Palestine, I am sorry. I am sorry on behalf our thick headed Harper government that opposed your bid to become an Observer State at the UN. I am sorry that Harper is oblivious to the suffering you’ve endured over the past 45 years. I am sorry, that our Foreign Minister, John Baird, is a dogmatic ideologue who defends Israel – your occupier- in the same way overzealous clerics preach from the pulpit.

I know, I know. Baird flew all the way to the UN to scold everyone about how silly it is for you to proceed unilaterally without Israel’s consent. It’s regrettable that he made a laughing stock of himself in front of the whole world. If only he, like the rest of us, could see the foolishness of his argument: Baird doesn’t want you to advance unilaterally for statehood. Yet, he doesn’t have a problem with Israel’s 45 year-old unilateral occupation and the continued unilateral colonization of your land. Shame on him.

See, the thing is, we weren’t always this idiotic. Our country has generally played an even hand in conflicts around the globe. You might find it hard to believe, but we were actually one of the founders of modern-day peacekeeping. Lester Pearson, our former PM, actually won the Nobel Peace Prize for tackling the Suez Crises. This episode is probably the second time he turned over in his grave. The first one was when they gave Obama the Peace Prize.

So, casting the ‘No’ vote now makes us a part of the Notorious Nine; the nine disgraceful governments who refused to acknowledge your Statehood – while they hypocritically carry the banner of the two-state solution. Well, at least, the rest of the world is smart enough to recognize that Israel has constantly jeopardized the two-state solution by continuing the settlement enterprise.

Everyone knows that negations have taken you nowhere over the past 20 years; you’ve only lost more land – its understandable you had to take such drastic measures. We applaud you for overcoming threats from bullies like our own government, and for being bold enough to march ahead.

Now, I want you to forget about the Notorious Nine for a while. I know they’ve threatened to cut your funding, but the money will come. It always does. Look at the bright side: you can now negotiate with Israel on higher diplomatic terms. You can take them to the International Criminal Court for perpetrating heinous crimes against you. You can actually hold your oppressor legally accountable. We all know that’s the main thing they were afraid of: you gaining more power and winning popular support of the public.

You might be wondering what has caused Canada, the peace loving nation of maple syrup and hockey, to delve into the realm of diplomatic absurdity. Well, it’s mainly the Harper government. They tricked us into voting for them – I know, it’s silly. We promise never to do it again. But we’ve also become complacent because of our glorious past as a bastion of human rights. For example, when the UN tried to warn us about our shortcomings in fulfilling food requirements for the needy, we told them to go ‘f*** off’ and lecture some third-world country. Know what I am sayin?

So, in conclusion, I want to apologize again for the lunacy and shortsightedness of our government. Canadians are a good people; we’ve always stood by the side of the oppressed. It is unfortunate that our country voted to be on the wrong side of history; we will regret that in the centuries to come. However, as history has also indicated, justice will triumph and you will eventually have your freedom. And when that happens, I hope our government will smarten up and issue you an official apology. Good luck in the fight ahead!

Advertisements

‘They’re a bunch of whiners’, a friend remarked as we had a discussion about the student protesters in Quebec. ‘Their tuition is less than a third of what everyone else pays – what are they complaining about?’ he continued. The sentiments he expressed echo the general opinion held my most people I’ve spoken to outside Quebec.

I too viewed these protesters as privileged ingrates who are complaining about a tuition hike which is peanuts compared to what everyone else pays. However, after visiting Quebec and witnessing these protests, I’ve been forced to reconsider my opinions; I strongly believe that other Canadians should too, and here’s why.

Imagine the following. Due to financial constraints our government has had to take some desperate measures. Starting next week, every Canadian will now have to pay a flat fee of $10 for every consultation with a doctor and about $ 200 for surgeries. It’s a small affordable fee that would help offset the financial strain on the government. Yes, our much cherished healthcare system is no longer free.

