Ontario, 29 Jumadil Awwal 1438/27 February 2017 (MINA) – A Coalition of Muslim Women of Kitchener and Waterloo in Canada held a forum on Islamophobia on Saturday, at the Chandler Mowat Community Centre in Kitchener City, Ontario in order to give Muslim teens a chance to talk about Islamophobia and the Quebec City mosque shooting in January that killed six people.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim stance has had one unintended positive effect; a local Muslim teen said, IINA News reported.
“People are speaking out against Islamophobia,” Sawaiba Sial, aged 18, said in an interview before the start of a Kitchener forum on the topic for Muslim teens, Kitchener-Waterloo Newspaper reported. “It’s now out in the open. People are finally accepting it as a real thing, so I think that’s good. People are standing up finally. Now that everything’s in the open, people are choosing sides.”
And most Canadians are backing Muslims, Sial said. “They’re talking about it, and even though there’s hate, I think good can come out of this because all this support is really nice to see and I believe that it can just make things better hopefully.”
Still, things are far from perfect. Islamophobia remains a “pretty big issue” for Muslim teens, she said.
“Everyone can feel it. It’s just like that feeling that people are judging you.”
Sial recalls a student in elementary school calling her a terrorist.
“I reported it once to my teacher, but I didn’t see much action being taken. She confronted the kid who called me that but he just denied it, and that was the end of it.”
Sial believes things would be handled better today.
“I think people in schools are more aware and cautious about it. I hope it would be treated more seriously nowadays.”
“We just want to give them the chance to share their stories and experiences with us,” said Sial’s mother, Ghazala Fauzia, one of the founders of the coalition and supervisor of its hate crimes prevention project. “We believe that for them, the challenges are different than adults.”
Sarah Shafiq, the coordinator of the coalition’s hate crimes prevention project, said teens are in a vulnerable age group.
“They’re forming their identity. They’re dealing with a lot of peer pressure,” she said.
“This is a time for them to figure out how to handle some of the messages coming from political leaders or even movies and even some of the fiction that they’re reading. They’re questioning their own faith, and they’re trying to figure out the answers, and they have to be the spokespersons of their faith, and there’s no room for any mistakes.”
Shafiq said Muslim teens worry if they ever show anger, all Muslims will be labeled.
“I know for myself as well; I have to be the perfect model citizen,” she said. “I take it in a positive way. I feel like, OK, the pressure is good.”
Fauzia said she is pleased that most Canadians are supportive of Muslims.
“That’s the positive message that we want to give to youth: That we should not feel scared but of course we need to be more aware of the situation and make sure that we keep ourselves safe.”(T/R04/P02)
Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)