What does Islamophobia mean? And what does it look like?

Ontario MPPs will vote on Thursday on a motion that asks them to condemn all forms of Islamophobia. But what does Islamophobia mean?

National Council of Canadian Muslims says Islamophobia means fear and hate

Amira Elghawaby, spokesperson for the National Council of Canadian Muslims, says Islamophobia is about fear and hate.

Ontario MPPs will vote on Thursday on a motion that asks them to condemn all forms of Islamophobia.

What is Islamophobia?

The word "Islamophobia" is used in Canada is to describe the irrational fear or hatred of Muslims that leads to discrimination or acts of harassment or violence, according to Amira Elghawaby, spokesperson for the National Council of Canadian Muslims.

"It's definitely the impact of the fear and hatred," she said Wednesday.

"We live and breathe it. We do need to understand that, when we are talking about Islamophobia, we are talking about an impact, a very negative impact that the fear and hatred is having in our communities."

What does it look like?

The National Council has an online map that tracks Islamophobic incidents that have been reported to police in Canada.

Congregation members clean up debris, on Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015, after the only mosque in Peterborough, Ont. was deliberately set alight. (Christopher Katsarov/Canadian Press)

Here are some examples of Islamophobia in Ontario, according to the council:

  • In Hamilton, on Feb. 14, this year, a Muslim doctor was walking to his car from the St. Joseph's Healthcare Centre, when a group of four men approached him, blew cigarette smoke in his face and yelled "Muslim f--cking terrorist."  The incident was reported to hospital security. 
  • In Ottawa, on Nov. 18, 2016, the Ottawa Muslim Association was vandalized with the words "F*** Allah," "Go home," "666," and a swastika sign spray painted on the front doors. The vandalism of the mosque took place at the same time that there were similar attacks on a neighbourhood church. Ottawa police are investigating the possibility that the incidents may be linked. The incident was reported to police.
  • In Toronto, on Nov. 16, 2016, the Islamic Institute of Toronto received threatening tweets on its twitter account. One of these tweets read, "the battle field will be littered with slit throats, a 3" knife is still legal in Ca.&one kept razor sharp can be lethal if used decisively." The tweet was reported to police.
  • In Toronto, on Dec. 10, 2015, a Muslim woman was physically and verbally assaulted by a passenger on the Scarborough Rapid Transit line. The suspect, who police describe as a 20 to 30-year-old woman, pulled on the Muslim woman's hijab, kicked her and began yelling profanities. Both got off the LRT and went to a bus platform where the suspect continued to make racist remarks about the woman's attire. This incident was reported to police.
  • In Peterborough, Ont. on Nov. 14, 2015, according to media reports, a fire broke out at the Kawartha Muslim Religious Association's mosque, Masjid Al-Salaam, at about 11 p.m. No one was inside the mosque at the time. The fire was reported to police. The mosque has been repaired and reopened.

What is being voted on by MPPs on Thursday?

Liberal MPP Nathalie Des Rosiers, who represents Ottawa-Vanier, has brought forth an anti-Islamophobia motion that asks the Ontario legislature to take a stand against hate crimes.
Liberal MPP Nathalie Des Rosiers will introduce a motion in the Ontario legislature on Thursday calling on the House to condemn Islamophobia. (David Smiley/courtesy CCLA)

It commits the legislature to condemn hatred, hostility, prejudice, racism and intolerance, and denounce hate attacks, threats of violence and hate crimes against Muslims.

It also calls on MPPs to support the province's efforts, through its Anti-Racism Directorate, to increase anti-racism education and awareness, including about Islamophobia, across the province.

Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown said this week he will support the motion and encourage other members of his caucus to do so.
Ontario Provincial Conservative Leader Patrick Brown says he will support an anti-Islamophobia motion from a Liberal member and is encouraging his caucus to do the same. (Peter Power/Canadian Press)

Is Islamophobia on the rise in Ontario?

The short answer, according to Elghawaby, the spokesperson for the National Council of Canadian Muslims, is yes.

Elghawaby said the council received about five reports of Islamophobic incidents across the country, including an assault, vandalism, and a threat made at a workplace, just in two days this week.

"We're seeing an upward trend that has not abated," she told CBC's Metro Morning on Tuesday.

Elghawaby said whenever there is a negative spotlight on Muslims, the council sees a spike in incidents.

Who else tracks it in Canada?

While the council says Islamophobic incidents are on the rise in Ontario, that isn't the case in Toronto, according to police — at least over the last year.

The Toronto Police Service publishes an annual hate/bias crime statistical report that provides data on incidents in the city and by victim group. In its 2015 report, police noted an increase in hate crimes targeting Muslims.

But Const. Victor Kwong, spokesperson for the Toronto Police Service, said there has not been an increase in the number of reported hate crimes against the Muslim community in 2016, nor in 2017 so far.

"The three most targeted groups since 2006 have been the Jewish community, the Black community and the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) community. In 2015, the Jewish community, followed by the LGBTQ community and the Muslim community were the most victimized groups," the 2015 report reads.
More than a dozen people gathered outside a mosque in Toronto with loudspeakers and banners in hand, shouting slogans about banning Islam as Muslims gathered to pray inside. (Facebook)

Statistics Canada tracks police-reported data on hate crime and it tracks it by what it calls motivation for the crime. It also looks at the data in terms of ethnicity and religion. Data from 2014 is the most recent available. Data for 2015 will be released in June 2017.

What can be done?

The council wants the federal government to declare Jan. 29, the day of the Quebec City mosque attack, as a national day of remembrance and action on Islamophobia.

It also wants all MPs to support Motion 103, tabled by Iqra Khalid, MP for Mississauga-Erin Mills. The motion calls on the federal government to study ways in which it can reduce or eliminate racism and religious discrimination in Canada, including Islamophobia.
Liberal MP Iqra Khalid makes an announcement about an anti-Islamophobia motion on Parliament Hill on Wednesday, Feb. 15. (Patrick Doyle/The Canadian Press)

"We do actually need to look for solutions," Elghawaby said. "Hate is not just having an impact on one community."

Here is the full text of the anti-Islamophobia motion being voted on in Ontario. (CBC)

With files from Metro Morning