EDMONTON – As hate crimes targeting the Muslim minority increase, a new civil rights group in Edmonton, Alberta, is encouraging Muslims to report hate incidents to authorities amid efforts to increase their sense of safety in the community.
“Hate incidents happen to the Muslim community, to Muslim women, often,” said Ahmed Abdulkadir, executive director of the Ogaden Somali Community, CBC reported.
He said he has witnessed or been told about 15 hate incidents, but knows of only three that were reported.
Abdulkadir is one of the founders of a group called ‘Safety Within the Muslim Community,’ which formed after the Sept. 30 attacks, in which a Somali refugee was charged with attacking a police officer.
The group aims to encourage Muslims in Edmonton to report hate incidents committed against them.
Fatmeh Kalouti, a member of a group, is one of those Muslims who did not report hate attacks. Kalouti was leaving a north-end Walmart in her car in early October when a vehicle pulled up beside her, swerving into her lane.
“He kept trying to come into my lane and push me into the curb,” she said.
When she slowed down to let him pass, he slowed down; when she sped up, so did he. That went on for about two minutes.
“He rolled down his window and said, ‘Go back to your country. You’re not welcome here,’ ” she said.
But Kalouti didn’t report her encounter on the road.
“I was just, like, nothing’s going to come out of this,” said Kalouti, who works at the Mennonite Centre for Newcomers.
“Nothing is going to happen. So, I didn’t bother.”
Irfan Chaudhry, an Edmonton-based hate crimes researcher and the founder of the stophateab.ca reporting database, said that academic studies suggest hate crimes, in general, are under-reported.
This is usually a result of the victims’ feelings of stigma and shame, lack of clear understanding of what constitutes a hate crime, or that fact that they mistrust law-enforcement officials.
“There is definitely sentiments and undertones of Islamophobia, I’d say, in Canada [and] globally as well,” Chaudhry said, “Because of some of the connotations people have around the faith and its perceived connection to violent extremism.”
Abdulkadir warned that without evidence that hate incidents are happening, it is hard to figure out how to effectively combat them.
With evidence, he said, “people will talk about it and find solutions to it.”
“The challenge now is, how can we ensure people are coming forward to report and document them? We need to have a better sense of just how big of a picture this might be,” he added.