EDMONTON – Asmaa Ali says slurs about her hijab and the coloration of her skin have turn into so frequent she doesn’t sage them to police anymore.
Whether or not she’s running errands or on her way to work as anurse at an Edmonton hospital, the 23-year-customary Somali-Canadian says she’s always looking over her shoulder.
She and several various Black and Muslim women in her life are feeling more apprehensive in public, she says, because of an increasing selection of assaults. Five Somali-Canadian women, all wearing hijabs, have been attacked or threatened in Edmonton in the last 10 weeks.
“I’ve always been hyper-vigilant in public spaces because of my identification. However hearing about these attacks has made me more anxious and aware of my surroundings.”
Ali says she also has been assaulted in the past, however is too traumatized to reveal details.
Avoiding public transit, not running errands alone and self-defence classes are all things she says she and her female pals and familyare considering.
Edmonton’s Al-Rashid Mosque began offering Muslim women self-defence classes following the recent attacks. The classes are full.
Ali says the selection of hate crimes reported to Alberta’s police forces are not reflective of the increasing selection of of us approaching her with their tales of assaults.
“It makes me enraged,” she says.
“Most of my visibly Muslim pals and family individuals have a fable of some kind of Islamophobia. The general public hears about this by the media, while our reality is that these are our sisters and our mothers.”
Trent Daley is a member of Edmonton’s Anti-Racism Advisory Committee. He says anyone approaches him or his community on a weekly basis about an assault. Most victims are Black and Muslim women.
“There’s been a notable marked increase (in assaults) following the pandemic. It’s so pervasive legal now,” Daley says.
“It’s crammed with racial epithets, crammed with disgusting language targeting them based off the scarf that they wear and the identification they presumed that this person has. It’s dehumanizing.”
Calgary police say they obtained 80 hate crime complaints between January and November 2020.
Cheryl Voordenhout with the Edmonton Police Service says it obtained 60 stories of hate crimes last year. So far in 2021, three of seven hate-crime-related investigations have involved Somali-Muslim women.
On Dec. 8, a mother and daughter had been violently attacked in the Southgate mall parking lot. A week later, near the same mall, another woman was topic to racial slurs as anyone tried to hit her head with a shopping bag.
In February, a man made racial comments and became aggressive toward a woman at the University of Alberta transit centre. The same day, a man came up behind a woman walking in a popular neighbourhood, pushed her to the flooring and made threats to cancel her and tear off her burqa.
The latest attack happened Feb. 17. The National Council of Canadian Muslims said a man approached a Black Muslim woman wearing a hijab at the Century Park transit station, swore at her and threatened to cancel her.
Political leaders, including Premier Jason Kenney, have spoken out against the attacks. However the CEO of the national Muslims council says condemnation is not adequate and authorities leaders at the local and provincial stage wish to take action.
“Anti-Black racism is a real issue in Alberta,” said Mustafa Farooq. “Black-Muslim women tend to face greater challenges than almost anyone else, because racism and gendered Islamophobia are real issues.
“We can gawk, for example, at boulevard harassment bylaws. We can gawk at ways in which anti-racism initiatives are being funded. We can gawk at hate crime items and their advocacy in dealing with these challenges,” Farooq says.
“So powerful can be completed immediately, however it for certain’s not happening.”
Daley adds that recent rallies and marches in Edmonton and Calgary in opposition to COVID-19 measures are examples of how the pandemic has exacerbated racism in Alberta. Some participants had been considered carrying tiki torches, which many say are a image former by white supremacists.
Edmonton police Chief Dale McFee said the police carrier is doubling down in its effort to work with the Somali community to address racially motivated assaults.
“We’ve purchased to listen to what they want and then we’ve purchased to determine out how we can … actually procure a few of the changes that they want,” he said at a news conference Tuesday.
McFee also alluded to the suspects in the assaults probably having mental-health issues.
Ali says the Muslim community wants make stronger from leaders and neighbours.
“It’s widely researched that repeatedly experiencing racism … causes worse health outcomes for communities of coloration. In a pandemic that’s brought so many of our inequalities to the forefront, these (attacks) are most interesting making it worse,” she says.
“Every single time we hear that yet another woman has been attacked, we maintain our breath and call our family and pals.”
This sage by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2021
This fable was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.