Anti-Muslim bullying on rise after Canada attacks

Thu Oct 30, 2014 3:43pm EDT
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By Richard Valdmanis

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Reports of anti-Muslim harassment in Canada have risen, Muslim organizations say, after attacks last week in which two soldiers were killed by people authorities say were inspired by the militant group Islamic State.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims said it has seen a tenfold increase in reports of harassment, including racial slurs on public buses, notes left on car windshields and bullying at schools.

"There are some very positive signs that we’ve noticed in the form of calls of support and examples of people resisting bigotry," said Amy Awad, the group’s human rights coordinator. "But there has been a large increase in complaints, too."

She said a normal volume of reports of anti-Muslim incidents nationwide is about five a week. "That has gone up about tenfold, with a real surge in the past few days," she said.

Worries about homegrown extremism have risen in Canada after a gunman shot a soldier and charged into the Parliament building in Ottawa on Oct. 22. Two days earlier, a man rammed two soldiers with his car near Montreal, killing one.

Several Canadian Muslim groups quickly condemned the attacks, which came as Canada sent warplanes to take part in air strikes against Islamic State fighters in Iraq. A handful of high-ranking politicians in Canada have also urged residents not to lash out against Muslims.

Adil Charkaoui, coordinator of the Quebec Collective Against Islamophobia, said his group has received 30 complaints of harassment since last week. It marked the largest number of complaints the group has collected since a failed attempt earlier this year by the province's former government to enact a charter that would ban religious headgear such as Jewish kippas and Muslim hijabs in Quebec's public workforce, he said.

"Since the end of the episode with the Charter of Values we have received very few complaints," said Charkaoui, a Moroccan-born Canadian citizen. "With these tragic events, it has all started again."   Continued...

A group of Canadian Muslim women hold a candlelight vigil  in memory of the fallen Canadian soldiers, Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Corporal Nathan Cirillo in Montreal, October 28, 2014. REUTERS/Christinne Muschi