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This article was published 23/8/2017 (1017 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Manitoba’s Muslim community is bracing for an anti-Islam rally planned for Winnipeg next month.
"We are hoping to collaborate with other communities and do a rally as well," said Shahina Siddiqui, president of the Islamic Social Services Association (ISSA). "If we don’t respond right away, they feel emboldened and they do right now. There is no place for this. We should speak out against hate against one another.
"Hate impacts all of us."
News that the Worldwide Coalition Against Islam — Canada was planning a Sept. 9 rally in Winnipeg came as no surprise to Siddiqui, who warned Islamophobia would get worse north of the border following the election of United States President Donald Trump last November.
The "anti-immigration" rally is being organized by Jesse Wielenga, a 30-year-old from Brandon who told the Free Press earlier he’s not sure how many protesters will take part in Winnipeg. A similar rally Saturday in Vancouver turned into a celebration of diversity, thanks to nearly 4,000 counter-protesters.
Siddiqui hopes that happens in Winnipeg, too.
"Like they did in Vancouver and other cities, we have to drown them out," she said.
"We want to respond with justice and with human rights. We don’t want to stoop to their level. We hate what they’re doing, but we don’t hate them."
The president of the Manitoba Islamic Association (MIA), who is travelling in the U.S., said people must come together to make sure voices of love are louder than hate.
"The MIA will work with all those willing to combat all forms of racism and hatred," Osaed Khan said Wednesday.
He said he was unaware of the anti-Islam group having a Brandon representative.
"As the prime minister stated, we all know Canada is not free from racism. (That) these dark forces find validation in Trump’s rhetoric is a sign that we must work together to make sure voices of love are louder."
While travelling, Khan said he was told plans for a number of "anti-immigration" rallies Sept. 9 in the U.S. have been scuttled. "(They) have been cancelled and are only being done online."
When white supremacists and Islamophobes aren’t able to go public or attract big crowds, they take cover on social media, where the like-minded have gathered for years, Siddiqui said.
"That small numbers show up at their rallies doesn’t make us feel comfortable — it’s the faces we’re not seeing there" that concern her. "If five people show up, there are 500 hiding behind social media.
"We need to show them you’re not supported by the majority of Canadians. At the same time, we have to keep an eye on the impact this is going to have. We need a long-term strategy to focus on schools and society and on our politicians," Siddiqui said, adding she plans to ask Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman to issue a statement saying the anti-Islam protesters are not welcome.
"It will be a start, but that won’t bring about change," only education will, said Siddiqui, who has been invited to speak around the world about Muslim stereotyping and has held dozens of workshops in Canada.
"This weekend, we did workshops for our own youth with the Canadian Muslim Leadership Institute to better understand the context and what happened to other communities who’ve experienced hate crimes," she said. "The schools are opening soon and my concern is it’s going to spill out into school. We have to watch out for bullying and have a strategy in place."
The leadership institute and ISSA are holding three public forums this fall, starting Sept. 12 at Winnipeg’s Millennium Library.
The first, called Islam 101, explores whether the things people hear about Muslims and Islam are really accurate. "No sincere questions are off-limits," the event poster says.
"There’s always room for education and for people seeing the light," Siddiqui said.
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Updated on Thursday, August 24, 2017 at 7:54 AM CDT: Edited