Canadian Muslims share experiences of Islamophobia in new report
Report intends to shed light on incidents of discrimination and microaggressions, long-term effects of hate
Around a dozen Canadian Muslims are speaking out about experiences of Islamophobia in a new report from the charity Islamic Relief Canada.
The report's release coincides with the fifth anniversary of the Quebec mosque shooting and the National Day of Action Against Islamophobia on Jan. 29.
Reyhana Patel, head of communications and government relations at Islamic Relief Canada, said Canadians often only hear about violent or extreme attacks against Muslims.
She said this report is intended to shed light on everyday incidents of discrimination and microaggressions Muslims experience, and to show the long-term effects of hate.
One of those who shared their stories is Saleha Islam, 23, of Abbotsford, B.C. Islam said when she was in high school, she wore a hijab for the first time, a headscarf that covers the hair, ears and neck.
A few boys in class asked her about the hijab, then proceeded to grab it off her head. She said she felt afraid but decided to confront them.
"I was like, 'Do you know what you've done? This is really important to me. This is how I identify as a Muslim woman. And so you should really not do that against anyone, ever,'" she said.
According to the report, many of those who've shared their experiences felt those experiences were to be expected, living as a minority in Canada.
The report also found that more women tended to be the targets of Islamophobia.
The organization points to legislation in Quebec, such as Bill 62 — a law that includes a ban on wearing the niqab, a veil that leaves a gap for the eyes or the burqa, a veil that fully covers the head and body, while doing certain activities — and Bill 21, which bans some civil servants in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols while at work.
In December 2021, an elementary school teacher in Chelsea, Que., was told she could no longer teach in class because she wears a hijab, which is prohibited under Bill 21.
The report also said most of the people who responded to the call for stories were women.
The organization is calling on governments to take all necessary actions to tackle Islamophobia and its root causes.
On Friday, the federal government announced in a statement that it intends to appoint a special representative to combat Islamophobia in Canada.
Other calls to action outlined in the report include establishing a national hotline where people can report hate crimes, including incidents of Islamophobia, strengthening existing hate crime legislation, and launching public awareness campaigns to educate the public.
Islam said she hopes Canadians will read the stories in the report and take the time to learn about the discrimination Muslims face.
"If we don't know if there is an issue, then how are we going to start fighting against it?"
With files from Kimberley Molina