Edmonton

Muslim University of Alberta student denounces Islamophobia in House of Commons speech

Before making an impassioned speech in front of 337 other women in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Wednesday, Srosh Hassana hadn’t even heard of Equal Voice, the organization that allowed her the opportunity.

'As a Muslim woman of colour, in a time of overwhelming stigma, I fear of being othered, profiled and killed'

Srosh Hassana fought back tears while speaking about the xenophobia she experiences in Canada. (CBC)

Before making an impassioned speech in front of more than 300 women in the House of Commons on Wednesday, Srosh Hassana hadn't even heard of Equal Voice, the organization that allowed her the opportunity.

The Edmonton-area student was one of 338 women brought to the House of Commons in Ottawa for the Daughters of the Vote campaign, which brings women leaders from across Canada to Parliament Hill to encourage political participation.

Hassana's 186-word speech about Islamophobia and xenophobia in Canada took her almost three minutes to deliver through her own tears and the thunderous applause that interrupted her sentences.

A Muslim woman, Srosh Hassana, taking part in the Daughters of the Vote event on Parliament Hill, addresses islamophobia and xenophobia in a statement in the House of Commons on International Women's Day. 3:12

"As a Muslim woman of colour, in a time of overwhelming stigma, I fear of being othered, profiled and killed in a country I call my own," the University of Alberta student told the other delegates.

"My identity is challenged and my actions are heavily scrutinized."

READ: the transcript of the speech below

SROSH HASSANA: Madam Speaker, Islamophobia is a heavy word in today's discourse, but it is heaviest for those who are on the receiving end of it. As a Muslim woman of color, in a time of overwhelming stigma, I fear of being othered, profiled and killed in a country I call my own. My identity is challenged. And my actions are heavily scrutinized. I'm simultaneously silenced into shame while being expected to apologize for the actions of a small group of people that do not represent me. We are all shaken from acts of terrorism, but they affect our communities most because they divide us from within as well as from other Canadians. Whether we have been contributing for generations or whether we're new immigrants seeking refuge or opportunities. We are Canadians. We all have a responsibility to challenge a growing culture of ignorance rather than justifying xenophobia and prejudice under the veil of free speech. My heritage is not a political platform to campaign on. Unless cherished as complex and as rich as its people. This is my Canada and there is no seat for hate here.

Days later, Hassana said she's still feeling the emotional effects of the speech. "All the attention this is getting, this is certainly hitting hard," Hassana told CBC's Radio Active Thursday. "It's been very overwhelming in the best possible way."

She said her friend first told her about the opportunity to speak in the House of Commons, and after she was chosen to represent the Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan riding, the organization asked if she wanted to make a statement.

"I was thinking to myself, 'What is something I have to offer?'" Hassana said. She sent in a couple paragraphs and a video of her speaking to the organizers.

She received an email back. "We'd definitely like you to make this statement in the House of Commons," Hassana said the email read.

'You don't belong'

With the recent attack on a mosque in Quebec City fresh on the minds of many Muslim-Canadians, Hassana knew it would resonate with other Muslims.

"Naturally, when you hear about such events … it's absolutely valid to feel like you don't belong," she said.

But after making the speech and seeing the response it received, Hassana was surprised. "I didn't really realize that it would mean so much to people in so many different ways," she said.

In the speech, Hassana said Canadians should not "justify xenophobia and prejudice under the veil of free speech."

"My heritage is not a political platform to campaign on, unless cherished as complex and as rich as its people," she said in the House.

"This is my Canada and there is no seat for hate here."

Hassana, seated after her speech, was hit with 30 seconds of applause and arms raised in solidarity by her other delegates in the House Wednesday. (CBC)

A 30-second standing ovation followed her closing remarks— and the public's response to her speech has been more of the same.

"It's been a wonderful dialogue," she said Thursday. "There is so much fear, and we have to fight it together."