Words aren't enough to stop hate crimes in N.L., says head of Muslim association

·2 min read
Syed Pirzada, head of the Muslim Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, says more needs to be done to prevent hate crimes in the province. (CBC - image credit)
Syed Pirzada, head of the Muslim Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, says more needs to be done to prevent hate crimes in the province. (CBC - image credit)

The association that represents Newfoundland and Labrador's Muslim population says a recent attack targeting two teenagers shows more needs to be done to stop hate crimes in the province.

In a press release issued Sunday, the Muslim Association of Newfoundland and Labrador said the rate of racist attacks is rising across Canada.

"While racism and Islamophobia are certainly not as prominent in Newfoundland and Labrador as they are in the rest of Canada, the local incidents of the last few years suggest that we are not immune to such hatred," says the release.

"As Muslim Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, we are concerned. We demand more concrete action for the prevention and elimination of racially and religiously motivated hate crimes against our communities."

The association spoke out following an incident, reported by CBC News last week, in which two teenage Muslim sisters said a man yelled racial slurs and slapped one of them outside a St. John's restaurant where they work.

The sisters say they were targeted because they're Muslim. They, and a friend who was with them at the time, wear hijabs.

The girls reported the incident to the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary but say police haven't been able to identify the man or lay charges.

The Muslim association's president, Syed Pirzada, called the incident shocking.

"We all know that Islamophobia and hate crimes have doubled and quadrupled in Canada, mostly on the mainland. But to see this happening in Newfoundland was quite, quite shocking," Pirzada said Monday.

Pirzada said the association has seen crimes of this sort rise in recent years, noting an incident in March in which three people were captured by a security camera throwing eggs at the Masjid-an-Noor Mosque in St. John's.

Peter Cowan/CBC
Peter Cowan/CBC

He blames some of the change in public behaviour on social media and the climate for Muslims in the United States, and says more can be done in Canada to prevent attacks.

"There are a lot of things which need to be done. We are basically doing patchwork. Put a patch here, put a patch there, trying to curb the fire here and there. But nobody wants to take some serious actions," he said. "These type of words are not going to help, and it has never helped."

He says he'd like to see attackers shown to the public in a similar fashion to crimes like robberies, where a person's face is shown in the hopes that they can be identified.

"If you put the picture there today, within 30 minutes those kids will be caught," Pirzada said.

"If you don't anything, what will happen? It will escalate."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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