Muslim women say urgent need for hate crime prevention in Waterloo Region
Group reaches out to document anti-Muslim incidents and raise awareness
The Coalition of Muslim Women of Kitchener-Waterloo is bringing back a hate crimes prevention program for what the group says is an urgent need.
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The group says it wants to encourage people to report any incidents that may be part of the anti-Muslim backlash seen in the wake of the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, France.
"We felt there was a general unease in the community, and there was a bit of fear, and that people, especially Muslim women, were scared to pick up their children from school or go to work. We were called to action because of that," said Sarah Shafiq, the coordinator of the hate prevention initiative.
The return of the program comes after reports of physical or verbal assaults on Muslims in Toronto over the past few weeks. One woman waiting to pick up her children from school said she was beaten and robbed, while two others said they were accosted on the subway.
In addition, a mosque in Peterborough was set on fire.
Shafiq says there have been no such reports in Waterloo Region since the Paris attacks. But when the group was running the program as a pilot project from November 2012 to December 2013, it noted that a number of Muslim women in the Kitchener-Waterloo region had related experiences of discrimination.
"One such incident was shared with us by a Caucasian woman who had recently converted to Islam," the coalition's website said. "She told us how a familiar cab driver, upon learning of her conversion commented, 'Just don't go blowing any of us up now.' The Muslim woman answered: 'Islam is a religion of peace.' The driver said: 'Yeah right' and drove away."
At the time the pilot project was launched, the group said it wanted to increase awareness about hate crimes, their prevention and reporting among Muslim women living in Kitchener-Waterloo. It also wanted to establish a database of hate incidents and provide one-on-one support to women who are reporting such incidents.
Shafiq says those calling the hate prevention hotline at 226-988-5392, or contacting through email at firstname.lastname@example.org, will be encouraged to talk to police if the incident is serious.