OTTAWA – Tackling the soaring anti-Muslim sentiment in Canada, Ottawa police have urged the religious minority to report “all forms of abuses”, in a bid to protect Muslims from being “victimized”.
“We’re ensuring that these types of incidents are reported so we have a clear picture of what’s happening and if there is a crime committed we need to investigate those incidents,” Staff-Sgt. David M. Zackrias, of the diversity and race relations, told CBC News on Friday, October 16.
“If people are feeling intimidated and threatened, they should be reporting those incidents to police.
Citing three separate Islamophobia incidents, in which veiled women were targeted recently, M. Zackrias called on Muslim groups to encourage those who are “being victimized” to reach out to police.
Wearing the Islamic headscarf, hijab, three Muslim women reported being verbally harassed by strangers, according to Amira Elghawaby, from the National Council of Canadian Muslims, an Ottawa-based group that tracks anti-Muslim assaults.
While one of the Muslim women at a polling station was told to go back to her own country, the other was called a terrorist by a passerby downtown.
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.
While hijab is an obligatory code of dress for Muslim women, the majority of Muslim scholars agree that a woman is not obliged to wear the face veil, or niqab, but believe that it is up to women to decide whether to cover her face.
Citing a spike of anti-Muslims attacks, amid niqab debate, Elghawaby urged Muslims not to be afraid to report harassment.
“They women are visibly Muslim, they wear the head scarf, and so certainly there’s a lot of concern in the communities right now about a sense of safety,” said Elghawaby.
“It’s very important to track what’s going on.”
Last June, Quebec government has proposed Bill 62 which calls for banning face coverings for people in public services, a suggestion criticized by Canadian Muslims for reinforcing negative stereotypes about Muslims.
Citing discriminatory anti-terror bill C-51, Montreal Muslims said the new legislation might affect their plans for voting, after losing confidence in the Conservative party.
“Some people feel that [the increase in anti-Muslim incidents] may be linked to the anti-Muslim rhetoric that has been very present in the current election and so we’re really encouraging people to report any kind of hate incident, hate crime so that we can respond as communities to that,” Zunera Ishaq, who won a court battle to wear a niqab while taking the citizenship oath, said.
Earlier this year, an Islamophobia monitoring group has warned that the biased media coverage fosters divisions and racism in the French speaking province of Quebec, especially following Paris attacks that victimized Muslims cross Europe.
The Collectif Québécois Contre l’Islamophobie, has documented more than 123 Islamophobic attacks since Charlie Hebdo attacks last January.
A recent survey showed that the overwhelming majority of Muslims are proud to be Canadian, and that they are more educated than the general population.