Statement in the Senate Chamber on Islamophobia

December 8, 2016

On December 7th,¬†during Senator’s Statements¬†in the Senate Chamber, I spoke about the growing issue of Islamophobia in Canada and other Western countries.

Honourable senators, I came to this country as a young bride to join my husband, who had moved here as a student. In moving to Canada, I joined a population of Canadian Muslims that has existed since the country’s formation.

In this global political climate, accounts of hate crimes against Muslims have increased in many Western countries, including Canada. Last month in Edmonton, an elderly male approached two young women wearing hijabs at the University of Alberta, pulled a rope from his pocket and tied a noose before threatening, “This is for you. He then proceeded to sing “O Canada” in front of the two young women.

Last week, Noah, a 15-year-old Muslim boy in Hamilton, was the victim of such an attack, according to his father, with whom I have spoken. Noah was walking home when he was accosted and beaten with a baseball bat. Noah’s family believes this crime was motivated by hate, as none of his personal belongings were taken. It will take Noah a year to recover.

Unfortunately, the increase in hate crimes against Muslims is not a surprise to many in the Muslim community. Muslims are often “othered” and their differences only suspiciously tolerated. Muslims exist in a constant state of guilt and suspicion. Muslims are always required to prove that they are the right type of Muslims, that they believe in so-called Canadian values and that they are not extremists.

We need only consider how the Muslim community is treated after a terrorist attack committed by a Muslim. It is the only community that is expected to apologize and defend their religion and community for acts that are committed by only 0.06 per cent of the Muslim population. This is an unfair responsibility placed on all Muslims. The fact is that terrorists have killed more Muslims in the name of Islam than at any other time in history.

We must stop requiring these explanations, and Muslims must stop offering these explanations. By constantly defending our faith, we Muslims are implying that we carry guilt.

The effects of Islamophobia are especially complex as Islamophobia operates differently across race, socio-economic status and gender. Certain Muslim communities are further marginalized because of race. Some women find their personal choices subjected to racist sentiments, especially those who choose to wear a hijab. Islamophobia must be combatted in all forms, from small statements that make Muslims feel alienated, othered and unwelcome, to violent attacks that some young people experience, which sadly seem to be increasing.

These conversations may be uncomfortable; however, we do not have the liberty of avoiding such discomfort when people are being subjected to anti-Islamic sentiments and people’s safety is at risk. I hope that today we can begin an ongoing conversation about how we can move forward. Thank you.


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