On February 17th, 2017 I was at work in downtown Toronto when I heard yelling coming from Dundas street. When I looked out the window to see who was making this noise, I was told that there was an anti-Muslim rally at the Masjid mosque.
I quickly got my jacket and a sign from a Muslim friend that was made for the #MuslimBan protests. These protests were only two weeks before at the American consulate a few blocks away on University Avenue.
In the past few weeks there has been an onslaught of attacks against Muslim people. We’ve seen this with the ban of Muslim people from seven Middle Eastern countries from entering the US, the attack on the Quebec Mosque resulting in six Muslim men’s deaths, and with this recent anti-Muslim protest that happened in Toronto. Having witnessed these events transpire in the news directly affects my Muslim friends, but it also affects us all.
In these past few weeks I’ve often thought of human rights lawyer, Alan Borovoy’s famous quote “the freedom of no one is safe unless the freedom of everyone is safe”. I don’t see myself as being safe unless my Muslim friends are also safe and able to freely practice their faith without fear. I’m not Muslim, but I want to live in a world where my Muslim friends are able to walk down the street and feel safe that they aren’t going to be targeted because they may be wearing a hijab.
When I heard that there was an anti-Muslim protest happening my heart hardened and I couldn’t sit idly by and let this happen. I had to stand up against this vitriolic hate. I then took the sign and went downstairs to the mosque where the protestors were at, but they had already left. Only within a few minutes, this religiously targeted protest had dissipated.
I was left standing on the street with a poster that read “Peace Muslim. Humbled by the heart of the majority”. In my brief time standing on the corner, a few people came to thank me for showing my solidarity with Muslims. I was touched by a random stranger who thanked me. In that moment, I felt a love and a kinship and intrinsically knew that there’s a strong love for our community of Toronto.
In the past few weeks, we’ve seen the incredible amount of love from ordinary citizens who have taken to the streets, courts, airports, and mosques to shout our solidarity with each other for our inalienable human rights. As demonstrated, there’s an imperative need to continue to raise our voices, be present, and stand up for our rights to be free, equal, and inclusive of all people regardless of faith, race, or ethnic origin.
Let’s keep at it because we need to keep our hope alive, without it, we’ve given up and we can’t let that happen.