Sarah Shafiq, Kitchener

The Coalition of Muslim Women of KW (CMW) has been concerned with the impact of Islamophobia on the Muslim community in general and Muslim women in particular for the past several years. In 2012, CMW launched a pilot project called The Hate Crimes Project with the goal to document hate incidents experienced by Muslim women and provide support to these victims. The most recent series of forums organized by the Hate Crimes Project team was to cater to the Muslim community’s need to come together in the aftermath of the tragic Quebec City Mosque shooting in January 2017.

In this series, CMW has arranged two forums for Muslim women and Muslim youth. Both these forums provided a safe space for the community members to share their experiences of Islamophobia, to understand that they are not alone, to find strength in each other’s experiences, to heal and talk about ways to respond. Around 50 Muslim women gathered together. Many were particularly concerned about their children’s well-being in the face of bullying. During the youth session, the participants primary concern was the problematic portrayal of Muslims in the media. The youth suggested having a conference arranged by and for the local youth that dispels some of the misconceptions around Islam and Muslims.

We in Waterloo Region are fortunate to have access and the good will of our political leaders.  The Honourable Bardish Chagger, MP Kitchener-Waterloo, MP Marwan Tabbara, MP Raj Saini, MPP Daiene Vernile, Mayor Berry Vrbanovic, Mayor Dave Jaworski and Police Chief Bryan Larken took the time out to be present at the recent Townhall on Islamophobia. Almost 180 members from the Muslim community attended to relate their fears and concerns about rising Islamophobia to their political representatives. CMW was glad to receive positive feedback of appreciation for arranging the Townhall.

A Coffee House titled ‘Still We Rise: Coffee House and Conversation at Café Pyrus’ was the fourth event in CMW’s series that responded to the tragic Quebec City Mosque shooting. The focus of the event was two-fold: firstly, to uplift the voices of talented artists from the local Muslim community, and secondly, to create an occasion where the broader community could come together to converse about – and heal from – rising Islamophobic sentiments. This event specifically intended to uplift the voices of young Muslim women artists in the KW community. The event, open to both men and women, was planned, coordinated and presented by young Muslim women artists from KW. The venue (Cafe Pyrus) was packed with about 60 attendees, most of who were university students.

As a means to foster dialogue between the larger community and Muslims in Waterloo region, the “Salaams Canada” campaign was organized in February and March 2017. Cookies with messages of peace on the packaging were distributed at various locations in KW as part of the Salaams Canada Campaign. This campaign opened up channels of communication and provided an opportunity for members of the larger community to engage with their Muslim neighbours. The campaign received positive reviews by community members and local media outlets.

The last event planned in this series is for our allies who expressed much interest in doing more for their Muslim friends and neighbours. We aim to to hold this event in July. The Coalition of Muslim Women is fortunate to be in a community which showed so much support and good will in the aftermath of the Quebec City tragedy. This affirms our commitment to enhance communication and foster understanding between Muslim women and the larger community. CMW is hopeful to attain our vision for a just and harmonious community where Muslim women are valued, engaged, empowered and recognized as leaders.