Islamophobia and racial attacks on Muslims need to stop, leaders say

By Dave Battagello
Windsor Star | July 4, 2016

Dirty looks and verbal attacks on women in hijabs and other hate crimes against Muslims are feeding an “epidemic of Islamophobia” and it needs to stop, leaders of the National Council of Canadian Muslims said on Monday.

In a joint announcement made in six cities across the nation, including Windsor, the council is asking Canadians to sign a Charter for Inclusive Communities, which explains that all forms of racism, hate and bigotry have no place in Canadian society.

The charter calls for an end to discrimination, the marginalization of individuals and the exclusion of anyone from “participating fully in society and fulfilling their potential.”

Statistics Canada, police agencies and polling services say hate crimes or incidents targeting Muslims in Canada in some communities has doubled since 2012, said the council’s national executive director Ihsaan Gardee.

He cited another survey which showed only one-third of Canadians have a “positive impression” of the Muslim faith.

“I am identifiable by what I’m wearing — my head scarf — and have been subject (to racism), whether it’s side glances or treatment by those who perceive me to be different,” said Khadija Shamisa, the council’s Windsor representative.

“Everybody who is Muslim, we have been affected by this — both here and all across Canada.”

Every time there is a high-profile incident — whether it’s a terrorist attack, arrest or influx of Muslim refugees coming to Canada — there is a “spike in hate crimes” targeting the faith, Gardee said.

His hope is the charter “starts a conversation” that recognizes the issue has become “a real problem.”

“Every journey begins with a single step,” Gardee said. “This is a step we wish we didn’t have to take, but one needed given the current climate of fear and what people believe about Muslims.”

He encouraged Canadians to get better educated about the faith by visiting a mosque or actually talking and getting to know their Muslim neighbours, which he believes will eliminate the fear.

“They will get to see we share many more things in common rather than just what makes us different,” Gardee said.

Windsor police Supt. John St. Louis attended the announcement of the new charter.

“To allow hate to exist in our community is a blight on all of us,” he said. “Everyone has a responsibility to speak out against it in all forms.”

Windsor police are “committed to stomp out hate in all forms,” said St. Louis, who encouraged residents to report such incidents when they occur.

“We will investigate fully and bring it before the courts where warranted,” he said.