Students at one of the largest Islamic schools in the Greater Toronto Area say they are concerned for their safety because of string of reported hate crimes in the region following the Paris attacks.
Youngsters attending the Islamic Foundation of Toronto in Scarborough — many of whom are second- and third-generation Canadians — say they are fearful of being the next victims of discrimination.
"You don't know what's going to happen," Grade 12 student Ammaar Jan said.
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Young Muslim Canadians say their religion is a peace-loving faith, which has a lot to offer. But that message is being clouded by recent events, which include an alleged violent robbery against a Muslim woman in Toronto or the burning of a mosque in Peterborough, Ont.
When an imam asked a group of students if they had heard about the recent incidents, the overwhelming majority confirmed they were well aware and naturally fearful.
"You really realize it could happen to anyone of us," Sara Ahmad, 17, said.
More than 700 children attend the school, which had to implement new measures, including closing gates to the public, in response to the alleged hate crimes that took place across southern Ontario.
"We also have full-time security personnel on the facility and increased supervision for kids playing recess at lunch," said Yusuf Badat, an imam at the school.
'That feeling of helplessness'
And the news hit some of the older students hard, weighing heavily on some who now worry about the safety of their family members.
"The fact that we have to increase security in such a multicultural environment, it's scary," Ammaar said.
"It was really frustrating and it made me angry, too," Grade 12 student Hamza Furmly said. "I have a mother and two sisters who wear a hijab. It makes them a bull's-eye target. It's that feeling of helplessness."
For the group of young Muslim Canadians, the world has changed since the attacks in Paris.
"Before it was just subtle stares, but nothing physical, nothing like this," Adeeba Noor, 17, said.
While some of the recent targets of attacks have been women in headscarves or hijabs, the young Muslim girls who spoke to CBC News say they don't think twice about putting it on.
"If people could just understand what the hijab is about, the world would be a better place," Sara said.