Islamophobia and malicious attacks have been rising in Canada. The Quebec mosque shooting, which resulted in six men’s deaths, was just one of many Islamophobic hate crimes in 2017. According to Statistics Canada, there were 349 police-reported hate crimes against Muslims, peaking in February, a month after the Quebec mosque shooting. In 2018, Statistics Canada notes 173 police-reported hate crimes. The National Council of Canadian Muslims had 51 incidents reported to them nationwide in 2019, with nine incidents resulting in a physical confrontation. Statistics Canada has not yet released any information for 2019, but it is likely that there were more than 51 incidents total.
Furthermore, The Muslim Association of Canada released a statement on July 30th that two mosques had been repeatedly vandalized. Toronto police confirmed this, but believe that none of them were “hate motivated.” On September 12th, Mohamed-Aslim Zafis, who was volunteering outside of the International Muslim Organization mosque in Toronto, was stabbed and killed by a man who police say he had no connections to. (The murder may be connected to the death of Rampreet [Peter] Singh, a homeless man who was attacked and killed in his sleep on September 7th.) Evan Balgord, Executive Director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, reports that Guilherme (William) von Neutegem, a suspect for Zafis’s murder, followed several white supremacist and neo-Nazi social media accounts.
Addressing current problems is critical. Legislation like Bill 21, which bans religious symbols like kippot (Jewish skullcaps, also known as “yarmulkes”) and the hijab for public sector employees, but allows for smaller symbols like the Christian cross and crucifix, is discriminatory. These sorts of bills need to be removed, and their cultural consequences must be addressed.
The National Council of Canadian Muslims is challenging Bill 21, but the bill has already damaged many Canadians’ views of Muslims. In early November, many parents came to the Quebec Superior Court to encourage the province to keep its ban in place. Some immigrants from Muslim-majority countries stated that “the hijab is a symbol of inferiority” and claimed it promotes sexism and misogyny – which says more about the government, laws, and corruptness of those countries than about Islam.
One of the parties defending the legislation, Mouvement laïque québécois (“the Quebec secular movement”), believes that Bill 21 is essential in allowing Quebecois children to have a secular education. However, this would prevent Muslim teachers from staying in the field unless they allow the government to dictate which actions they may take and which clothing they may wear. It also perpetuates the baseless notion that Muslim teachers would try to indoctrinate their students, which further stigmatizes Canadian Muslims as manipulative and controlling people.
Lives are on the line. Canada must address the problem within its borders swiftly and effectively. These groups, and others which perpetuate harmful actions and ideas, must be stopped. Removing their online presences and putting those who commit crimes through effective legal systems, including rehabilitation, will promote a more peaceful society.
It is crucial that measures be taken. Tolerance, not only for Muslims, but for other minority groups, must be incorporated into school curricula. Educating the upcoming generations will protect the future of the nation.
Islamophobia is rising, not only in Canada, but globally. French, Indian, and Chinese Muslims suffer from malicious attacks. They are treated as villains, and cannot defend themselves without confirming others’ preconceived notions and stereotypes. The world must do more to protect its Muslim citizens.
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