As one can imagine, there will be uproar in our society at the announcement of such news. How dare the government charge us for healthcare?! We will go out into the streets and will protest all night long. We will not stop until our demands our met. No way am I paying 10 bucks to visit a doctor! And as we lead mass rallies to protest these unjust measures, the Americans will look to us and say, ‘What a bunch of whiners! What are they complaining about? They pay nothing compared to what we have to pay’.

That analogy might have a few shortcomings, but it’s the same idea. You see, it’s not just the small fee and potential future hikes that we would be protesting. It’s the principle. We expect our government to provide universal healthcare; much like secondary education, library services and access to highways. Failure to do so results in uproar. We’ve worked hard to get our society to a point where we can enjoy these benefits; any attempt to jeopardize our access to these services is unacceptable.

Quebeckers view post-secondary education in the same light as the services I mentioned earlier. Yes, it’s not free but it was pretty close to it. The student movement has been working towards achieving universal access to post-secondary education; Quebec was perhaps the only hope of that dream being realized. A tuition hike of any sort, let alone one that increases tuition almost two fold, is a step backwards and squashes any chances of ever achieving full publicly funded universities.

As Rick Salutin pointed out, when society has a whole recognizes a service as fundamental priority, the excuses go out the door and the money gets found. This was the case for secondary education and universal healthcare. It’s not always feasible, but in order to get there, we as a society first need to collectively voice our expectations. We need to make it clear to our governments that higher education should be made accessible to all and not just the privileged few; that tuition hikes are not an acceptable of way dealing with budgetary restraints.

That is the message Quebecois students are sending to our government. We need to stand along with them and join hands in giving our support to this message. Our collective silence is a tacit approval to tuition hikes; we are saying that we are okay with such measures. Our indifference to the issue serves as precedence for tuition rises in other provinces and gives politicians the impression that they can simply get away with it.

In addition, the demonstrations are not just about a tuition increase. The students are protesting corruption, financial mismanagement and the lack of transparency on the government’s part. The newly introduced Bill 78, which puts many restrictions on the freedom of assembly, has given more reason to support the protests. However, support of the movement should not be blind and uncritical. Striking part way into the school year is an example of an imprudent move which resulted hundreds of students being unable to graduate.

Protesting every single night for weeks on end demonstrates a level of commitment unheard of in recent Canadian history. As I walked through the streets of Quebec City, I realized these protests were much more than just some students complaining. I saw old women in their 70’s cheering on the sidewalks, I saw a five year old girl marching with her mother; I saw people in their balconies clanging their pots and pans to express support.

While apathy and heedlessness are often used to describe young people, these students defy any such categorization. Their dedication to the cause, conviction in their beliefs and commitment to making a difference is inspirational by all accounts. That alone is enough merit to extend these students our support.

Also published in The Silhouette 


“What? She’s white, and Muslim?” exclaimed my friend as he watched Sarah Hamoudi pray during the series première of Little Mosque on the Prairie. Having grown up in a city made up largely of immigrant Muslims, I guess he had assumed that Islam was a religion reserved for people of colour. We chuckled through the terrorist jokes, Babar’s sermon about ‘Smashing the American Idol’ and the clashes between liberals and conservatives at Mercy Mosque. The first sitcom about Western Muslims had just aired and it was making a difference already.

I was in my final year of high school at that time and I clearly remember the buzz surrounding the show. Some expressed opposition to the name, which for them violated the sanctity of the classic, Little House on the Prairie. Most were excited to see a fresh, new and unique comedy about Canadian Muslims. An audience of 2.1 million people tuned in for the first episode; a record breaking and unheard of rating in Canada. The ratings declined over the years, but they were good enough to sustain it for six seasons.

It was a proud moment for me to see a show about Muslims air on national television. Along with the regular post-episode discussions on House and The O.C., I could now joke with my friends about Ammar’s latest debacle or Babar’s classic rants. At a time when Muslim youth were increasingly insecure about their identities, a show like Little Mosque helped boost self-esteem and self-worth for many.

