OTTAWA (Reuters) - Reports of anti-Muslim harassment in Canada have risen, Muslim organizations say, after attacks last week in which two soldiers were killed by people authorities say were inspired by the militant group Islamic State.
The National Council of Canadian Muslims said it has seen a tenfold increase in reports of harassment, including racial slurs on public buses, notes left on car windshields and bullying at schools.
“There are some very positive signs that we’ve noticed in the form of calls of support and examples of people resisting bigotry,” said Amy Awad, the group’s human rights coordinator. “But there has been a large increase in complaints, too.”
She said a normal volume of reports of anti-Muslim incidents nationwide is about five a week. “That has gone up about tenfold, with a real surge in the past few days,” she said.
Worries about homegrown extremism have risen in Canada after a gunman shot a soldier and charged into the Parliament building in Ottawa on Oct. 22. Two days earlier, a man rammed two soldiers with his car near Montreal, killing one.
Several Canadian Muslim groups quickly condemned the attacks, which came as Canada sent warplanes to take part in air strikes against Islamic State fighters in Iraq. A handful of high-ranking politicians in Canada have also urged residents not to lash out against Muslims.
Adil Charkaoui, coordinator of the Quebec Collective Against Islamophobia, said his group has received 30 complaints of harassment since last week. It marked the largest number of complaints the group has collected since a failed attempt earlier this year by the province’s former government to enact a charter that would ban religious headgear such as Jewish kippas and Muslim hijabs in Quebec’s public workforce, he said.
“Since the end of the episode with the Charter of Values we have received very few complaints,” said Charkaoui, a Moroccan-born Canadian citizen. “With these tragic events, it has all started again.”
Imam Syed Soharwardy, founder of Muslims Against Violence in Calgary, said he has also received a flurry of recent complaints, but said they were minor.
“Yes, there has been a backlash, but the overwhelming majority of Canadians are civilized and tolerant,” he said. “We’ve seen a number of examples of that.”
In Cold Lake, Alberta, home to an air base that has deployed warplanes against Islamic State in Iraq, residents last week banded together to clean and repair a mosque that had been vandalized. After scrubbing away the spray-painted words “Go Home,” the volunteers taped up a sign saying: “You are home.”
This week, an actor was punched in the face by a resident of Hamilton, Ontario, the hometown of the soldier killed in Ottawa, after he loudly harangued a Muslim at a bus stop during a social experiment designed to test Canadian tolerance.
A YouTube video of the experiment has gone viral.
Additional reporting by Allison Lampert; Editing by Jeffrey Hodgson, Lisa Von Ahn and Peter Galloway