Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/10/2015 (678 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Non-Muslims in Winnipeg are speaking up and taking action in response to the Tory government's perceived treatment of the mostly Muslim refugees from Syria and its opposition to the niqab.
Some of it aims to bring people together -- some of it is racist and alarming.
Today, entrepreneur and social-enterprise developer Shaun Loney has organized a rally in support of an inclusive Canada dubbed "Our Canada includes Muslims" (noon, at Winnipeg Central Mosque on Ellice Avenue).
"Showing the Muslim community some love -- that's what it comes down to," said Loney. "I don't know that many Muslims, but it's really been bothering me."
He and his wife are friends with a Muslim couple who have two young kids.
"They're a lovely family." Loney said, adding he felt the need to do something after debate over the niqab -- a women's garment which covers the face, leaving only the eyes visible -- became part of the national election campaign. "This is not about the niqab. This is about the prime minister's statement about 'old-stock' Canadians and clearly picking off Muslims who make up less than three per cent of the population.
"He's telling the other 97 per cent that they're different."
'At the bus, I'll see a girl in a hijab and I'll go on heightened alert to make sure nobody goes near her or hurts her'-- Irene McConachy (below), office co-ordinator at the Islamic Social Services Association
Dividing the population is "dangerous," Loney said, adding he doesn't want his children growing up in such an environment.
Last week, the Manitoba Multifaith Council issued a public statement about its increasing "dismay" at "the employment of xenophobia -- most particularly Islamophobia -- as a political wedge issue" in the federal election campaign.
The council said attacks against Muslim women in Eastern Canada in recent weeks and "an escalation in virulent verbal attacks on Muslims" can be linked to the political rhetoric.
"Heeding the Irish statesman, Edmund Burke, we will not permit evil by doing nothing in the face of evil," the council statement said. It called upon "persons of goodwill of all faith groups and none to stand together for liberty and justice for all."
The council with representatives of many faiths -- including Sikhs, Christians and Jews -- issued a dire warning: "The (council) fears such ignorant and intentionally cruel, cynical and divisive language may yet issue in death."
That's some comfort to Omar Siddiqui after what happened to him Wednesday in downtown Winnipeg.
The 38-year-old lawyer had just left the TD Centre when he said he was verbally assaulted.
He was called a racial pejorative and told "I should go back to where I came from," said Siddiqui, who was born and raised in Winnipeg. It caught him off guard. He hasn't been the target of a racial slur such as that in Winnipeg since high school, he said.
"He approached me from behind when he said it, and I turned around." The person was a man in his 20s, Siddiqui said. "He gave me the finger."
It was unsettling, said Siddiqui. He said he was glad his children weren't with him at the time. Lately, he's felt the menace of unspoken racism or Islamophobia in public more often.
"I've seen people look at me in a more threatening manner. I walk into (Tim Hortons) and I wonder, 'Is he looking at my man bun (hairstyle) or staring at me? He would not take his eyes off me. Should I walk over and ask him what the problem is?' " Siddiqui said.
"Racism is always there, but with the current discourse, with what's happening, when I walk into a room now I count the visible minority faces... It's looking around the room for allies."
If it's menacing to him, it's likely worse for women who wear a hijab (headscarf) -- a symbol of their Muslim faith. He said he worries about the safety of his mother, Shahina Siddiqui, an outspoken community leader.
"What people can do is stand together," said Omar Siddiqui. "Any act of solidarity goes a long way to confronting that."
At a McDonald's restaurant near the St. Vital Centre two weeks ago, no one said anything when Raza Hameed was targeted.
Hameed and two friends were getting ice cream on a weeknight when a stranger walked in and raised his voice, using curse words and calling him a "Paki terrorist."
"I turned around and he said, 'What are you going to do -- kill me?'... He was circling us, like he wanted to engage us," Hameed said.
The 28-year-old who was born in Winnipeg said he and his friends were stunned. People in the restaurant looked, but no one said or did anything.
The young man appeared to be Caucasian, about 5-9, 150 pounds; Hameed, a student and construction worker, is 6-3 and 235 pounds. "I was scared maybe he was going to pull out a weapon or be waiting in the parking lot."
For non-Muslims, there's a heightened sense of a threat, too.
"Before, it was easy," said Irene McConachy, a non-Muslim office co-ordinator at the Islamic Social Services Association. "As a non-Muslim, I could walk out the door and leave everything behind."
As the person who's answering phones and moderating social media for the non-profit organization for the last six years, she said she has encountered Islamophobia and verbal abuse, but never as much as in recent days.
"At the bus, I'll see a girl in a hijab and I'll go on heightened alert to make sure nobody goes near her or hurts her."
McConachy, who describes herself as a "tough cookie," said she took the job knowing there were risks, but lately she's felt more threatened.
"Sometimes, when I walk out I'm not sure who might be standing there."