Nearly everyone who has been unkind to me has been Canadian. Almost every racist, sexist, or threatening word that I have heard in person has come from Canadian minds. Yet as a nation, we really love to look over our shoulder at America (or wherever) and dismiss all of our problems as “not as bad” as there’s while patting ourselves on the back for our cultural “niceness”.
That’s lazy, and its turning a blind eye to some real homegrown problems. As Canadians, we can’t do very much to change the way Saudi Arabia or the US treats its minorities but we can do something about how our community treats ours.
According to the latest numbers from Statistics Canada, in 2014 the Canadian police forces recorded 99 religiously motivated hate crimes against Muslims — a 220% increase from 2012. I’m only speculating, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if those numbers have risen even further since 2014.
Here are some ways that my province has been cruel to its Muslim population within the last 10 months:
September 2016: Hamilton Man Attempts to Set Fire to Mosque
June 2016: London Muslim Woman is Attacked in a Grocery Store
November 2015: Peterborough Mosque is Set on Fire
November 2015: Toronto Muslim Woman Attacked on Her Way to Pick Up Her Kids
November 2015: Toronto Family Finds Anti-Muslim Graffiti Scrawled Outside Their Apartment
Hate in our own backyard is never okay. And even if we may not be the ones enacting any of this stuff, how many of us have been in the room when someone has said something Islamophobic? THESE are the situations where we can change something. We can use our power by speaking up.
My project has gotten some international attention from an Ex Muslim Reddit group, which freaked me out a bit. I was considering ending the project early but I’ve decided to stick with it. Its valuable because its forcing me to meditate upon a group I normally wouldn’t. Its forcing me to think about what it is like to be considered an outsider on Canadian soil. Its forcing me to stand outside of my comfort zone and that is where growth begins.
Of course my 10 Day experiment does not equal the Muslim woman’s experience of Canada. Nevertheless, an honest attempt at trying to get a better understanding, of thinking about what life might be like for someone else who lives in the same place I do but has a different experience, is probably better than doing nothing at all to understand. A lack of understanding breeds fear. And fear breeds hate. And hate breeds the idiotic events that happened in Ontario this year.
I’ve decided to just not wear the headscarf while tending to my dog. That seems like the easiest solution. The last thing I want to do is offend anyone from the group I’m trying to advocate for and understand a little better. And now I’ve learned to be more aware should we happen upon any Muslims with our dog in the future.
I wish I had a Canadian Muslim woman to dialogue with about these thoughts. It is a Muslim woman who challenges the women of the internet to try life with a hijab to see what it is like but it would be lovely to do it without bumbling through the experience haphazardly.