But Little Mosque never set out to accomplish any of the things I’ve mentioned. It wasn’t a show that was aimed at educating people about Islam or solving problems faced by Muslim youth. It was a sitcom that was meant to be funny; it just happened to be about a small Muslim community. It was Islam’s Cosby Show. In the post 9/11 times where any normative depiction of Muslims in media was deemed to be too controversial, the CBC made the bold move of creating a whole show about Muslims. Not only were the central characters Muslim, the show revolved around the mosque which played a key role in the community’s life. The CBC and Zarqa Nawaz, the show’s creator should be recognized by the Muslim community for this historic feat.

The criticism and the lack of support at times from the Muslim community were disheartening for me. Sure, if you don’t like the show, don’t watch it. I agree that it wasn’t a laugh-out loud comedy, and the writing was hokey and uncreative at times. But dismissing the show on grounds that the characters weren’t observant enough, or that Zarqa Nawaz had some secret liberal agenda, was disappointing. Are you seriously hoping for a sitcom where the women dare not speak to a non-Mahram? Where the community isolates itself from the kuffar? Where the Imam goes around warning people of the evils of Western civilization?

Little Mosque had its shortcomings when it came to accurately depicting the orthodox Muslim community. Yes, the Imam didn’t have a beard, had an awfully nonchalant attitude towards apostasy and might have shaken hands with the opposite sex in a few episodes. Zarqa Nawaz once explained that some slips happen because almost everyone on staff, from the director to cameraman, is non-Muslim. She alone couldn’t possibly monitor every minutiae of the filming. Some aspects of the story, such as the Ammar’s liberalism, are obviously intentional. You might not like it, but it’s just a sitcom at the end of the day.

These shortcomings are miniscule compared to the number of things Little Mosque got right. The sitcom was the most accurate depiction of Muslims to date and succeeded in bringing the mainstream Muslim community to the television screen, especially at a time when secular and ‘progressive’ Muslims get preferential treatment. It represented all the characters we find in our mosques; the uncles, the converts, the feminists and the rebellious teenagers. It captured the conflicts between the young and the old, the tension between the liberals and conservatives.

It showcased, with great sensitivity, the first Muslim courtship on television; a social phenomenon which is still under development amongst Western Muslims. Peer-pressure faced by Muslim youth at high schools was also brought to light, as was their conflicts with immigrant parents. I would argue it even addressed issues which the Muslim community faces; I think organizing an ‘Islamapalooza’ is a great idea and partial hockey boards offer a reasonable solution to the prayer barrier controversy. Because of Little Mosque, people now know that Muslim women take the hijab off at home or that it is possible to be Muslim without having to wear one.

Little Mosque on the Prairie’s idealistic worldview represents hope for our community in many ways— excluding its fiqhi failures of course. Our mosques today have closed doors and an unwelcoming atmosphere; not only to people of other faiths but to segments of the Muslim community as well. Women continue to be marginalized, and converts still grapple to find acceptance. I don’t see our Imam playing checkers with the Reverend down the street, nor do I see bona fide bonds of friendship like the one between Babar and Thorne.

Mercy Mosque’s setting was similar to the mosques of Muslim Spain, where the Christians and Muslims at times shared a common building for their place of worship. The series ended with the Muslims welcoming the Christians into their newly built mosque after their church was burned down. The new mosque was constructed in the image of Al-Rashid Mosque. This was Canada’s first mosque and was built by donations from Jews and Christians, as the Muslim population in 1938 was minuscule.

Like Al-Rashid Mosque, Little Mosque reminds us that the vision of a pluralistic community co-existing is neither new nor impossible. Its message was simple: Set aside your prejudice, give up your spiritual pride and be a good neighbor.

First written for MuslimMatters , published May 1st 2012 


After three months of exhaustive cross-examinations, interviews and exhibits, the high profile trial for the Shafia murders has finally come to an end. Mohammad Shafia, his son Hamed, and second wife Tooba Yayha were found guilty of committing an honor killing. They carried out the murder of the three Shafia daughters; Zainab, Sahar, Geeti and Shafia’s first wife, Rona Amir Mohammad.

