Combatting Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim Hate Crimes in Canada
In 2022, The United Nations General Assembly designated March 15th as the International Day to Combat Islamophobia. This designation was adopted in response to an alarming rise in anti-Muslim discrimination and bigotry. The purpose of this day is to remember victims of Islamophobic acts of violence and encourage the promotion of “interreligious and intercultural dialogue in order to enhance peace and social stability, respect for diversity and mutual respect.” Let us use this day to learn more about the experiences of Canadian Muslims and consider ways we can support efforts to combat anti-Muslim hatred and promote greater religious tolerance.
The Ontario Human Rights Commission describes Islamophobia as the “racism, stereotypes, prejudice, fear or acts of hostility directed towards individual Muslims or followers of Islam in general.” While Canadian Muslims have a long history of enduring religious discrimination, reactions to the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks intensified pre-existing negative perceptions of Muslims, fuelling an increase in violence and discrimination towards the Muslim community.
Tragically, in recent years, there have been numerous incidents of violent Islamophobic attacks in Canada. In June 2022, a man, fueled with hatred of Muslims, attacked a Muslim family, killing four members and severely injuring a child in London, Ontario. In March 2022, a man entered a Mississauga mosque armed with an axe and bear spray saying he was there to "kill terrorists.” In 2017, a white-nationalist gunman entered a mosque in Sainte-Foy, Québec, and murdered six Muslim men and injured 19 others after evening prayers. This was the worst mass murder, in a house of worship, in Canadian history.
Sociology professor Jasmin Zine's article in The Conversation emphasizes the connections between these incidents and our national culture of Islamophobia. Zine highlights two national polls conducted in the same year as the Quebec mosque killings. One poll revealed that “46 percent of Canadians held unfavourable views of Islam as compared to other faiths” and the other found that “23 percent of Canadians favoured a ban on Muslim immigration."
Muslim advocates and organizations urged Ottawa to establish a commemorative day dedicated to the remembrance of the Quebec mosque attack. After years of campaigning, the federal government finally designated January 29th as the National Day of Remembrance of the Québec City Mosque Attack and Action against Islamophobia.
The creation of the International Day to Combat Islamophobia (March 15) and the Day of Remembrance and Action on Islamophobia (January 29) serve as important advocacy tools for raising awareness about Islamophobia. According to Statistics Canada, in 2021, police-reported hate crimes targeting Muslims were up 71% compared to the previous year. And as noted in a 2021 report produced by the National Council of Canadian Muslims, “more Muslims have been killed in targeted hate-attacks in Canada than any other G-7 country in the past 5 years because of Islamophobia.”
Actions to take today
Here are some suggestions for actions we can take to resist and counter anti-Muslim hate:
- Educate yourself about Islam and Muslims. Learning more about Muslims, their beliefs and their experiences help provide information to dispel common myths and stereotypes.
- Develop media literacy and demand unbiased reporting. Examine the representation of Islam and Muslims in the media you consume and learn more about how the press has contributed to the negative perception of Muslims.
- Join or create an event. Get involved or create anti-Islamophobia campaigns in your community such as rallies, community talks, and interfaith demonstrations. Show solidarity by wearing the Green Ribbon against Islamophobia.
- Become politically active and aware. Know your elected official's stance and be aware of anti-Muslim legislation (e.g. religious clothing bans). Make your voice heard by contacting your elected officials, writing letters to local papers and through your vote.
Books and documentaries available at the library
Here is a selection of books and films to start you on your learning journey. There are also many more documentaries on Kanopy, our online resource for classic films, world cinema, documentaries and popular movies available for on-demand streaming. Don't have a library card? Get one online or sign up for one at our branches.
Un-Canadian : Islamophobia in the True North by Graeme Truelove (Book)
Truelove explores the prejudice and systemic discrimination faced by Canadian Muslims, which the author argues contradicts the values at the heart of Canada's self-image as a welcoming and freedom-loving nation.
Islamophobia: Deal with it in the Name of Peace by Safia Saleh (Book)
Saleh’s illustrated book is written for both Muslim and non-Muslim children, providing them with tools to help navigate and deal with bias, prejudice and Islamophobia.
You Truly Assumed by Laila Sabreen (Book)
After a terrorist attack, three female Muslim teens create a blog to share true stories about love, hate, anger, religion and friendship. Will a new threat force them to abandon their safe space?
Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire: 20 Years After 9/11 by Deepa Kumar (Book)
Kumar shows how Islamophobia is being used as a critical tool in the maintenance of American imperialism and should be viewed more as anti-Muslim racism than as just an ideology of religious intolerance.
Under Siege: Islamophobia and the 9/11 Generation by Jasmin Zine (Book)
Conducting over 130 interviews with Canadian Muslim youth, Zine explores the impact of the “War on Terror” on a generation shaped by the aftermath of a post-9/11 world.
Your Last Walk in the Mosque (Documentary)
Four months after the mass murder of six Muslim worshippers in a mosque in Quebec City, survivors and the victims' families share about the devastating impact it has had on them, their loved ones and their community.
Constructing the Terrorist Threat : Islamophobia, the Media & the War on Terror (Documentary)
Deepa Kumar examines the media’s role in the circulation of anti-Muslim tropes. Kumar argues that the creation of the threatening Muslim “race” has been central to the growth of U.S. power on the global stage.