Anti-Islamophobia ad campaign draws heated debate online
By CHRISTOPHER REYNOLDS, Staff Reporter
Toronto Star | June 20, 2016
An ad campaign drawing attention to Islamophobia has Torontonians talking — and that’s just the point, backers of the campaign say.
The poster, recently rolled out at about 150 TTC stations and bus shelters across the GTA, depicts a young white man squaring off against a young woman in a head scarf.
“Go back to where you came from,” he says.
“Where, North York?” she replies.
The ads, launched this week by the City of Toronto and the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI), have sparked a flurry of comments online and on the street — precisely the point, said Amira Elghawaby: “to have constant dialogue … and force people to rethink their assumptions.”
Elghawaby, spokesperson for the National Council of Canadian Muslims, said recent events have rekindled latent prejudices.
The idea for the campaign was brought forward last fall, to cushion the arrival of Syrian refugees, she said, but has become all the more urgent in the wake of the Conservatives’ proposed partial ban on the niqab in 2015, presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric, the fallout from the Paris attacks and mass shootings in San Bernardino, Calif., and Orlando, Fla..
“Islamophobia has become a serious concern in many communities in Canada,” said Elghawaby, whose organization was consulted on the ad’s creation but isn’t an official part of the campaign.
It’s not uncommon for women wearing a hijab to field unsolicited questions about their origins or criticism of their appearance, Elghawaby said. “That almost goes with the territory of being a visibly Muslim woman in Canada.”
Hijabs and hockey don’t clash; head scarves and beavertails aren’t incompatible, she says: “In other words, I’m as Canadian as the next guy or gal. And newly arrived immigrants and refugees will eventually be as well.”