The trial which gained an international following has captivated Canadians since the beginning. How is it that a family could kill their very own in the name of honor? What twisted and perverted mind would do such a thing? The Shafias held their innocence from the start and many doubted if this was in fact an honor based crime. The jury, however, had no doubts about it and delivered their verdict after mere 15 hours of deliberations.

The Judge’s final remarks to the guilty sums up the high emotions surrounding this trial:  ‘It is difficult to conceive of a more despicable, more heinous, more honorless crime’. ‘The apparent reason behind these cold-blooded, shameful murders was that the four completely innocent victims offended your twisted concept of honor, a notion of honor that is founded upon the domination and control of women, a sick notion of honor that has absolutely no place in any civilized society.’

As the disturbing details from the trial emerged, it was evident that the Shafia family was highly dysfunctional with some serious domestic abuse issues. At the head of it was the short tempered, foul-mouthed father who ruled with an iron fist. His illegal, polygamous marriage meant having to constantly lie and portray his first wife, Rona Mohammad, as an aunt. Shafia was a rich businessman, usually away on trips, and immigrated to Canada in 2007 on the “immigrant investor” program. In his absence, his son Hamed took over his command.

The Shafia daughters were the Afghan Muslim father’s worst nightmare. As one columnist aptly described them, ‘Gorgeous Zainab’ was 19, ‘Sultry Sahar’ was 17 and ‘Rebellious Geeti’ was 13. Reveling in the beauty of their youthful bodies, the eldest daughters did not hesitate to show them off. The cellular pictures in their lingerie, in promiscuous poses and with their boyfriends are reflective of their boldness. Zainab and Sahar transformed themselves when they left for school every morning, hiking their skirts, removing the hijab, and changing into revealing tops. Even 13-year-old Geeti followed suit and was once sent home from school for wearing inappropriate clothing.

The psychological oppression at home was severe. The girls were under constant scrutiny for their behavior and conduct, with their freedoms being taken away by the day. The watchful brother eyed their secretive affairs and reported them. That their behavior was normative by Canadian standards made things more difficult. They appealed to social workers and teachers for help, even tried to run away from home to a foster house. All these incidents finally added up to their unfortunate murder.

I wouldn’t go as far as to say that honor killings are a problem in the Muslim community, but the familial situation I’ve described is not uncommon. The Shafia family practiced what would be termed cultural or cafeteria Islam. This is the Islam in which immigrant parents raise their children in a relatively secular household but then expect them, the girls especially, to behave as law abiding, pious Muslims. This pick-n-choose ‘Islam’ is epitomized by double standards for girls and boys; where boys are free to gallivant late at night and the girls can dare not be seen working on a school project with a boy.

Obsession with the sexual purity of women is also one of the cornerstones of this twisted version of ‘Islam’; this belief is actually rooted in patriarchal tribal customs and unfortunately has made way into Muslim societies. These families lay no emphasis on Islamic education or on the foundational pillars of faith such as prayer and fasting; all the emphasis goes into tertiary concerns such as wearing hijab, staying away from the opposite sex and my favorite – staying away from pork (not alcohol though). If these people only realized that an understanding of the fundamental tenets of Islam encourages one to automatically take up secondary aspects of the faith, dysfunctional families like the Shafia’s would not exist.

The Muslim community has much to learn from the Shafia murders. For one it highlights the struggles undergone by numerous young Muslim girls. The lure of a secular society mixed with a poor understanding and appreciation of Islam leads to a psycho-spiritual crises for most teenagers. At home, the parents don’t understand their apparent obsession with all things haram; at school their teachers and peers don’t get the ‘draconian’ rules imposed on them. Muslim counselors that can help address the challenges faced by youth are desperately needed; projects like the Naseeha Help Line need to be generously funded by the community. The Shafia girls did appeal to social workers, but these people unfortunately did not have an understanding of the complexity and seriousness of their situation.

