Paris attacks spark anti-Muslim backlash, but Canadians are fighting back

Since the deadly attacks by Islamic extremists in Paris, there have been a number of unexpectedly violent and severe incidents targeting Muslims in Canada. But there has also been an outpouring of support as Canadians rally to combat hate.

'The terrorists want us to hate one another,' says National Council of Canadian Muslims spokeswoman

Three Montreal roommates took their protest against ISIS-inspired fear to the Montreal Metro. (Connie Byrne/Instagram)

Since the deadly attacks by Islamic extremists in Paris, there have been a number of unexpectedly violent and severe incidents targeting Muslims in Canada. 

A mosque in Peterborough, Ont., was set on fire in a suspected hate crime. A Muslim woman was attacked and beaten near an elementary school in Toronto. And a Montreal man was arrested for posting a video wearing a Joker-type mask and threatening to kill one Arab per week.

"We typically will see a spike in incidents after these sorts of [Paris-type] events, unfortunately. But I think the number seems to be quite high in a very short span of time," says Amira Elghawaby, the spokeswoman for the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM).

But alongside these episodes of animosity, there has also been an outpouring of support as Canadians come together to stem the tide of hatred, Elghawaby said.

"The terrorists want us to hate one another. They want to drive a wedge between Muslim communities and the wider society," she told CBC News. "So I think we really need to double up on our efforts to not let these divisions occur."

Here are five ways Canadians are fighting the wave of anti-Muslim backlash.

1. Raising money 

After the Kawartha Muslim Religious Association's mosque in Peterborough was set ablaze, local residents launched an online fundraiser to cover the $80,000 in damages.

It reached its goal in just two days. By the time it ended Wednesday, the campaign had raised $110,536.

Imam Shazim Khan thanks Peterborough community for support

7 years ago
Duration 0:59
Imam Shazim Khan thanks the Peterborough community for support following the fire at the Masjid Al-Salaam mosque.

"This will not change our perception of the community," the mosque's imam, Shazim Khan, said at a news conference, where he thanked people for their support.

"We know this is a great community — peaceful, loving, welcoming," he said. "If anyone's supposed to be afraid, it's me. But I feel secure."

Inspired by the success of the Peterborough fundraiser, a group of Muslims in the Greater Toronto Area has launched a GoFundMe site to raise money for a Hindu temple in Kitchener, Ont., that was vandalized on Sunday night.

2. Standing together, literally

In Montreal, three roommates from different walks of life responded to the ISIS attacks in Paris and Beirut by standing shoulder to shoulder, figuratively and literally, at one of the city's main subway stations.

Matt Dajer, Ammar Kandil and Thomas Brag held hands and wore T-shirts that read, respectively, "I'm Matt from New York City," "I'm Ammar, a Muslim from Egypt" and "I'm Thomas from Paris."

Signs at Dajer and Brag's feet pointed to Kandil and read, "He is my roommate and best friend," while a sign at Kandil's feet pointed to his two friends and said, "These are my brothers."

The trio, known as Generation Y Not on YouTube, posted a video of the social experiment.

"Those attacks were designed to make us fear each other, and we didn't want that to happen," Kandil told CBC Montreal. "We decided our video was going to be an act of love. We wanted to tell the world that this is not going to separate us."

Meanwhile, Muslims and non-Muslims marched together in Toronto's Flemingdon Park neighbourhood on Friday to call for peace.

3. Tweeting

In the immediate aftermath of the shootings and suicide bombings in Paris, Muslims in Canada and around the world took to Twitter to express solidarity with France and speak out against Islamophobic messages with the hashtag #IAmMuslim.

Shortly after, non-Muslim supporters joined the chorus with #MuslimsAreNotTerrorists.

After two Muslim women were accosted on a Toronto subway earlier this week, dozens of Toronto transit riders are offering to accompany Muslim passengers by using the hashtag #IllRideWithYou.

4. Condemning hate crimes 

Police, politicians and spiritual leaders in Canada have been vocal in their condemnation of hate crimes in the wake of the Paris attacks.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement on Wednesday, calling the recent hate crimes "highly disturbing."

"Diversity is Canada's strength. These vicious and senseless acts of intolerance have no place in our country and run absolutely contrary to Canadian values of pluralism and acceptance," Trudeau said.

"The government of Canada strongly condemns such actions and, along with law enforcement agencies, will protect the rights of innocent Canadians being subjected to such abuse."

Elghawaby said these kinds of statements are crucial in times like these. 

"I think it's more important than ever for anyone in any position where people are listening to them and hearing them that we reinforce what makes Canada so special and so tolerant and cohesive."

Amira Elghawaby, spokeswoman for the National Council of Canadian Muslims, says it's important for elected officials and other people in positions of power to speak out against hate crimes. (Handout )

5. Policing and reporting 

Elghawaby said police forces in Canada have been good about reaching out to the Muslim community after attacks like the one in Paris to offer support.

"We are in constant communication with local police forces, trying to understand what's happening," Elghawaby said. "This is really important because we have to show people that it matters, you have to report [anti-Muslim attacks]."

The online hate map by the National Council of Canadian Muslims shows incidents of anti-Muslim hate crimes reported to police or in the media. (Screengrab)

The NCCM keeps a regularly updated map on its site tracking anti-Muslim hate crimes across Canada that are reported to police or the media.

"Everything must be reported, so that hopefully the police can look for these perpetrators, bring them to justice and send a very strong and clear message that this sort of hatred is not tolerated."


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