Edmonton Muslim women reflect on the aftermath of multiple attacks on the community

Joud Nour Eddin understands what it’s like to be afraid for your life while doing something as simple as going for a walk. 

When the Syrian refugee first arrived in Canada in 2017, she said she felt safe. But recent events have brought back familiar feelings of her time fleeing a war zone. 

“I think in some way it is a bit similar to the fear and unsafety that I felt as a refugee in the displacement journey,” she told CBC’s Edmonton AM on Friday. 

Edmonton AM8:28Muslim women reflect on feeling safe in the city

We’ll hear from two Muslim women about how safe they feel in Edmonton. 8:28

In June alone, a Muslim family was attacked and killed in London, Ont., a Black Muslim woman was attacked in Edmonton — following a series of attacks in the city on hijab-wearing, Black women since November 2020 — and an Edmonton mosque was vandalized with a swastika symbol spray-painted on its building. 

All these events have sent waves of grief and fear into Edmonton’s Muslim community. 

“[I’m] shocked and outraged … Really scary. Lots of anxiety, fear, when nothing like this was there a few years ago,” said Nasim Kherani, president of the Edmonton chapter of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women.

For Kherani — who has lived in Edmonton since 1979 — the recent rise in hate and intolerance against Muslims has been overwhelming.

She recalls a time when the Edmonton community came together to move the original Al-Rashid mosque from its old home, near the Royal Alexandra Hospital, to Fort Edmonton Park.

“We had support from everyone — men and women, children, all kinds of faith groups, the city… and we had no fear. We had support. And that is not the same now,” she said. 

She said the COVID-19 pandemic had already made life difficult and stressful for a lot of people, and the attacks on Muslims have only made things worse. 

But Nour Eddin, who is also a member of Edmonton’s Anti-Racism Committee, said the community is also working towards “challenging the toxic air of fear that is spreading.”

She said the harm from hate-motivated attacks is felt by Muslims right now, but ultimately, it will impact the entire society. Although the meaningful change won’t come unless it happens in a systematic way, she said she is hearing from community members that they are open to dialogue. 

“I hear refugees, people and minority groups asking for more solidarity, inviting people to listen to Muslims and ask them questions,” she said.

And people have been receptive.

“No matter how much hatred there is in the world, there is also lots of kindness,” Eddin said. 

Eddin said many of her friends and colleagues have reached out and offered support and to accompany her if she ever feels unsafe. 

Ultimately, she stressed that the onus is on policy and decision-makers to go beyond messages of solidarity towards real, meaningful change. 

“I invite policymakers and decision-makers to take a deeper look and tackle all these systematic causes that allowed racism to exist and then become violent at the end,” she said. 

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