By Davide Mastracci
A Muslim woman was picking up her children from a Flemingdon Park school in Toronto when, according to reports, she was approached by two white men. The men called the woman a terrorist, and told her to go back to her country as they advanced on her. One of the men punched the woman in the stomach, while the other grabbed her and pulled off her hijab. She was thrown to the ground, and punched in the face and stomach several more times as her attackers yelled, "You terrorist, you don't belong here. You piece of sh*!@, go back home."
Earlier, the only mosque in Peterborough was set on fire in what the police are now calling a hate crime. Over 70 people were inside the mosque celebrating the birth of a newborn baby only half an hour before it was set ablaze. The identities of the arsonists have not yet been revealed, but they must be white. Who else would do something this horrendous?
These two cases are just the latest examples in a long string of attacks on Muslims by white people in Canada. As such, it's time to start asking the hard questions.
First, I'd like to ask when will all white people come out and condemn these attacks? White people belong to one large community, and the actions of one white person undoubtedly reflect on all white people because they are bound by their ethnicity.
As such, it's important that all white people in Canada make it clear that they don't agree with these attacks. In fact, why stop there? White people live all over the world, so we should go as far as demanding that white people in New Zealand condemn these attacks as well.
Second, I'd like to ask when will leaders in the white community take a stand against the hate crimes committed by the people they preside over? These leaders obviously have an immense amount of control over white people, certainly enough to be able to stop one autonomous white person from committing a hate crime. As such, it's fair to blame white leaders for the actions of members of their community if they don't condemn the events.
Condemning them once isn't enough, however, they must do it over and over again. Sure, some of these leaders have already spoken out. For example, the mayor of Peterborough, Daryl Bennett, recently said, "Let's make no mistake, this is an incident that is totally, totally out of character for this community." But how can we trust him if white people keep committing these sorts of crimes? He's obviously ignoring the reality, and trying to trick us.
Finally, I want to know how I, as a Muslim, can feel comfortable living among white people if they don't stand up and condemn these attacks. How can I be sure my white next door neighbours aren't plotting this sort of attack on me? What about the white people in line at the grocery store? Or the white people on the bus with me? How can I trust them?
If you're a white person and are offended by this, you need to look at the bigger picture. My well-being is at risk because of your people, so whether you're offended or not doesn't matter. Your feelings should stand down, and my safety should be of the utmost concern. Condemning your fellow people will make me feel safer, so do it.
The list of bizarre and unjustified assumptions and questions I just laid on you areexactly what Muslims face every time a Muslim in any part of the world commits a reprehensible act.
It's easy to see how ridiculous the above set of questions are when applied to white people, yet when the focus is turned to Muslims, it's seen as a perfectly logical, even commendable, thing to do. It's not, and it must stop.
But there's also a crucial difference when this sort of collective blame is laid on Muslims. Unlike white people, Muslims are a marginalized group within Canada. We don't have access to political power in the way white people do, and we are in fact subject to stereotypes and demonization from political power and the media alike.
As such, laying collective blame on white people would be wrong, but in reality, it would be relatively harmless. The same is not true for Muslims. The collective blame laid upon Muslims legitimizes the idea that all Muslims should be punished for the acts of a tiny minority of Muslims. Once this idea is legitimized, spates of hate crimes are committed and some Muslims end up feeling unsafe in their own communities. This is not an unwarranted fear, as hate crimes against Muslims are on the rise,according to Statistics Canada.
For Muslims, collective blame is not just an alternate scenario described in a think piece. Instead, it is a dangerous and normalized practice. This practice must end if we want to see a reduction in hate crimes targeting Muslims.