Local Muslim women combat hate crimes

Local Muslim women in Kitchener-Waterloo are working together to combat hate crimes in the area.

The Coalition of Muslim Women of K-W have developed a peer counselling service as part of their Hate Crime Intervention Project, which was launched in February.

The idea started in late 2012 when members of the coalition began hearing about incidents where Muslim women were targeted because of their religion.

One member had recently converted to the Islamic religion and began wearing the hijab. She was getting out of a taxi when the driver said “Don’t go blowing us up now.”

In order to spread awareness of this problem, the coalition has held two workshops to educate Muslim women and the community as a whole on tolerance,

Muslim practices, and the lives of women in the community.

“The goal of the project is to spread awareness, education and empowerment to Muslim women and to build bridges in the community,” said project co-ordinator, Sarah Shafiq.

They set up a helpline so that victims of hate crimes could contact.

The helpline is run by a group of volunteers who go out into the community to listen to callers as well as collect and document any hate crime incidents.

They also are available as service providers for victims who need help contacting the police or other organizations such as Victim Services and Community Justice Initiatives.

“For the short term it’s until the end of the summer but we hope to continue it and hope to get more funding to expand it from not just in the Muslim community and not just for hate crimes but maybe for the larger community and catering to various other issues regarding hate crimes,” said Shafiq.

The coalition has also been working to help improve the experience of many Muslim immigrants in Canada who may not feel welcome.

These individuals may be subject to to discrimination or stereotypes from the larger community.

Shafiq explained that the emotional effect of these hate incidents do not only impact the victim, but they may also affect the family or friends of the individual.
Shafiq added that many volunteers at the coalition were once victims of hate crimes or prejudice.

“The volunteers who have joined the service talked about how they want this community to know them well and they want to make this a home and a home is a safe place,” she added. “They want to feel that they belong here.”

Another aim of the project is to collect a report of the incidents.

According to Shafiq, many immigrant women do not report hate crime incidents because they don’t believe they’ll receive help.

The Coalition of Muslim Women in KW wants to reverse those stigmas.

Their goal is to keep momentum of the group going and to expand from not only the Muslim community, but to the larger community as well.

Shafiq hopes to see changes arise as a result of the project.

“Canada is such a positive experience for everybody that they just want to make it better,” she said.

“I hope within the Muslim community there will be a sense of confidence that something is being done.”

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