Canadian Muslims share experiences of Islamophobia in new report

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A dozen Canadian Muslims talk about their experiences of Islamophobia in a new report from the charity Islamic Relief Canada.

The release of the report coincides with the fifth anniversary of the Quebec City mosque shooting and the National Day of Action Against Islamophobia on January 29.

Reyhana Patel, head of communications and government relations at Islamic Relief Canada, said Canadians often only hear about violent or extreme attacks on Muslims.

She said this report aims to shed light on the daily incidents of discrimination and micro-aggressions suffered by Muslims, and to show the long-lasting effects of hatred.

One of those who shared their story is Saleha Islam, 23, from Abbotsford, British Columbia. According to Islam, when she was in high school, she first wore a hijab, a scarf that covers her hair, ears and neck.

A few boys in the class asked her about the hijab, then took it off her head. She said she was scared but decided to confront them.

“I was like, ‘You know what you did? This is really important to me. This is how I identify as a Muslim woman. And so you really shouldn’t do this against who whatever, never'” she said.

According to the report, many of those who shared their experiences felt that these experiences were to be expected, living as a minority in Canada.

The report also found that more women were the targets of Islamophobia.

The organization points to laws in Quebec, such as Bill 62 — a law that includes a ban on wearing the niqab, a veil that leaves room for the eyes, or the burqa, a veil that completely covers the head and bodies, while doing some – and Bill 21, which prohibits certain officials in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols at work.

In December 2021, an elementary school teacher in Chelsea, Quebec was told she could no longer teach in the classroom because she was wearing a hijab, which is prohibited by Bill 21.

The report also says most of the people who responded to the call for stories were women.

The organization calls on governments to take all necessary measures to combat Islamophobia and its root causes.

On Friday, the federal government announced in a press release its intention to appoint a special representative to combat Islamophobia in Canada.

Other calls to action outlined in the report include creating a national hotline where people can report hate crimes, including incidents of Islamophobia, strengthening existing legislation on hate crimes and launching public awareness campaigns to educate the public.

Islam said she hopes Canadians will read the stories in the report and take the time to learn about the discrimination Muslims face.

“If we don’t know if there is a problem, how are we going to start fighting it?”

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