For the past year, Edmonton’s Muslim community has been on edge. A series of racially motivated assaults, against mostly Black Muslim women, has left people feeling unsafe.
“I think that’s really sad and alarming and scary,” Edmonton photographer Faisa Omer said of the instances of Islamophobia.
“What’s alarming is, this happens to most of us. It started off with words or with looks and now it’s escalated to physical contact. That’s where the alarm comes from.”
Omer recently shot a portrait series with Black Muslim women and girls, who are lit by projected images of public areas in Edmonton where attacks have occurred, including the Southgate Centre shopping mall parking lot and transit stations.
“Being a Black Muslim woman myself, it stirs up a lot of emotions,” Omer said of the photos.
“Do I actually belong enough? Am I Canadian as everyone else. That’s kind of what’s being stirred up, even with the people being pictured.”
“I wanted to make that connection. That this place which is safe for you — is not safe for us.”
There have been more than a dozen attacks against Muslim women in Edmonton since December 2020, according to a recent interview with the executive director of the Africa Centre.
Most recently, a woman was attacked near a northeast Edmonton mosque on New Year’s Day.
“The confidence to do this in public and not be stopped is also very alarming,” Omer said.
Omer said she hopes her portrait series amplifies the voices of Black Muslim women and lead to change.
As to how people can help, Omer said in some of the attacks, bystanders could have done more.
“If you see an attack happen… maybe record a video or stay behind and give your account to the police or make a witness statement.
Some of Omer’s other photos are on display at the Art Gallery of Alberta as part of an exhibit called 5 Artists 1 Love for Black History Month.
The other artists featured are Kyle Smith, Madi LeBlanc, Reckie Lloyd and Marjorie Marshall.
Omer’s Islamophobia series can also be viewed on her Instagram page.