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May 7, 2013

Hate crimes against Muslim women on the rise

The Canadian Charger

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With so much negativity in the news about Muslims and Islam, it's not surprising that members of the Canadian Muslim community are experiencing the backlash, often expressed in the form of hate crimes.

In order to address this issue The Coalition of Muslim Women of Kitchener-Waterloo (CMWKW) has created an online form to collect incidents of hate crimes experienced by Muslim women.

Sarah Shafiq, coordinator of the CMWKW said in an interview with the Canadian Charger that the organization has 30 to 40 members and she estimates there are 10,000 Muslims in the Waterloo Region.

Ms. Shafiq said hate crimes are motivated by a person's bias against race or religion. They can include physical assault, threats, hate propaganda and graffiti, and firebombing.

Documentation and data collection are important tools to aid researchers, and relevant policy-making agencies keeping track of incidents, their location, and some demographic details of the victims, so that appropriate laws and awareness programs can be launched.

Ms. Shafiq said a study that was conceived about a year ago to educate Muslim women about hate crimes and help prevent hate crimes through education consists of three components. A workshop is primarily to let women know about hate crimes, how to document them, report them and respond to them.

She said the documents can then be used in research projects and community services to help victims. Victims are also offered one-on-one counselling with a trained volunteer who knows about community resources and human rights laws.

Ms. Shafiq said volunteers go to organizations, schools and agencies and hold seminars and workshops to help community members learn about Muslim women.

“We try to educate people in the community on our norms and certain aspects that need clarification. Hopefully we can increase cultural sensitivity.” She said that at the workshops women learn what the tradition of Islam is in response to hate crimes.

“There is a strong notion of mercy and forgiveness, but we also encourage them to take it to the next level and report the hate crimes, to prevent others from becoming victims. We teach the women that hate crimes are a result of foolish behaviour due to ignorance. Utter hatred is not motivating them. Victims should try to keep that in mind.”

She cited a 2009 Statistics Canada report that said Kitchener-Waterloo has the highest rate of reported hate crimes - for marginalized groups, not just Muslims.

However in a 2005 Canadian Council of Muslim Women study entitled Triple Jeopardy, Muslims emerged as the principle targets of unfair treatment in Canada.

The title Triple Jeopardy signifies Muslim women being more vulnerable to hate crimes than men in three ways: they face gender discrimination; their clothing identifies them as Muslims and they are usually visible minorities.

Ms. Shafiq cited some examples of hate crimes that victimized Muslim women in the K-W area.

“As a parting comment a taxi driver said to a Muslim woman, 'Don't go blowing any of us up now.'  Someone wrote on a dusty windshield outside a store, 'I love 2 F U,' and a bus driver yelled at a Muslim women, calling her ignorant and accusing her of not knowing English.”

Ms. Shafiq said this type of treatment is humiliating, insulting and embarrassing. She added: “That's the reason we came up with this project.”

“The coalition felt the need to conduct this workshop because many incidences were being discussed within the local Muslim community but were not being officially reported,” said a news release.

Speakers at the workshop will help Muslim women understand what hate crimes are, how to report them and how to seek help.

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