As of Tuesday, March 19, 50 have been confirmed dead after attacks on two Mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand last Friday, March 15. There were also 50 left injured, and countless more family members affected by the attack.
It goes without saying that hate crimes are disgusting and unacceptable — there’s no excuse for even the smallest discrimination toward those different than you. But when something as repellant as what happened in Christchurch occurs, people pay attention; it’s hard not to when it’s as inexcusable as this.
Despite the media coverage of Christchurch, I’m not sure people are aware of the extent of hate crimes occurring toward the Muslim community. Between 2012 and 2015, the amount of reported hate crimes targeted at Muslims grew by 353 per cent (going from 45 in 2012 to 159 in 2015). In 2017, the number of reported hate crimes targeted at Muslims soared to 349 — an increase of 219 per cent. These statistics are for Canada alone; add in hate crimes in the U.S. and other parts of the world and this number skyrockets.
Islamophobia is everywhere, and saying what happened in New Zealand doesn’t affect the rest of the world is not only ignorant, it’s dangerous. Turning a blind eye toward hate, even if it’s a small act, even if it’s coming from someone you know and believe to be good, is a problem. It shows there’s a misunderstanding or an unwillingness to learn about or accept another way of living; it shows closed-mindedness, and this closed-mindedness and hatred can expand into dangerous territory if we let it.
If we allow ourselves to be complicit to even the smallest display of discrimination, we’re part of the problem. So, we need to find a way to help, rather than hurt. At the least, what we can do is offer support. Members of UFV, and by extension, members of the Fraser Valley and everywhere else need to make an effort to learn about the Islamic faith in order to discard false beliefs of what it is. (A good way to do this is to attend an open mosque day — Abbotsford Islamic Centre holds these regularly.) We need to ask the Muslim community what we can do for them. We need to call people out when they’re being Islamophobic, and we need to step in and do what we can to protect them in moments of discrimination or violence.
I want to believe that people are good, and overall, I think we are; in hard times, the majority of us are willing to show support, if not take measurable actions to help. At the time of writing this, more than $6,666,923.81 has been donated to Christchurch victims and their families through Givealittle. There are several other organizations offering support through donations, as well urging people to attend vigils.
Image: Cory Jensen/The Cascade