As much as one might try to hide, the ‘Muslimness’ of this case has been apparent from the start. Whether it be the references to ‘Allāh’, ‘Qurʾān’ and ‘hijab’ during the proceedings or the analysis of Afghan culture by experts; Islam was certainly under the spotlight. After the killing of Aqsa Pervez, the Shafia murders have given people another reason to question the link between Islam and honor killings. People hesitantly approached me to ask about my ‘position’ on honor killings and to clarify the Islamic stance – it’s sad that we have to do these things.

Media coverage of the trial was generally fair in my estimation. By that, I mean there wasn’t a general deliberate attempt to pin the blame on the religion of the accused; if anything, it was patriarchal aspects of Afghan culture that took the hit mostly. Not all media outlets were generous though; Michael Coreninterviewed Islamophobe Robert Spencer who tried to assure viewers that Islam did in fact allow honor killings. Barbara Kay also wrote an article trying to establish a link between Muslims and the barbaric custom. Writers across the anti-Muslim blogosphere shed crocodile tears to mark this tragic event; the Shafia girls will become their poster children for years to come.

One of the positive outcomes of this media attention was the ‘Call to Eradicate Domestic Violence’ issued by CAIR-CAN and was endorsed by over a hundred Muslim organizations. This statement denounced domestic violence, honor killings in particular, and vowed to address the issue at mosques across the country. This resulted in Imams across the nation jointly tackling domestic violence in their sermons on December 9th 2011. What is more surprising is the widespread media coverage this received, with almost every major news source reporting it in Canada; the National Post went as far as publishing imām Sikandar Hashmi’s sermon – an unnatural, but appreciated, gesture from the right-wing newspaper.

Much will be said about this saga in the days to come. Some will criticize multiculturalism, some will pin the blame on religion while others will say the ‘system’ failed them. For me, it is the non-existence of a firm understanding of Islam that leads to all this. This understanding would have taught the murderers to fear God more than society and it would have allowed the daughters to see their faith as something more than a set of dry rules. Let’s hope that this will be last time we will hear of such a heinous crime being committed by a coreligionist.

First published at MuslimMatters on Jan 30th, 2012


Updated piece, original post at  MuslimMatters

Well, they’ve done it once more. Niqab (face veil) wearing women have created national frenzy yet again. This time it was Minister of Citizenship and Multiculturalism, Jason Kenny, who sparked the controversy.

Effective immediately, he announced in early December, all niqabs are banned from the oath taking citizenship ceremony. Any niqab wearing Muslim woman wishing to become a Canadian citizen must remove the veil during the ceremony he stated. Kenny said that the niqab ‘reflects a certain view about women that we don’t accept inCanada’.

Minister Kenny also clarified that this isn’t just about the judge being able to see and validate the recital of the oath, “This is not simply a practical measure. It is a matter of deep principle that goes to the heart of our identity and our values of openness and equality”. The niqab obviously violates all that we hold sacred inCanadaaccording to Kenny.

So, what was the last time you heard of a woman refusing to take off the niqab before swearing the citizenship oath? Never. How many women even take the oath wearing a niqab? Probably an insignificant number. Neither Mr. Kenny nor his office could provide any statistics to back up the ban they so forcefully implemented. No one knew about this complaint up till the announcement of the ban. Clearly, this wasn’t a problem to begin with.

It is obvious that this ban is yet another sleazy bigoted move by the Conservatives to score political points and gain some short term popularity. By making inflammatory remarks about a minority group, they are appealing to our irrational fears and dividing us along the lines of race and religion. At a time when their government is under heavy criticism due to the withdrawal from Kyoto and the mess they created in Attawapiskat, playing the Muslim card is the best way out. Prime Minister Stephen Harper used similar tactics in September when he warned us all that the greatest threat to Canada was ‘Islamicism’ – whatever that is.

