Nova Scotia

Anti-Muslim sentiment growing in Halifax due to Trump, say Dal students

Two Muslim women from Halifax say the Islamaphobia fostered by Donald Trump is making its way into Canada.

'Trump now being president has validated people's ideas of racism'

Amina Abawajy and Masuma Khan are Dalhousie University students who say anti-Muslim sentiment from the United States is flowing into Canada (Moira Donovan/CBC)

This fall, while strolling down Spring Garden Road in Halifax, Amina Abawajy and Masuma Khan say they were approached by a man who pleaded with them not to bomb people.

That was before Donald Trump was elected president of the United States. Since the Nov. 8 election, they say, anti-Muslim sentiment has only worsened. 

Abawajy and Khan, who are both Muslim and wear hijabs, were born and raised in Halifax and are students at Dalhousie University.

"Trump now being president has validated people's ideas of racism," Khan told CBC's Information Morning. "Because they have a man now who thinks all these things and expresses it everywhere." 

They say the kind of Islamaphobia fostered by Trump in the United States has leapt the border into Canada. 

During the election campaign, Trump called for a total ban on Muslims entering the U.S. and also suggested starting a database that would track Muslims.

'Feeling unsafe in our neighbourhood'

Shortly after Trump was elected, Abawajy and Khan say they ran into their first incident they could trace directly back to Trump's win. 

Abawajy was getting out of Khan's car when two men rode by on bikes and yelled, "Freedom for America, support Trump." 

"I was right outside my door," said Abawajy. "So to know that there are people who … hold these types of feelings so close to where I live was pretty shocking … just now feeling unsafe in our neighbourhood."

Numerous times Abawajy and Khan say they have even been told to go home and go back to their own country.

"It's like, 'This is where I'm from,'" said Abawajy. 

Need to talk it out

The anti-Muslim sentiments may be more overt since Trump was elected, but both women said they have to deal with what Khan calls the "lighter side of racism" almost every day.

Sometimes it comes in the form of people trying to welcome them to Canada, even though they've lived here their whole lives. Abawajy said when she points out she was born in Canada, the person often replies that the welcome was well-intentioned.

Such people, she said, "try and explain and like validate it, instead of like listening to my perspective and how this affected me."

Khan said the only way to move past Islamophobia is to start discussing the problem.

"It's something that we need to start having a dialogue about it so that we can create more hope, more avenues of hope."   

With files from Information Morning

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