OTTAWA – Canadian Muslim organizations have voiced concerns over the rise of anti-Muslim bullying after last week attacks, which extended to reach Muslims in school, public buses and streets.
“There are some very positive signs that we’ve noticed in the form of calls of support and examples of people resisting bigotry,” Amy Awad, human rights coordinator of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, told Reuters on Thursday, October 31.
“But there has been a large increase in complaints, too.”
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The group warned that there has seen a tenfold increase in reports of harassment, including racial slurs on public buses, notes left on car windshields and bullying at schools.
According to Awad, a normal volume of reports of anti-Muslim incidents nationwide is about five a week.
“That has gone up about tenfold, with a real surge in the past few days,” she said.
Last week, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau stormed the Parliament building purportedly in the name of Islam after killing soldier Nathan Cirillo, 24, at the War Memorial.
The shooting followed the incident in which Martin Couture-Rouleau, who had reverted to Islam last year and took the name Ahmad Rouleau, rammed his car into two Canadian Forces members.
Anti-Muslim bullying increased despite of immediate condemnation from several Canadian Muslim groups for the attacks, which came as Canada sent warplanes to take part in air strikes against the so-called “Islamic State” (ISIL) in Iraq.
A handful of high-ranking politicians in Canada have also urged residents not to lash out against Muslims.
Muslims make around 2.8 percent of Canada’s 32.8 million population, and Islam is the number one non-Christian faith in the country.
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A recent survey showed that the overwhelming majority of Muslims are proud to be Canadian, and that they are more educated than the general population.
The huge rise of Islamophobic attacks was confirmed by other rights groups as well.
“Since the end of the episode with the Charter of Values we have received very few complaints,” Adil Charkaoui, coordinator of the Quebec Collective Against Islamophobia, said.
“With these tragic events, it has all started again,” Charkaoui, a Moroccan-born Canadian citizen, added.
According to Charkaoui, Quebec Collective Against Islamophobia has received 30 complaints of harassment since last week.
It marked the largest number of complaints the group has collected since a failed attempt earlier this year by the province’s former government to enact a charter that would ban religious headgear such as Jewish kippas and Muslim hijabs in Quebec’s public workforce, he said.
Imam Syed Soharwardy, founder of Muslims Against Violence in Calgary, said he has also received a flurry of recent complaints, but said they were minor.
“Yes, there has been a backlash, but the overwhelming majority of Canadians are civilized and tolerant,” he said.
“We’ve seen a number of examples of that.”
The MAC Islamic Centre of Cold Lake has been vandalized, with its windows smashed and the graffiti “go home” and “Canada” spray-painted on the exterior of the building.
Rejecting the hateful act, residents have banded together to clean and repair a mosque that had been vandalized.
After scrubbing away the spray-painted words “Go Home,” the volunteers taped up a sign saying: “You are home.”
In a social experiment on Canadians’ tolerance towards Muslims, an actor has punched in the face by a resident of Hamilton, Ontario, , after he loudly harangued a Muslim at a bus stop.
A YouTube video of the experiment has gone viral.