Paris attacks spark anti-Muslim backlash, but Canadians are fighting back

‘The terrorists want us to hate one another,’ says National Council of Canadian Muslims spokeswoman

By Sheena Goodyear | CBC News
November 22, 2015

Since the deadly attacks by Islamic extremists in Paris, there have been a number of unexpectedly violent and severe incidents targeting Muslims in Canada.

A mosque in Peterborough, Ont., was set on fire in a suspected hate crime. A Muslim woman was attacked and beaten near an elementary school in Toronto. And a Montreal man was arrested for posting a video wearing a Joker-type mask and threatening to kill one Arab per week.

« We typically will see a spike in incidents after these sorts of [Paris-type] events, unfortunately. But I think the number seems to be quite high in a very short span of time, » says Amira Elghawaby, the spokeswoman for the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM).

But alongside these episodes of animosity, there has also been an outpouring of support as Canadians come together to stem the tide of hatred, Elghawaby said.

« The terrorists want us to hate one another. They want to drive a wedge between Muslim communities and the wider society, » she told CBC News. « So I think we really need to double up on our efforts to not let these divisions occur. »

Here are five ways Canadians are fighting the wave of anti-Muslim backlash.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement on Wednesday, calling the recent hate crimes « highly disturbing. »

« 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, » Trudeau said.

« The government of Canada strongly condemns such actions and, along with law enforcement agencies, will protect the rights of innocent Canadians being subjected to such abuse. »

Elghawaby said these kinds of statements are crucial in times like these.

« I think it’s more important than ever for anyone in any position where people are listening to them and hearing them that we reinforce what makes Canada so special and so tolerant and cohesive. »

Elghawaby said police forces in Canada have been good about reaching out to the Muslim community after attacks like the one in Paris to offer support.

« We are in constant communication with local police forces, trying to understand what’s happening, » Elghawaby said. « This is really important because we have to show people that it matters, you have to report [anti-Muslim attacks]. »

The NCCM keeps a regularly updated map on its site tracking anti-Muslim hate crimes across Canada that are reported to police or the media.

« Everything must be reported, so that hopefully the police can look for these perpetrators, bring them to justice and send a very strong and clear message that this sort of hatred is not tolerated. »

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