N.L. Muslim community concerned about recent Islamophobic incident in St. John’s

N.L. Muslim community concerned about recent Islamophobic incident in St. John’s

The Muslim community in Newfoundland and Labrador is expressing concern following the physical assault on two visibly Muslim teenagers in May 2022.

“While racism and Islamophobia are certainly not as prominent in Newfoundland and Labrador as they are in the rest of Canada, the local incidents of the last few years suggest that we are not immune to such hatred,” said the Muslim Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (MANAL) in a press release issued Sunday. “Especially in the wake of vandalism that targeted our Masjid An Noor mosque in St. John’s in March 2022 and then the physical assault against two visibly Muslim teenage sisters in May 2022, it has become clear that anti-Muslim racism is rising in our province.”

CBC News reported last week that two teenage Muslim sisters said a man yelled racial slurs and slapped one of them outside a St. John's restaurant where they work.

The sisters say they were targeted because they're Muslim and  wear hijabs.

The girls reported the incident to the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary but say police haven't been able to identify the man or lay charges.

“As Muslim Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, we are concerned. We demand more concrete action for the prevention and elimination of racially and religiously motivated hate crimes against our communities. In the meantime, we confirm MANAL’s readiness to collaborate with all municipal, provincial, and federal actors for the design of proper policy interventions,” added MANAL.

MANAL's president, Syed Pirzada, called the incident shocking.

"We all know that Islamophobia and hate crimes have doubled and quadrupled in Canada, mostly on the mainland. But to see this happening in Newfoundland was quite, quite shocking," Pirzada told CBC News on Monday.

“The continuous rise of hate crimes targeting Canadians of various racial, ethnic, and religious backgrounds is a very serious and alarming problem,” noted the organization. “According to recent data from Statistics Canada, the number of police-reported hate crimes targeting race or ethnicity almost doubled in 2020 with an average increase of 80% from the previous year.”

“As communities on the receiving end of such crimes, we know that these statistics represent only the tip of the iceberg. Many hate crimes are not reported to the police because victims fear repercussions or feel unsupported. In some cases, even if they are reported as hate crimes, many of them don’t end up being filed and classified as such.”