TORONTO – Concerned with the recent sharp rise in anti-Muslim incidents in Ontario, according to a new survey funded by the province and the City of Toronto, a leading Canadian Muslim organization launched a charter earlier this week to fight Islamophobia on the national level.
“Only a third of Ontarians have a positive impression of the religion and more than half feel its mainstream doctrines promote violence.”
“These sentiments are echoed with Syrian refugees in Ontario where acceptance often coincides with acceptance of Islam.”
The Government of Canada resettled 25,000 Syrian refugees between November 2015 and February 2016.
The survey was funded by the province and the City of Toronto for its recently launched public awareness campaign on Islamophobia.
In response to the rise in Islamophobia in Ontario and across the country, the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), a prominent civil liberties and advocacy organization, released a Charter for Inclusive Communities in six Canadian cities earlier this week at simultaneous news conferences.
“The recent rise in anti-Muslim incidents in Canada is disturbing and risks eroding the strength of our country’s rich social fabric,” said the Charter.
“When Muslim women are attacked in the streets, when mosques are vandalized or when people face prejudice in their workplace or school, it is not only Canadian Muslims that suffer; Canadian society as a whole is weakened because our values of equality, respect, justice and dignity for all are threatened.”
The province of Ontario has seen a number of recent incidents that have targeted Muslims.
A woman wearing a hijab was attacked at a supermarket in the southwestern Ontario city of London in June and a University of Western Ontario student from Iran was beaten by two men who taunted him and told him to go back to his country.
Also, in June, an anti-immigrant group rooted in Germany held an anti-Muslim protest in Toronto.
“Hate crimes against Muslims have risen dramatically in recent years both in Canada, and around the world,” stated the NCCM Charter for Inclusive Communities.
“Given the unfortunate climate of fear that seems to have entered some segments of public life, it appears that this trend is increasing.”
“Islamophobia is real and it is wrong, despite what some may say to downplay it or dismiss it,” added the Charter.
“This type of hate and discrimination tells Canadian Muslims that they do not belong by isolating them and their communities through stigmatization and casting them as outsiders and the ‘other’”.
According to the survey conducted for Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants and advocacy group Mass Minority, Islam is the most likely to be viewed by the respondents as a promoter of violence, followed by Sikhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism and Buddhism.
Three-quarters of Ontarians said they feel Muslim immigrants have fundamentally different values, largely due to perceived gender inequality, the survey found.
Muslims are the fastest growing religious community in Canada, according to the country’s statistical agency, Statistics Canada.
Canada’s Muslim population increased by 82 percent over the past decade – from about 579,000 in 2001 to more than 1 million in 2011.
Muslims represent 3.2 percent of Canada’s total population.
[See Charter for Inclusive Communities: http://www.nccm.ca/CHARTER/]