Regardless of the motivations behind it, the ban carries many implications. Firstly, it violates the democratic right to citizenship which is entitled to all that satisfy its prerequisites. Changing your dress code, which you adhere to religiously, is not a reasonable requirement in the least; even if it is just for the oath taking ceremony. No one should be barred from citizenship simply because of the way they dress up.

Disallowing the veil at a symbolic event like the citizenship ceremony sends a strong message that niqab wearing women are not welcome in Canada. For a country which fought hard to ensure that women have the freedom to dress as they please, this is a step backwards.

The ban further marginalizes a small minority of Muslim women and creates an ‘us verses them’ dichotomy. You can either be Canadian or a Niqabee – this is what the ban represents. It certainly flies flat in the face of the tolerant and welcoming society we aim to foster. As the Toronto Star aptly put it, the ban coerces Muslim women to fit into the mainstream – ‘behave and look just like us, or pay the price’. So much for the individualism we value.

This legislation is also extremely hypocritical for a country like Canada, which invadedAfghanistanwith the aim of liberating their women from the Taliban. The face veil is commonly worn amongst Afghan women, so one has to question why Canada feels the need to liberate these women inAfghanistanbut can’t accept them here at home. We can set up hospitals, schools, courts and voting booths for veiled women abroad and pat ourselves on the back; but at home can’t bear the sight of them?

Jason Kenny, like most, believes that he is liberating the niqabee’s from the oppression imposed on them by their husbands and fathers. Not only is this entirely false, the reality is that he is restricting their freedom and engagement with society by disallowing them to become citizens. Perhaps – this is just a wild idea – by allowing them to become citizens, we might have a greater chance of integrating these new comers into our social fabric?

Yes, the niqab makes many of us uncomfortable as we are not accustomed to it. It means different things to different people; oppression to some and devotion to others. But banning things because we don’t like them is completely antithetical to what democracy stands for. Kenney said the ban was a matter of “deep principle.” What Canadian principle was sacrificed if someone did choose to wear a veil to the ceremony? Individualism, freedom of expression, religious accommodation? Visit a ski resort in the winter and you’ll see veiled people all around.

This unnecessary ban impacts a few and is largely political and symbolic. What is disturbing is the justification behind it. Jason Kenny banned the veil because it represented to him something that was against Canadian values. Using the same arguments, he could ban a number of other things. Would he ban the Muslim headscarf, the hijab, next because it’s not inline with his myopic view of what makes Canada? Perhaps he will then follow it by a ban on Mennonite bonnets and Sikh turbans. These measures immunize the public to the marginalization of a minority group and create precedent for further bans and cuts in religious freedoms.

Veiled women frequently reveal their faces for identification and other pragmatic purposes. If verifying the oath recital was so important, a polite request by the judge to those concerned would have done the job quite well. This however, would not have gotten Jason Kenny the popularity and political support he wanted. Implementing unilateral immediate bans doest not represent a democracy, rather, it is a shade of fascism.

See my letter the Toronto Star and  Hamilton Spectator 


First published in The Silhouette on December 1st, 2011

My soul cringes with disgust every time details of the Shafia murders are revealed. So much so that I have difficulty finishing the articles detailing accounts of what the Shafia sisters were going through. But unlike most people following the trial, my disgust and anger is twice that of anyone else – partly as a human, and partly as a Muslim.

Every now and then we hear of people committing unspeakable crimes. Here in Canada, the most recent one was that of Russell Williams. While public outrage and anger was directed at Williams alone during his trial, this certainly is not the case for the Shafia trial. Afghan Muslim immigrants have allegedly committed the Shafia murders. The blame in this case has been relegated to everything but the accused, it seems. Different groups are now using this unfortunate tragedy as an opportunity to advance their respective agendas.

Right-wing media outlets have already started using the incident to attack multiculturalism and its failure in Canada. They argue that it is political correctness and accommodation of immigrants that doomed the four women. Being overly sensitive towards Muslims is what caused the authorities to overlook the ‘honour killing’ that was about to take place. How these people mix-up religious accommodation with abuse towards women is beyond me. Even the most extreme interpretations of multiculturalism don’t call for accommodation of moral vices.

