Press Release: Thorncliffe & Flemingdon Communities Rally Against Islamophobia

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MEDIA RELEASE
November 21, 2015

Thorncliffe & Flemingdon Communities Rally Against Islamophobia

Grassroots groups calling for unity against racism impacting Muslim communities in Canada and abroad

Saturday, November 21, 2015, 2pm. Rally at Valley Park Middle School (130 Overlea Blvd)

Toronto – Muslim, immigrant and refugee communities in Flemingdon and Thorncliffe are rallying against Islamophobia after a Muslim woman was assaulted picking up her children from school earlier this week. The attack in Flemingdon Park occurred days after a mosque in Peterborough was burned, a temple in Kitchener was vandalized and a Somali Muslim man was shot by Peel police. Reports have also emerged of multiple Muslim women being targeted on the TTC in recent days and a Black woman being assaulted because her scarf was mistaken for a hijab. Community members are calling for an end to wars of aggression in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq which have fanned Islamophobia in Canada, and exacerbated anti-refugee and anti-immigrant sentiment. Hundreds of local residents are expected to attend.

“The attack on a Muslim woman in Flemingdon on Monday has caused hurt and anger in the local communities, but not shock” says rally organizer Zabia Afzal from Thorncliffe Reach-Out Teach-In. “There’s nothing new or unexpected about racism in Canada, but with each incident our communities are becoming less afraid and more united.”

A Muslim woman was picking up her children from Grenoble Public School in Flemingdon Park on Monday when she was attacked by two men screaming racist and anti-immigrant epithets. She was punched, her hijab was ripped off and her cellphone was stolen.

“To be clear, we condemn both the attacks in Paris and the anti-Muslim attacks that have followed,” adds Suraia Sahar from Afghans United For Justice. “But we must not forget that these are not even glimpses into the terror and violence that people in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq have been suffering for years. Shamefully, this country has a long tradition of actively participating in this imperialist violence which is directly connected to Islamophobic violence here.”

According to Nadia Kanani, a Muslim woman living in Flemingdon Park, “Working class communities like ours are constantly battling injustices in the forms of precarious and exploitative work, poor housing conditions, unequal access to education and being shut out of citizenship. In such a context, incidents like this one can be all the more humiliating and painful. They are an assault on our dignity, and cannot be allowed to continue.”

In the neighbouring, predominantly Muslim community of Thorncliffe Park, residents have had many encounters with Islamophobia over the years. Routine experiences of harassment and abuse have been punctuated by flashpoint conflicts over community institutions. For example, many decried the construction of a local mosque in 1995 under the pretext of inadequate parking spaces. Similarly, there were protests held when the TDSB allowed Muslim children to pray at Valley Park Middle School. In light of this history and given its geographical position as the bridging point between Thorncliffe and Flemingdon, it has been chosen as the site for rallying against islamophobia.

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