In the last week alone, Muslims in Ontario, Canada were the target of three reported hate-motivated incidents. First, a man threatened worshipers and assaulted some with a weapon and came close to running over others with his vehicle at a Markham mosque. A day later, in what police are saying is an unconnected incident, a man assaulted several people and yelled derogatory slurs at worshipers at another Markham mosque. And then, Wednesday April 13, two Muslim women in Kitchener (also in Ontario) were followed home from their mosque at gunpoint.
Thankfully nobody was seriously hurt in these incidents, but being the target of hate because of who you are and how you worship is terrifying. And Muslims in Ontario, and across the world, are living in fear. Canada has been the site of horrific recent anti-Muslim hate crimes, including the 2021 attack in London, Ontario, where four family members were killed in a heinous crime, and the 2017 Quebec City mosque shootings by an anti-Muslim extremist that left six dead.
While the spotlight this week is on Canada, where it was recently reported that hate crimes against Muslims have jumped 71 percent, anti-Muslim sentiment, just like antisemitism, is a growing global problem. Last week in Los Angeles, an Islamic center was defaced with anti-Muslim hate words. Among other countries, Germany, India, and France have also seen spikes in anti-Muslim threats and violence.
The 2019 attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, in which 51 worshipers were killed by a white supremacist is the most horrific anti-Muslim hate crime in recent years and has inspired several copycat attacks on marginalized communities. Sadly, the examples of violence targeting Muslims and mosques are plentiful and could go on. Indeed, on March 15th, at the International Day to Combat Islamophobia, a UN special rapporteur report on freedom of religion or belief indicated that “suspicion, discrimination and outright hatred towards Muslims had reached epidemic proportions”.
While some charges have been filed in response to the most recent anti-Muslim hate crimes, we must all do better at preventing these hate crimes from happening in the first place. We must work toward the day when everybody feels safe no matter their religion, their skin color, or other immutable characteristics. Hate and bigotry must be pushed to the margins and not be given space to thrive in our society. We can, and together we will, defeat anti-Muslim hate and all forms of bigotry.