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‘We are scared’: Vaughan mothers say it’s important to speak with children about Islamophobia

'We never thought that we would have to do this here in Canada,' says Rizwana Amla
June 17, 2021
Dina Al-Shibeeb

“Love not hate” and “Islamophobia is real” are some of the slogans carried by Vaughan residents June 12 during a walk to show solidarity to the Muslim family slain in London, Ont. and the hospitalization of their nine-year-old son.

“We gave everyone like a lift up,” said Hina Zahid, one of the three founders of Muslim Women of Vaughan, a group behind the walk, which drew people from as far away as Newmarket. Vaughan-Woodbridge MP Francesco Sorbara also came to show his support.

Zahid explained how people in the Muslim community became afraid to go to mosque or to walk around in the neighbourhood.

“Now we are scared, who is safe and who is not safe. If we are standing at a stop sign or if a car is coming,” she added.

On Monday, federal and provincial crown attorneys laid terror charges against Nathaniel Veltman, 20, after four members of a Muslim family, who were taking a walk in London, were killed after a driver drove into then. The nine-year-old boy survived.

London police allege the driver, who was wearing body armour and swastikas, targeted the family because of their faith.

A "Love not hate" sign is seen during a walk organized by Muslim Women of Vaughan. - Hina Zahid photo

The other founder of the group, Rizwana Amla, lamented, “Our kids are now asking if we are safe enough if we go out ... We are a visible minority.”

“We have to educate our kids now,” Amla added, “We never thought that we would have to do this here in Canada.”

When asked about ways to stop any such tragic incidents from happening, Amla said it requires acknowledging Islamophobia is real.

On June 10, provincial Liberal Party leader Steven Del Duca tweeted that Premier Doug Ford's Progressive Conservatives blocked a motion from Ontario Liberal MPP Mitzie Hunter condemning Islamophobia.

“Unbelievable," tweeted Del Duca. "To win our fight against Islamophobia and all hateful acts our words must become actions. We should be able to get a motion condemning Islamophobia passed at Queen's Park. It's the least we can do after the act of terror in London."

Safwan Choudhry, spokesperson for the Vaughan-based Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat, he said, “We think that the solution is not in politics and policy alone.”

He continued, “While there was certainly the solidarity march on Saturday, which invited all people, to be part of the solution. We do understand that this march is one step in the right direction, among many more steps that need to be taken.”

For Choudhury, the solution is to find out the “cause of people who are so filled with hatred that they feel emboldened enough to take an innocent person's life.

“Once we identify what is the true cause of this hatred, we will have no debate, or divisions, about what we want to call it,” he said in reference to some people shying away from calling the London attack a terrorist act.

As for the source of the hatred, he said it goes back to a lack of understanding and a lack of education.

“So, it is people that have not taken the opportunity to learn and embrace the multicultural society that we live in, and understand people's different point of views, with a genuine interest of learning more.”

He also said the pandemic has created growing mental health problems for some people.

Reports have shown, especially in Toronto, a spike in hate crimes with Jewish and Black people the most common targets, followed by LGBTQ and Asian/Chinese communities.

Choudhury says Muslims can play an "active role" in eliminating people’s misconceptions about Islam and Muslims.

“To this effect, we plan on doing many more events, programs, and even mosque's open house events to invite people.”