Yesterday, 10 people died and 13 people were injured in a harrowing van attack in Toronto. A white van rammed through pedestrians along a 4km stretch at a busy intersection in North York, Toronto. The attack bearing similarities to several other vehicle attacks including NewYork and Charlottesville raised several concerns for minorities in Canada and worldwide.
When the initial news broke out there were several reactions to who the perpetrator possibly was. The various arguments on social media highlighted the general response to deliberate attacks in today’s geopolitical atmosphere of hate and insecurity. Here are the possible concerns Muslims had at the very moment the attack took place.
1) Was the person visibly Muslim?
As unfortunate as it is, today if a mass attack takes place, Muslims in Canada, America, or Europe are fear-ridden of the backlash they may receive. Well before Alek Minassian was revealed as the attacker, many people quickly jumped to the conclusion that the attacker was Muslim. However, a lot of logical voices also raised alarm against such a segregationist line of thinking.
What’s wrong with you if you’re *hoping* the #Toronto attacker is a Muslim or white supremacist, depending on your politics. It’s not about you. It’s about the victims lying in a morgue. Whoever did this, for whatever motive, should be prosecuted with the full force of the law.
— Julie Lenarz (@MsJulieLenarz) April 24, 2018
2) Did the attacker bear resemblance to those typically considered ‘brown’?
It is the 21st century and people still don’t understand the concept of intersectionality. Pakistanis, Indians, and Bangladeshis are not the only people who will pass off as brown. And, within the three groups, many will pass off as another race entirely. Similarly, people from the middle east are ethnically diverse as well. The markers set for determining the attacker’s allegiances are therefore quite racialized, which is something our own people need to realize as well and actively work to denounce.
In the meantime
1. Not all Arabs are Muslim
2. Not all brown skin people are Muslim
3. Not all Muslims are terrorists
— Sunny Mangat (@mangat_sunny) April 24, 2018
It’s remarkable that after an attack in #Toronto, Muslims & Diversity are being blamed yet after numerous Mass shootings in places like Parkland & at a Waffle House we don’t blame all White Men.
Put blame on individual and stop blaming Races & Religions.#TorontoAttack
— Arif (@ArifAtozai) April 24, 2018
3) What does the attack mean for diversity and multiculturalism in Canada?
As the right wing rushed to cyber attack Muslims, a commonality emerged in all arguments. People reprimanded Trudeau for allowing refugees into the country. In some extreme cases, they also placed the blame for the attack directly on him. In this atmosphere, Muslim immigrants across Canada feared a rise of hate crimes against them in the aftermath of the attack. Many questioned if an anti-immigrant rhetoric will now take greater force in lieu of this incident or will the country emerge stronger in its multicultural tendencies?
People hysterically get on Twitter after “discovering” that there are some people with Armenian names in Syria, Turkey, Iran, which to them means #Toronto driver must be Muslim. It’s this lack of social, geographic and historical knowledge that allows bigotry to fester and grow.
— Christian Christensen (@ChrChristensen) April 24, 2018
A few important differentiators:
– attacker did not have a gun (gun control)
– officer did not shoot attacker (police training)
– public did not descend into Islamophobia (multiculturalism)
– CBC was patient and fact-checked (publically-funded news)#TorontoStrong #Toronto
— Ainsley Doty (@apdoty) April 24, 2018
All these concerns of Muslims in Canada are understandable in terms of rising Islamophobia in ‘western’ nations. However, they also speak to the general victimhood culture that is quickly developing in the youth. While the right wing comes out to completely bash Muslims, there are mounds of people supporting Muslims as well. And the onus is on Muslims as well to rectify their image and merely stating that Islam is a religion of peace will not help in doing so. Muslims sitting indoors in fear is understandable but it is also a moment to step out and stand in solidarity with the victims.
Yesterday, without fanfare, I understand that a GoFundMe account was set up for families of victims of the attack in Toronto. By the same Muslim community that set up a fund for victims of the Quebec mosque shooting. That is our strength. #TrueCanadianLove #TorontoStrong
— Schumann Capote (@True_Northerner) April 24, 2018
It is unity of the sorts mentioned in the tweet above that must be practiced and encouraged within the Muslim community. And, of course, it is never a bad moment to be reminded of how minorities suffer within Pakistan. Use these inopportune moments to grieve and condemn. But also use them as a learning experience to draw parallels in how we treat minorities within our own country. Just a day ago, a Christian girl was doused with acid when she refused to convert to marry a Muslim boy. The boy, very much a Muslim, attacked the young girl in a religiously motivated crime. So, recognize the shortcomings in our own country as well and raise voice against those atrocities with equal anger, as we do when Muslims are senselessly attacked in the west.
*Image Souce: CBC.com*