As Muslim women are attacked in Alberta, a community asks: Can Canada face its Islamophobia problem?

EDMONTON—Amal Mohamud is on alert the second she leaves her residence.

By now, the routine has develop into acquainted. She makes certain her household is aware of her whereabouts. She double checks that she has her telephone. And as she walks the streets, pathways and sidewalks of Edmonton, she is continually scanning her environment for any indicators of hazard.

As a lady, she’s lengthy taken a few of these precautions. However currently, Mohamud has been hyper vigilant, reflecting what she calls the brand new regular of dwelling in a metropolis that has seen not less than 9 assaults reported towards Muslim girls, most of them Black and carrying a hijab, since December. Calgary has seen not less than three Islamophobic assaults since March.

This previous week, the Nationwide Council of Canadian Muslims reported {that a} man, described as a Caucasian male, fired a gun from inside a automotive at a lady carrying a hijab. Edmonton police say the matter is underneath investigation and that there is no such thing as a indication to this point it was hate motivated.

The spate of assaults have left a lot of Edmonton’s Muslim neighborhood dwelling in concern, particularly in mild of the latest killing of a Muslim household in London, Ont.

What’s unfolding in Alberta, some say, speaks to a bigger questioning that’s going down from coast to coast over the virulent, underlying racism inside Canadian society, and whether or not governments and regulation enforcement have the instruments — and the political will — to handle it.

At stake is that this nation’s vaunted self-image as a welcoming, tolerant nation, however extra importantly for Canadians comparable to Mohamud dwelling via the harassment and violence in cities comparable to Edmonton, is an imperiled sense of security.

Particulars of the assaults are chilling.

Final week, police in St. Albert, a metropolis simply northwest of Edmonton, mentioned a knife-wielding man uttered racial slurs and attacked two Muslim girls who had been strolling on a pathway. Police say the person grabbed one of many girls by her hijab and pushed her to the bottom, the place she was knocked unconscious. St. Albert RCMP say they imagine the incident was motivated by hate.

Edmonton police have laid costs in not less than seven incidents they allege had been motivated by hate since December. That month, police say, a person approached two Black girls carrying hijabs who had been sitting in a automobile and began yelling racist obscenities at them. He proceeded to punch the passenger facet window, shattering it. When one of many girls ran from the automobile, police say, the person ran after her, pushed her to the bottom and assaulted her. Richard Bradley Stevens, 41, of Edmonton, has been charged with two counts of assault and one rely of mischief.

Edmonton, residence to the primary mosque in Canada, has a Somali neighborhood of about 20,000 robust. Many of the assaults have been on Somali girls.

Mohamud, a first-generation Somali-Canadian, can relate to different millennial Albertans in some ways. She binges on Netflix, listens to Beyoncé and enjoys attending nation concert events and watching hockey video games.

However as a result of she’s a Black Muslim lady who wears a hijab, she finds herself dwelling in concern within the nation she calls residence.

'It's not fair for me to live in fear,' says Amal Mohamud.

“Each time I’m going out, it’s like earlier than I used to be afraid of COVID, however now I’m extra afraid of somebody simply attacking me out of nowhere,” Mohamud mentioned. “And it’s not only for me — what if it’s somebody I do know: my cousin, my buddy, even my mother? And I don’t assume it’s truthful for anybody to dwell in that concern.”

She mentioned she didn’t expertise overt racism and hate rising up in Canada, however that modified when she began taking public transit as a post-secondary pupil round 2012. About twice a 12 months, she mentioned, she would get known as the n-word or a terrorist, or be instructed, “Return to your nation.”

Now with the latest assaults, getting on a bus appears out of the query.

“My household and I and my mates, we mentioned this and we’re speaking about the way it’s essential to not exit by yourself. Even for small walks, it’s at all times good to go along with somebody in pairs. … I by no means thought I’d be feeling this scared in Canada.”

She mentioned she now has anxiousness whereas strolling down the road whatever the time of day, figuring out that lots of the reported assaults occurred in public locations in broad daylight.

However she mentioned she refuses to really feel unwelcome in her personal nation and determined to speak to the Star as a result of she believes it’s essential that Muslim girls communicate out. Mohamud, who teaches Islamic Research and has labored as a tv producer for stations comparable to OMNI TV, mentioned she pursued work in media as a result of she was bored with seeing adverse stereotypes of Muslims.

She has goals of becoming a member of Netflix to supply documentaries to extend illustration and spotlight constructive tales in regards to the Muslim neighborhood in Canada.

“I would like folks to know that, sure, we’re scared … however, for instance, for me, my method of combating racism and all of that’s the work that I do,” Mohamud mentioned. “And lots of different Muslim girls are doing issues to forestall it as effectively, and I really feel like generally that will get overshadowed by folks simply us like ‘Oh, you poor factor.’

“We hijabis are greater than our hijab. … We’ve got so many objectives and goals, and I’m identical to some other common Canadian. The one distinction is I simply practise my faith extra (visibly).”

Irfan Chaudhry, a hate crimes researcher and vice-president of the Alberta Hate Crimes Committee, mentioned that whereas the string of assaults in Alberta is extraordinarily alarming, it could possibly be a mere snapshot of what’s occurring nationwide.

He pointed to the 2017 Quebec Metropolis mosque taking pictures, when a person killed six worshippers and left 5 significantly wounded throughout night prayers; the deadly stabbing of a person exterior of an Etobicoke mosque final 12 months; and a latest report of a person in Saskatoon who was taunted, stabbed and had his beard minimize off.

