Canada is 150 and still needs to face its racism problem: advocates

By Maham Abedi
Global News | June 29, 2017

Every day Alia Haleem she steps out the front door of her house, she knows she could be the target of a hate crime.

On most days, the Muslim mom of four says she feels prying eyes follow her through grocery store aisles in her hometown of Mississauga, Ont.

On bad days, her eight-year-old son watches as passersby taunt her, make passing remarks about her niqab, or even push her.

“Obviously it hurts you, you’re not made out of iron,” Haleem, who is also a computer engineer, told Global News.

“There are days you just come home and you feel sad. You can’t be just a normal person.”

In a country that prides itself on diversity, Haleem’s experiences with discrimination are jarring, albeit not entirely unique.

An Ipsos poll conducted on behalf of Global News found that 25 per cent of Canadians say they have experienced racism — up eight percentage points from 2005.

Of the more than 1,000 Canadians surveyed, 59 per cent thought Muslims and Arabs were most likely to be victims of race-motivated discrimination, followed by Indigenous peoples at 28 per cent, and black Canadians and East Indians, both at 23 per cent.

. . .

Amira Elghawaby, communications director with the National Council of Canadian Muslims, says the findings on racism and hate crimes against Muslims are not surprising.

“There seems to be a recognition in the public that Islamophobia can result in discrimination against Muslims,” she told Global News.

“What this really illustrates is the responsibility that we all have to address the overall reasons why it is Canadians hold these [Islamophobic] views,” she added.

She suggests the best way to bust myths about Muslims is through interfaith gatherings, open houses at mosques — simply getting to know each other to eliminate “the fear of the other.”

While the findings are concerning, especially after January’s fatal Quebec mosque shooting, Elghawaby said it’s important to stress Canadian-Muslims feel “overwhelmingly part of Canadian society.”

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