“Inalillahi wainailaihi rajiun,” Imam Abubakar Mulla of Kingston’s Islamic Society started off with, when asked his thoughts on what Canada’s prime minister described as a “terrorist attack” against a Muslim family in London, Ont.
The Arabic phrase translates to, “to God we belong to, and to Him we return,” and it’s used to send condolences after someone has passed.
After the news of a Muslim family being struck by a car when out for a walk Sunday evening broke, the Muslim community in Kingston and across the country called upon the government to do more work to protect them.
“All life is sacred, and when innocent lives are taken, then our local governments, as well as our federal government, our respected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau— we need to take more of a stronger stance as opposed to just statements and condemnations,” said Imam Mulla.
Four out of the five family members did not survive the attack. A nine-year-old boy was left seriously injured. London police say that there is evidence that the attack was planned, motivated by hate.
Adnan Husain, the director of the School of Religion at Queen’s University, co-curated one of Canada’s first courses dedicated to Islamophobia. He says that the fear, or hatred of Muslim people in Canada, and in Kingston specifically, is long-standing.
“In order to address and emolliate the situation (Islamophobia) and expunge it from society, we have to really acknowledge that longer history and do a lot more education and put in place institutions and practices in order to eliminate it,” said Husain.
The course’s co-curator, professor Ariel Salzmann says that Statistics Canada doesn’t clearly outline what discrimination against Muslims is, therefore hate crimes against Muslims aren’t being properly tracked.
Hate crimes are broken down into three categories on the national statistic site: racial, religion, and sexuality. The professor says that often times, Muslims cross over into multiple categories at once, so it’s hard to properly document.
“Without the classification, and the correct gathering of data, we have no idea how widespread it is,” said Salzmann.
Husain said that discrimination is often seen as an front on which Canada is significantly better off than the United States, but explained that Islamophobia hits close to home.
“While we have not suffered a tragedy, thank goodness, as cataclysmic, violent proportions as we’ve seen in Quebec City — and now in London — the reality is that Islamophobia is a daily experienced form of exclusion and discrimination,” said Husain.
“It happens to especially Muslim women who wear the hijab, or other Muslims who are visibly observant.”
He goes on to explain that discrimination against Muslims isn’t always as evident as the London attack. It can also be displayed in ways such as poor service at restaurants or while shopping, or not being given the same access to job opportunities.
“We have had cases where people have been abused. Muslim women, students on campus have have faced abuse on the streets of Kingston with racialized, anti-Muslim epithets. The former president of AMS was politically activated by anti-Muslim acts including the vandalism of the Muslim prayer space,” added Husain.
Salzmann explains that action against Islamophobia looks like surveys and proper documentation of the lived experiences Muslims in Canada share, so that history doesn’t get the chance to repeat itself.
“We have to acknowledge that anti-Muslim sentiment in the past is very ancient, very deep in Western civilization, and secondly, it’s now a global phenomenon,” said the professor.
Husain explained that the London attack was particularly disturbing because people in the past target places of worship where Muslims gather. This, to him, was an even more brazen move as the family was isolated, going out for a walk.
Imam Mulla expressed that he’d like to go for walks on the streets of Kingston, and anywhere else, and be safe as a Muslim.