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Vancouver Muslim woman harassed in wake of Paris attacks

DH Vancouver Staff Nov 17, 2015 6:53 pm

It was a rainy Saturday afternoon and Sabrina Lalani was in Burnaby waiting for the bus to head to work. Her jacket didn’t have a hood, so she used her scarf to protect her head from the rain.

She had only been at the bus stop for five minutes when a man leaned out of his car and yelled “you dirty terrorist” as he passed by.

Prepared to comfort the person he was yelling at, Lalani looked around, but realized she was the only person at the bus stop. The man’s Islamophobic remarks were directed at her.

“I’ve never been in this kind of situation before,” Lalani told Vancity Buzz. She suspects it comes as a direct result of the recent ISIS attacks in Paris that left 129 people dead.

“I highly doubt it’s a coincidence that the next day this happens. I think this is just the mere beginnings of it all – I think there are other people who are going to go through this same situation if not worse.”

The shock of what happened left Lalani empty-handed: she didn’t get a license plate number, the make or model of the car, or a description of the man. The only detail she recalled was that it was a blue vehicle, so she didn’t bother filing a police report.

Lalani, who is Muslim, said many people don’t understand the fundamental principles of Islam, including unity, and that extremists aren’t really Muslim at all.

“Now is the time that a lot of Muslims and non-Muslims are taking a stand and saying something about it and proving that this is not religion,” she said in reference to the Paris attacks.

President of the BC Muslim Association Daud Ismail agrees – terrorists aren’t Muslims.

“They are committing a criminal act in the name of religion. They have nothing to do with Islam.”

The harassment Lalani faced isn’t the worst of it. A mosque was recently set ablaze in Peterborough, Ontario, and a Muslim woman in Toronto was beaten by two men on her way to pick up her children from school.

Ismail, for his part, isn’t frightened by what he views as a few isolated incidences in a generally accepting country.

“There maybe some individuals who feel hatred towards a particular group of people, I think they are taking advantage of the international incidents like this,” he said.

Lalani thinks people who have been victims of Islamophobia need to speak up in order to change perceptions.

“Muslims are not like this, Catholics are not like this, Buddhists are not like this, nobody is like this except for the people themselves that are acting this way.”

DH Vancouver Staff
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