the women interviewed in Edmonton pointed out that the number of hate crimes actually reported to Alberta police forces is not reflective of the increasing number of people who approach her with their own stories of assault.
Canadian politicians were present at the vigil for the victims of the London attack, yet when it is their turn to fight the existing hate during political debates, they remain silent. Even after numerous hate crimes have been reported this year alone, former Liberal Justice Minister and appointed Special Envoy on Anti-Semitism, Irwin Cotler, retweeted an article from the Toronto Sun stating, “there is no islamophobia in Canada.” According to Al Jazeera, Cotler deleted the tweet following criticism, but his past of blaming victims of racial violence remains.
Systemic change must occur for these attacks to stop being treated as isolated incidents. The Canadian government must take accountability in ensuring the safety of all people under their care.