Submitted by Steven Lorenzo Baileys, Community Development Coordinator
What is a Hate Crime? What is Islamophobia? Why have incidents of racism, hate crimes and Islamophobia been on the rise in Canada? What can our community do to address Islamophobia? These questions and others were explored during the April 24 Forum on Racism, Hate Crimes and Islamophobia, a forum which brought together community members and leaders to explore and seek solutions to these troubling topics.
With a reported 47% increase in hate crimes (many targeting Muslims) in 2017, the Community Partnership Network (CPN) and the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria (ICA) organized this forum to understand and address ways to respond to Islamophobia. Working with the UVic Muslim Student’s Association, the UVic Human Rights Equity Office, and the local Masjid Al-Iman, a range of presenters were invited to address the recent spike in hate crimes, the origins of hate in our society, the role of media and politicians in stoking fear, and strategies to combat Islamophobia in Greater Victoria.
More than 90 representatives from local police, municipal governments, faith groups, cultural associations, arts groups, businesses, and others attended the forum. The forum opened with several key speakers, including Victoria Police Chief Del Manak, Member of Parliament Randall Garrison (Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke), and Victoria City Council Member Sharmarke Dubow. All three spoke of the value of ensuring law enforcement, government and community work together to stifle and address hate crimes and Islamophobia.
Academics and community leaders then presented on varying aspects of hate, racism and Islamophobia. Presenters and topics included:
- Zaheera Jinnah (UVic): Setting the Context of Islamophobia and Racism
- Mustafa Abousaleh (Secretary of Masjid Al-Imam): Five Pillars of Islam
- Nour-Eddine Maghnaoui (Camosun College): Navigating Hate and Fear in Uncertain Times
- Detective Gareth Blount (RCMP BC Hate Crimes Unit): What is a Hate Crime?
- UVic Muslim Students Association: Being a Muslim in Victoria
- Organizing Against Racism and Hate (OARH): Local Network Response to Hate Crimes and Racism
To conclude the session, a panel session with community, human rights and police representatives addressed the question: “How Can Our Community Effectively Respond to Racism, Hate Crimes and Islamophobia?” Several suggestions included: organizing regular community education sessions with the general public, such as bystander intervention training; fostering greater cooperation among Muslim community members, police and community stakeholders to prevent and respond to hate crimes; creating a network and response protocol that addresses racism and hate crimes, such as OARH; and, encouraging all community members to report any and all incidents to police, among others.
The following day, a morning session was hosted that focused on concrete actions and strategies. Working with the Organizing Against Racism and Hate (OARH) network, 40 key stake-holder organizations and community representatives participated in the development of the OARH anti-racism and hate crime community response protocol. The goal of OARH protocol will be to ensure our region is able to effectively and collaboratively respond to incidents of hate and racism in our community.
At the conclusion of the forum, one participant shared: “I learned more about Islam in general, and especially reasons why people wear the hijab, that will help me dispute negative stereotypes in conversations with non-Muslims. Understanding the basis of racism and Islamophobia and learning about actions on how to deal with it constructively is important for our organization and community to better combat racism and, in particular. Islamophobia.”
To view forum photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/66839147@N02/albums/72157708099889955
Recognizing and Reporting Hate Crimes in BC: http://hatecrimebc.ca/
For more information about OARH: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/governments/multiculturalism-anti-racism/anti-racism/oarh
To learn about Community Partnership Network: www.icavictoria.org/community/cpn/vision-and-goals