Edmonton group counters anti-Islam flyers with message of 'love and peace'

Members of Edmonton's Muslim community countered hate with love Monday, distributing chocolate in a southeast neighbourhood recently targeted by Islamophobic flyers.

Members of Edmonton Muslim community distribute chocolate and smiles in the wake of hateful flyers

Members of Edmonton's Muslim community went door to door to deliver candy and well-wishes after Islamophobic flyers were distributed to the community. 0:49

Members of Edmonton's Muslim community are countering hate with something sweet.

On Thanksgiving morning, they handed out chocolate in a southeast community near Markaz Ul Islam mosque, where Islamophobic flyers were recently distributed.

"We're just handing out candy to spread some love," said Saleha Anwer, as she, her husband Mustafa Farooq and eight others fanned out in the Richfield neighbourhood, going door to door, where they were greeted warmly by residents.

"Very nice of you," said resident Henry Smolik, with a smile. "Thank you very much."

The special delivery is in response to xenophobic flyers discovered in a number of mailboxes in the Mill Woods' neighbourhood last week. The posters characterized Islam as violent, with the slogan #BANISLAM.

The Edmonton Police Service hate crimes unit is investigating and is encouraging anyone who notices the distribution of similar material to report details to authorities.

Somebody spreading hate is another opportunity for us to spread love.- Saleha Anwer

Aurangzeb Qureshi, a spokesperson with the Alberta Muslim Public Affairs Council, said the group is pleased with the response by police.

He said the incident alarmed people within the community and beyond, but they decided to turn the experience into something positive.

"We are trying to meet that hatred with love and peace as is the Muslim way," said Qureshi. "We're distributing candies to the neighbourhood and just being thankful that we live in such a diverse neighbourhood in peace and harmony."
Aurangzeb Qureshi with the Alberta Muslim Public Affairs Council said the group is responding to hatred with love and peace, which is the Muslim way. (Trevor Wilson/CBC)

Their initiative follows in the steps of similar positive campaigns that arose out of racist incidents in Edmonton.

In September, actor Jesse Lipscombe teamed up with Mayor Don Iveson to launch #MakeItAwkward. The campaign, which saw nationwide support from the prime minister on down, encourages people to confront racism.

It came about after a group of strangers shouted racial slurs at Lipscombe, which he recorded on video.

Two weeks ago, volunteers with the Sikh Students' Association held a turban tying event to promote understanding of their faith, in response to hateful flyers distributed at the University of Alberta.

Qureshi, whose group runs a hotline to report Islamophobic incidents, said numbers appear to be on the rise in the city.

The Soldiers of Odin, which some describe as an anti-refugee patrol group, has also recently been spotted on the streets of Edmonton.  

U.S. election rhetoric

"It's just the climate right now," said Qureshi, speculating some likely feel more free to spread hate in part because of rhetoric coming out of the U.S. presidential election.

Events in the Middle East can also shape how some may view Islam, he added. He encouraged police to monitor and manage anti-immigrant groups to deter criminal actions that might be committed in their name.

In response, local Muslim groups have worked to improve understanding of Islam and clarify misconceptions. 

"To me it's pretty easy — get out there, meet neighbours, say hi," said Farooq with a smile. "We can only try to fix the situation by talking to people, by engaging in dialogue and increasing understanding."

Anwer agreed.

"Somebody spreading hate is another opportunity for us to spread love."

andrea.huncar@cbc.ca       @andreahuncar

About the Author

Andrea Huncar

Reporter

Andrea Huncar is based in Edmonton. She reports on human rights, immigrant and Indigenous communities, policing and radicalization. Contact her in confidence at andrea.huncar@cbc.ca