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Islamophobia 'entrenched' in Canada, Senate committee report says

Muslim women, specifically Black Muslim women, are the most vulnerable when it comes to Islamophobic attacks, report says
Muslim women attend vigil for victims of deadly vehicle attack on members of Muslim community in Canada's London, Ontario, on 8 June 2021 (AFP)

Islamophobia is "deeply" entrenched in Canadian society and Black hijab-wearing women are the most vulnerable, a Canadian Senate committee report says.

Far-right and anti-Muslim hate groups are growing, along with incidents of hate, according to a report by the Senate Committee on Human Rights. The report is set to be released in its entirety in July.

Police-reported hate crimes against Muslim communities across Canada increased by 71 percent in 2021 alone, with around eight incidents per 100,000 Muslims, Statistics Canada reported last year.

“Canada has a problem," committee chair Senator Salma Ataullahjan said Wednesday in a phone interview with The Canadian Press, where she discussed the unreleased report

"We are hearing of intergenerational trauma because young kids are witnessing this. Muslims are speaking out because there are so many attacks happening and they are so violent.”

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The committee also found that attacks against Muslims often take place in public, for example on the streets, and appear to be more violent than attacks targetting other religious groups. They also found that far-right and anti-Muslim hate groups are some of the driving factors behind these attacks against Muslims. 

Earlier this month, Muslims in Canada called for more protection and a serious engagement with Islamophobia after a man entered a mosque brandishing a weapon, threatened congregants, damaged mosque property, and tried to run over worshippers in the parking lot.

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A 28-year-old was arrested and is facing several criminal offences.

In 2020, a mosque caretaker was killed in the Toronto area, while three years earlier, a gunman killed six Muslim men at a mosque in Quebec City.

But the Senate committee began its work in June 2021 after four members of a Muslim family were killed when a pickup truck ran over them as they were taking an evening walk in London, Ontario. Currently, a man is facing terror-related charges for the killings. 

To investigate exactly how deep the problem of anti-Muslim hate is in Canada, the committee’s senators, analysts, and translators travelled to various parts of the country to speak to Muslims who were survivors of attacks, along with doctors, mosque leaders, and others.  

According to Ataullahjan, the report will detail day-to-day aggression against Muslim Canadians, including accounts from hijab-wearing girls in schools, as many of them don’t report these crimes to the police. 

“People don’t like to report these things,” Steven Zhou, the spokesperson for the National Council of Canadian Muslims said in a statement. “It takes a lot out of them to actually go to courts or talk to the police who might not understand exactly what they’ve gone through.”

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