To my horror, I learned from social media that there has been another attack at a mosque that left 49 people dead and almost 50 injured in New Zealand.
The sheer number of people dead is inconceivable to me. Sadly, the heinous act itself is not.
I empathize with the victims in New Zealand, with that feeling I felt as a Canadian Muslim two years ago when the Quebec mosque shooting took place in my country. We should not be surprised by increased acts of terrorism like these against Muslims: Political figures, hoping to rise to power by pandering to conservative groups and their nationalist agendas, have been spewing anti-immigrant and Islamaphobic rhetoric.
Excessive negative media coverage of violent acts committed by extremist groups has been amplified and contributes to the stereotyping of Muslims as violent people to be feared and hated.
We have a pretty good idea of what is behind the rise of Islamophobia, so now what are we going to do about it? There are no perfect solutions but we can start by taking a few steps in the hope of preventing future acts of violence:
Start by acknowledging that Islamophobia exists and we have a growing problem with racism and xenophobia.
Social media companies need to be held accountable for allowing their platforms to be used to target minority groups with hate speech.
We need to hold hateful people accountable. Revise hate speech laws—
Anti-hate strategies need to be implemented by governments to counter the Islamophobic and xenophobic narrative coming from not only conservative groups, but also right-wing politicians.
Media outlets should not be left unchecked. Hold them accountable for incessantly targeting Muslims with negative—and often misleading—rhetoric.
Governments should hold all officials accountable for their support or their affiliations with these types of individuals, groups or media outlets.
These steps can be taken to address the rise of hate crimes in Canada and fight against hate, bigotry, discrimination and racism.
This past week, my emotional state was a mixture of feelings ranging from horror, heartache, fear and disgust to vulnerability, helplessness and more.
The one feeling that always manages to rise above them all is hope. That hope was reinforced by the show of solidarity and support by my friends at home in Halifax. And by those of us attending the 63rd conference of the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations in New York.
I felt so excited and blessed to have been attending this session as a delegate for Voice of Women for Peace, and I had been looking forward to sharing ideas and learning from others to improve the lives of women around the world.
I never imagined I'd be attending a Friday prayer held in the lounge of the UN, listening to a sermon expressing sadness at the loss of life but at the same time celebrating it. I was reminded of how short life can be and that we must always make the best of it.
You see, for a Muslim, death during prayers or doing Haj (holy pilgrimage to Mecca) is considered a blessing and strengthens us to perform our prayers diligently. To die while praying is a death none of us would fear.
This terrorism will not keep us from our mosques. We will flock to them with greater dedication. Faith is stronger than fear and love more powerful than hate! Stay blessed everyone, peace and solidarity.
Rana Zaman is a social activist who coordinates events and speaks on topics racism, feminism, poverty, Islamophobia, immigration and bullying to create awareness in NS to build bridges and true solidarity. You can follow her on FB, Twitter and Instagram.
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