Fundy Fringe performers targets of vandalism, Islamophobia
Tabraze Sheikh says he's had to replace 50 posters since last week
Over the past week, two Saint John performers preparing for the Fundy Fringe Festival have been targeted by vandals and anti-Muslim racists.
"I always like to think the best of people," said Tabraze Sheikh, one of the two performers. "I don't know why it's going on."
In the past week he and his wife, who perform in the festival as mind readers, have routinely found their posters destroyed, with the word "terrorist" once scrawled across the image of his face.
Both Sheikh and his wife are Muslim.
He said it all started last weekend when he found the poster labelling him a terrorist.
Chalking it up to a random act, potentially that of a drunk coming home from the bars, he and his wife decided to shrug it off and not make a big deal over it.
"I've dealt with racism and prejudice my entire life and I've never once let it stop me from achieving my goals," Sheikh wrote in an email to CBC after that initial discovery. "This incident is no different, we will continue to push forward and put on an amazing show at this year's Fundy Fringe Festival.
"Whoever did this, we want you to know we forgive you."
At first, Tabraze was reluctant to speak to the media.
But after finding his posters had been ripped down across uptown Saint John on several occasions this week, he feels like he's being targeted for his faith and skin colour.
"My wife, the other night, for four hours she put up posters again. The very next day, the one behind this uptown sign and a few on this wall were ripped down again," he said, motioning around where stood on King Street.
Now his posters are festooned with staples and tape, trying to make it as difficult as possible to remove them.
He estimates he's had to replace approximately 50 so far.
Other posters for the festival, pinned to walls in the same area, remain untouched.
Sarah Rankin, a Fundy Fringe Festival organizer, said these acts of destruction only strengthen her resolve.
"We're not going to let this stop us as a festival and it's not going to let us stop our artists from doing what they do, which is perform, create and entertain," she said.
In the five years the festival has run out of Saint John, she said she's never heard of a similar incident.
Rankin and her employees are now regularly checking the posters and she has made an official complaint to the Saint John Police Force.
Sheikh said he knows what has happened to him isn't representative of Saint John as a whole and he said it won't stop him and his wife from putting on an entertaining show in late August.
Until then, the performer just hopes the vandalism stops.
"We'll see how it escalates," he said. "I don't want to give anyone who has these hateful feelings, either towards my posters, my faith, my race, whatever, that power."