Latest hateful attack reminds us that Islamophobia persists in Canadian society

The following article was published by Ottawa Citizen, on April 12th, 2023.

Last week, there was a hate-motivated attack on a mosque in Markham, Ont. An individual drove at one of the worshippers in the parking lot and yelled racist slurs. This occurred during the holy month of Ramadan, when mosques are particularly full of worshippers. As an Imam of a mosque in Ottawa, I find this very disturbing and concerning.

It is a stark reminder that Islamophobia is a persistent issue in our society and we all need to come together as Canadians to condemn such acts of hatred and take steps to counter them.

To those who have fears about a growing Muslim population in Canada, our message is this: Violence is never the answer. If you have concerns about Islam, talk to a Muslim and ask questions. Visit a mosque and learn about the peaceful, loving teachings of Islam.

You will discover that the message of Islam can be summarized in the motto of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at (community), “Love for all, hatred for none.” Muslims value inclusivity and tolerance and embrace the beautiful diversity that Canada prides itself on. It is essential to recognize that Muslims, like any other community, deserve to live free from discrimination, harassment and violence.

Islamophobia can have a profound impact on the mental and emotional well-being of Muslims, causing fear, anxiety, and a sense of alienation. As Canadians, we have a responsibility to counter hatred against Muslims and promote a culture of respect, understanding and acceptance. We can do this together in a number of ways.

One, we as a society need to learn more about one another. Education can help dispel misconceptions about one another and foster understanding. To combat Islamophobia, it is essential to promote a nuanced understanding of Islam and Muslims and challenge stereotypes and myths. As Ahmadi Muslims, we have undertaken various campaigns for this purpose. Currently, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association is visiting towns and holding exhibitions with the theme “Explore Islam.”

Two, we should have more interfaith events and community dialogue. Such events can facilitate conversations, understanding and cooperation between different faith groups. Building relationships based on mutual respect, empathy and collaboration can foster harmony and social cohesion in our diverse society. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has organized the longest running World Religions Conference and organizes interfaith dialogues across the country.

Three, we should always report and condemn Islamophobic attacks. All such incidents should be reported to the authorities and condemned in the strongest terms. Silence and inaction can inadvertently perpetuate a culture of intolerance and discrimination. By speaking out against Islamophobia, we send a powerful message that such acts are unacceptable in our society.

As Ahmadi Muslims, we are doing our part to the best of our abilities. The head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, once mentioned: “We Ahmadi Muslims strive to show the true peaceful teachings of Islam through our words and deeds. We hold Peace Symposiums and meet politicians, dignitaries and general members of the public and strive to show them the true face of Islam. This is our way to counter the fear of Islam that is increasing amongst non-Muslims.”

Similarly, advising the clerics of the wider Muslim community, he said, “It is necessary that the Ulema (Muslim clerics) teach their followers about the real peaceful teachings of the Holy Quran and explain to them that the Prophet of Islam (peace and blessings be upon him) was sent as a mercy for all of mankind.”

The recent attack in Markham is sadly just one among many attacks. Let us come together as Canadians to stand against Islamophobia and promote a culture of inclusivity and acceptance.

Imam Farhan Iqbal is a member of the Ottawa Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at (Community).



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