Scenario #1: Two weeks ago, when I was going back home after a long day at college I saw some very disturbing situation that I wasn’t able to do anything about. I was waiting for the pedestrian crossing light to go green, a Canadian woman with her two young daughters and a man were waiting as well. It was rush hour and everyone was either coming back from work or school. A few seconds later, a veiled (neqabi) woman appeared with her child and waited with us. In that very moment, the Canadian woman started to panic very noticeably. She freaked out and held her daughters’ hands, told them to “keep holding to her hand for now”, and walked them as far as possible from that veiled woman, and as soon as the light went green, she almost ran and kept looking behind her back every now and then to make sure “the monster/the veiled lady” isn’t any close to her or her daughters.
Scenario #2: A year and some months ago, I was a Hijabi. One day, I was waiting for my bus to come and there was a Canadian lady waiting on the same bus stop with me. The lady started a conversation with me and asked about the bus I’m waiting for; I answered her. A few minutes later, another bus come and it turned out that she misheard me because she kept saying that my bus was here, I tried to explain that she misheard me and that it wasn’t my bus, but she knocked me out with a racist comment and said: “Go back to your own country, you don’t have a place here.” She took the bus and I never saw her again.
I want to clarify something here. I am not the type of person who easily cries, I’ve never been and I will never be. It’s in my nature. Some of my friends call me “a piece of ice” because of this and because I never, if I did, cry in front of anyone. But at this very moment, in the middle of the street, I cried until my eyes burned. I cried because I felt humiliated, broken, and useless.
There are a lot of different scenarios and racist comments that I got just because I used to wear a simple piece of fabric over my head.
Racism in Canada generally, and those situations specifically make me think of the following, if Canada will forever and always be the land of democracy and freedom, and Canadians are the most accepting and open population, why is this happening? If you, Canadians, support LGBT, atheists, Jews, and the freedom of everyone else, why can’t you accept bearded men/veiled women?
In 1982, Pierre Trudeau, 15th Prime Minister of Canada, established the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Charter is featured of a lot of sections that I’m not interested in mentioning but only some of them. The Fundamentals Freedoms section states that everyone in Canada has the Freedom of conscious, Freedom of religion, Freedom of thought, Freedom of belief, Freedom of expression, Freedom of the press, Freedom of peaceful assembly, and Freedom of association.
So, why wouldn’t a Muslim woman/man in Canada be able to freely express their religion through their appearance? Is it the veil/beard/headscarf? Because to be honest, I saw a lot of Jews wearing their Kippah and I’ve never heard that one of them was discriminated for wearing it. I get that it’s a “weird” thing to see for Canadians. I lived in Saudi Arabia for 8 years and I saw women wearing black abayas and veils, and it’s still weird for me to see in Canada. The difference is, I don’t freak out and panic and start acting weird.
That brings up another thought in my head, if people panic when they see a bearded/veiled Muslim, is it because “all Muslims are terrorists” or “all Muslims support/belong to ISIS” kind of assumption? Because if that’s the case, then it’s a huge problem that has to be discussed and solved. You can’t just assume that a veiled/bearded Muslim would be walking down the street with a cleaver or a Kalashnikov in their hands to cut your head off your body, just like you can’t assume that a German man is walking with a match box and a bottle of gasoline to set every Jew he sees on fire. It just doesn’t work that way.
Everyone I know, whether it’s a Muslim or not, disapproves what ISIS does, and what has been floating around about Osama Bin Laden for more than 10 years. If the racism most Muslims face here is because of a stereotype that the western media –American media to be specific- has fed your brains with, then Canada needs to pay more attention to its media and the generations that are being raised to such ideas and stereotypes. If it’s because the racist individual had a bad experience with a Muslim before, then it’s some kind of a phobia that goes under psychology, which I wouldn’t be able to talk about for lack of knowledge.
The whole thing is frustrating. Not only because I’ve been through this, but because of the contradictions between the freedom and openness that Canadians claim to have and the way they actually are. If you know anything about Canada, you’d know that Canada’s economy is actually based on immigrants and foreign people –Muslims or not- who come to work/live here. Immigrants are the most important pillar of Canada’s economy because they are basically everywhere, starting from that small grocery store in your area, to the biggest corporations in Canada. Working immigrants and the taxes they pay are why you are able to live on welfare. So, yes, I might “go back to my country because I don’t have a place here”, but I might as well take my dignity, my experience, your country’s economy, and the huge amounts of taxes I pay to keep you living on welfare with me. I, the immigrant, will go back to my country and make it a better place with a better economy; at least I’ll be a princess in my country, not a servant/immigrant in yours.