“What you’re seeing, whether or not it’s in Edmonton or it’s in Calgary, I believe possibly it’s only a concentrated instance of what we’re seeing elsewhere. As a result of we additionally don’t know what’s (not) getting reported,” Chaudhry mentioned.

The pandemic might have helped carry Canada’s Islamophobia drawback to the fore. Chaudhry mentioned the Cease Hate Alberta web site, the place folks can report hate incidents, has seen a rise in stories of individuals experiencing anti-Asian sentiments in the course of the pandemic, but additionally anti-Muslim sentiments. A part of this could possibly be attributed to folks spending extra time in on-line echo chambers that unfold hate — dwelling in each a bodily and psychological bubble.

Within the wake of the lethal assault in London, there was a rallying cry to handle Islamophobia in Canada. Chaudhry mentioned the nation didn’t react the identical method after the 2017 Quebec mosque taking pictures.

“Various the leaders didn’t even go down the trail of Islamophobia. … And so they had been known as out for not framing it for what it was,” he mentioned. “Now, fast-forward and Islamophobia is (a time period) being utilized by a lot of the leaders, however I don’t wish to say that we needs to be that as progress. As a result of for me, the progress is within the motion.”

He famous that some politicians who’ve condemned Islamophobia, comparable to Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, additionally confirmed help for a niqab ban throughout citizenship ceremonies again in 2014. The London assault prompted a number of Conservative MPs to difficulty mea culpas, saying they didn’t beforehand do sufficient to fight Islamophobia.

“This is identical Conservative authorities who, in 2015, was working on a barbaric cultural observe hotline, which was extraordinarily Islamophobic in nature. And also you’re going to inform me they’ve had a sudden shift?” Chaudhry mentioned.

“I’m not attempting to equate the 2, however the sudden shift ought to have been when folks had been shot up at a mosque in Canada.”

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There’s a simmering underbelly of hate and intolerance in Canada, however politicians solely concentrate when hateful ideas flip to violent actions, Chaudhry mentioned.

The Quebec mosque shooter cited Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s welcoming of Syrian refugees as one in all his major motivations. Extra lately, Chaudhry mentioned, when a number of Canadian municipalities modified their noise bylaw so mosques might broadcast the Islamic name to prayer via loudspeakers whereas they had been closed for in-person gathering, it was viciously opposed on-line.

“When folks noticed this, they had been screaming on the prime of their lungs, just about … they’re saying, ‘I don’t perceive why this group continues to get particular therapy, look how this group involves our nation they usually’re taking away all of our values.’”

Introducing laws just isn’t at all times a easy resolution. M-103, a non-binding movement to sentence Islamophobia, itself grew to become a lightning rod for Islamophobia as some Canadians pointed to it for instance of Muslims getting particular therapy.

It’s why neighborhood advocates comparable to Jibril Ibrahim, president of the Somali Canadian Cultural Society of Edmonton, are pushing to strengthen hate-crime legal guidelines and make the method for reporting hateful incidents simpler and extra inclusive. He and different neighborhood members met with federal and provincial ministers to debate the difficulty this week.

He mentioned the variety of hate crimes which have taken place relative to what has been reported is way greater than folks understand.

“There needs to be a brand new mechanism for reporting hate incidents and hate crimes, and the mechanism ought to accommodate folks in order that they aren’t afraid to report hate incidents, in addition to individuals who want language variants,” Ibrahim mentioned.

Jibril Ibrahim is the president of the Somali Canadian Cultural Society of Edmonton.

Ibrahim famous the province and Metropolis of Edmonton have created Anti-Racism Advisory teams, however he mentioned there’s been an absence of session with the neighborhood members who’re most affected.

As for police, he mentioned, they’ve proven little to no willingness to work along with his group. He confirmed the Star a letter despatched to Edmonton Police Chief Dale McFee on Could 24 about an incident he believes was hate motivated and mentioned they’ve acquired no response.

He added some members of the Somali neighborhood in Edmonton are hesitant to report incidents of hate to police due to their prior experiences.

“There are a number of documented case of Muslims attempting to report incidents to the police after which the victims are victimized by the police themselves,” Ibrahim mentioned.

Edmonton police declined an interview request with the top of their hate crimes unit. In February, after two Islamophobic incidents occurred in Edmonton on the identical day, EPS Sgt. Gary Willits, of the EPS Hate Crimes and Violent Extremism Unit, mentioned the incidents, which occurred in public locations in the course of the day, present an “extraordinarily alarming pattern threatening the security of the Muslim neighborhood.”

“We acknowledge the affect and trauma of those assaults are vital to the victims, their family members, and the broader neighborhood,” Willits mentioned.

Ibrahim desires to see hate crime legal guidelines develop to incorporate offences comparable to racial slurs, harassment and intimidation.

“As a result of now they solely name it a hate crime after you get killed,” he mentioned.

In Canada’s felony code, there are 4 hate crime costs: advocating genocide; public incitement of hatred; wilful promotion of hatred; and mischief to non secular property. Different offences could be categorized as hate-motivated if there’s proof the particular person or property was focused due to race, gender, faith, sexual choice or different identifiable options.

For neighborhood members comparable to Mohamud, it’s not sufficient.

“It’s not like there must be a dialog,” she mentioned. “It must be stopped.”

She mentioned the assaults on her religion have made her ponder whether or not the nation she was born in is as welcoming as she as soon as thought.

“If I had to decide on between Somalia or Canada, I’d at all times select Canada, not as a result of it’s a first-world nation, however as a result of that is residence. That is my residence. … It’s not truthful for me to dwell in concern,” Mohamud mentioned.

“That is Canada. They at all times discuss variety, multiculturalism and all of that. However I don’t know. It doesn’t really feel prefer it.”



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