Like many Muslims across Canada, I am mourning the violent terrorist attack on an innocent family in London, Ontario. The loss of these four Canadians – Canadians who were loved members of their community – is horrific and tragic.
A racist individual filled with hate toward Muslims drove his truck into a family out for a walk, murdering them simply because of their faith and how they dressed. He orphaned an innocent nine-year-old boy. I may not know the victims personally, but they could have been my family – or any of the Muslim families that I know. This should be incomprehensible in Canada.
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Sadly, this has become part of the new normal. Over the past year, as we have been dealing with COVID-19, we’ve also seen the rising tide of racist, xenophobic attacks across Canada, and like many, this has me worried for the country I love.
No Canadian minority group across the country has been left untouched by this insidious and growing trend of violence and hate toward those who look differently, worship differently, or love differently. Since 2017, we’ve seen a sharp increase in the number of hate crimes motivated by race or faith, and there has been no signal of this trend slowing down.
And so, yet again, we grieve. We grieve because this happened to our community, in our backyard, in Canada – to Canadians – and by a fellow citizen.
Sunday night’s attack struck me to my very core. I cannot help but recall the Islamophobia I’ve experienced personally. Whether it be a passing motorist yelling “Jihad” at me as I go for a walk, having to prove that I can be a Muslim AND be a loyal Canadian, being told that my Muslim name makes someone uncomfortable, or other more subtle manifestations of anti-Muslim sentiment.
But nothing I have experienced comes close to the violence that others have experienced. And so, I count myself lucky. Lucky because just like most other Canadians, I can’t fathom having so much hate in me that I would want to harm someone else.
We all find ourselves trying to make sense of this tragedy, and to find a way to emerge out of this horror that honours those who have been taken. We know we need to combat and defeat racism, and governments at all levels must do their part. It’s up to all of us.
For me – the answer lies in never forgetting that, as Canadians, we all have so much more in common than that which divides us, and we must seek to find strength in that diversity and in those differences.
Like so many Canadians who came here from somewhere else, my parents fled persecution and arrived in Canada to build a life filled with opportunity, prosperity and hope. They came here knowing that it was their responsibility to build strong friendships, trust, and goodwill – and to contribute to Canada.
This idea of building together is one that we must embrace.
We all want to combat racism and hate – but we can’t do it alone. This is an opportunity for all Canadians to fight this together through cross-cultural dialogue, empathy, and education. We need to learn about one another, understand one another, and share our real and lived experiences.
In a world where hate can be spread like wildfire online, it is critical that we work together to speak out against this type of xenophobia quickly, confidently, and unreservedly – especially when another community within our Canadian family is under attack.
As a Jewish friend of mine reminded me recently, “an attack on one of us, is an attack on all of us.”
My call to action is simple: reach out to someone you may not know well, from a community different from your own. Start a conversation. Share your story and hear someone else’s. Build trust and friendships. Find ways to understand your unconscious biases and how they affect interactions with others. This may seem like a tall order, but communication, dialogue, and an open heart are the key to moving forward.
That is the Canada I know we can build. One without fear of differences. A Canada where everyone can live in safety and security, to be the best version of who they are without any fear in their heart and with the knowledge that what each of us brings to the table makes us all stronger, together.