5 ways Canadians have stood up to Islamophobia

While some are worried about increasing anti-Muslim sentiment, Canadians have found creative ways to shut it down.

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The only mosque in Peterborough, Ont., was damaged in a deliberately set fire on Saturday night. Police are calling the arson a hate crime; the blaze, which caused about $80,000 in damage, possibly set in response to the horrific violence in Paris the evening before.

Islamophobia often bubbles to the surface in the wake of ISIS attacks, or when there’s news of a radicalized Canadian youth joining its ranks. We saw it last fall, after the shooting death of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo on Parliament Hill. We were confronted by it again during the federal election when a woman’s right to wear a niqab became a wedge issue.

But on each of these occasions — and countless others — Canadians have stepped up to shut down hate. Here are five times Canadians have sent a clear message that Islamophobia will not be tolerated.

Peterborough, Ontario:crowd-sourced fundraising campaign to help Masjid Al-Salaam (which means “mosque of peace”) rebuild after an arson has raked in more than $108,000 just a day after launching, exceeding its $100,000 goal. “In light of the recent events at Masjid Al-Salaam, we would like to thank the community at large for the tremendous and continued support we have received,” the Kawartha Muslim Religious Association posted on Facebook.

Hamilton, Ontario: Canadians are increasingly calling out Islamophobia on social media. After the devastating photo of toddler Alan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish beach brought attention to the refugee crisis in Syria, Crystal Langille-Schimpky took to Facebook to call out what she perceived to be anti-Muslim immigrant rhetoric coming from her friends on the social network. “Enough with the “If we went to your country, we’d have to live by your rules,” she wrote. “Stop. Muslim is not a country.” Her post was shared more than 21,000 times.

Cold Lake, Alberta: When vandals sprayed “Go Home” over the door of the sole mosque in the small town north of Edmonton last October, dozens of locals showed up to scrub away and paint over the hateful message. Some even came with their own notes to post in the windows, with messages like “you are home” and “love your neighbour.”

Montreal, Quebec: When the Quebec chapter of an anti-Islam, anti-immigration group PEGIDA (translated from German to Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident) planned a rally earlier this year, hundreds of protesters turned up 30 minutes earlier to counter their views. Their presence led to the cancellation of the rally. “The police have given them permission to march, but that doesn’t mean people in the neighbourhood or anti-racist groups are giving them permission to march,” Jaggi Singh, one of the counter-protest organizers, told CBC.

Hamilton, Ontario: Last fall, 18-year-old Omar Albach conducted a little social experiment to gauge reactions to anti-Muslim sentiment. He had two actors line up at a real bus stop; the Islamophobic character then asks the Muslim character to leave the line because he poses a terrorist threat. Bystanders, unaware of the experiment, called out the racist actor. One person even punched him in the face. Albach caught everything on camera, and the video went viral.

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