The Islamophobes are using it to warn us of the impinging threat that Muslims pose to this nation. The Shafia sisters, along with Aqsa Pervez, will now become the poster children of their movement. They will use this incident to further their case that Islam is, in fact, what inspired this crime. Statements from Quran establishing the sanctity of human life, the prohibition of such despicable acts and the commandment for the good treatment of women by the Prophet Muhammad are meaningless for this group.

The secularists are using it to prove the evils associated with religion, and the misogyny that they claim to be inherent in it. Their belief that Muslim women are forced to wear headscarves is further strengthened and their mission to liberate the ‘poor Muslim woman’ has gained more momentum. Their inability to differentiate patriarchal tribal customs from the normative practices of Islam is unfortunate, to say the least. These uninformed superficial attempts only end up inflicting more harm upon Muslim women, who, for the record, are quite capable of speaking for themselves.

Since the label of an ‘honour killing’ has sensationalized the murder and has sparked a series of unnecessary debates, I for one will attempt to set the record straight. Mohammed Shafia, if you are in fact guilty, then you are a sick man. Killing your own kin is one of the most despicable acts humanly possible; doing so in the name of preserving honour is even more perverted. The dysfunctional family you fostered was your own doing. Now you’ve punished your daughters for your poor parenting.

You’ve dishonoured not only yourself but your co-religionists too. Average Canadian Muslims like me will bear the brunt of your misdeeds. We will spend the coming ages explaining to people that our faith condemns, in the strongest terms, the heinous act you committed. We will have to go the extra mile to convince people that Muslim women observe their faith out of their own free will, and not under the Nazi-style hegemony you had imposed on your family. Freedom was all your family yearned for, but you deprived them of it. I hope you too are treated in a similar fashion, with your freedom restricted behind bars for good.


Originally written for MuslimMatters

It was supposed to be just another shopping trip when Inas Kadri ventured out to the mall with her two little children last August. As she was browsing through the shops and checking out the sales, a woman approached her and started cursing and yelling at her. This woman swore at Kadri, who wears a niqab, about her religion and told her to “Leave our country. Go back to your country”. In her anger and rage, this woman took her hate to the next level and pulled off Kadri’s niqab. All this was caught in the mall’s security camera.

Last week, Kadri’s attacker, 66- year old Rosemarie Creswell, was given a one-year suspended sentence for assault. The judge also ruled she must serve 100 hours of community service, and suggested she educate herself about Muslims by attending a mosque. Creswell wrote a letter of apology to Kadri and said that, ‘Since that day, I have researched Muslim customs. I now have a much greater appreciation for what I did to you’.

This level of hate is generally unheard of here in Canada. What shocks me even more is that the act was committed in my own city of Mississauga; one of the most densely populated Muslim cities in the nation. Sheridan Center is an area surrounded by a large immigrant population and women wearing hijab is a common sight.

While the niqab is certainly not popular in Canada, as is evident in Quebec’s Bill 94, assaults on women wearing it is a first. It’s hard to gauge at this point if this is a fringe incident or a part of broader rise in anti-Muslim bigotry. This past summer’s movement to ban Friday prayers from Toronto schools and the apathy shown after PM’s remarks on ‘Islamicism’ are certainly indicators of growing uneasiness many Canadians have towards Muslims.

Inas Kadri’s intelligent and brave handling of this assault is a testament to her courage and confidence. Reporting such crimes is extremely important and many victims unfortunately are unable to do that. Doing so not only meant the attacker was brought to justice but it also allowed the average person to see the type of racism many Muslims experience. It also helps humanize niqab wearing women who often times are looked upon as the epitome of backwardness and subjugation.

As an outspoken woman with a degree in computer engineering, Kadri certainly helps bust many myths people have about niqabis. When asked about her decision to wear the veil, during an interview on national television, she made it clear; “Not my father, not my husband, not no one at all” she said, “it’s me, and it’s my choice.”