Sending a message of inclusion and tolerance, a Winnipeg rally gathered on Tuesday, October 13, to challenge divisions in the society, and assert that Muslims are a part of Canadian society.
"It's amazing the greater Winnipeg community is coming out for this show of compassion," Nilufer Rahman, a member of the Winnipeg Central Mosque, told CBC..
"The show of compassion here is really heart-warming."
The rally, held under the title "My Canada Includes Muslims", challenged "us and them" thinking that has divided the Muslim and non-Muslim communities this election.
"Like most other Canadians, I've been listening and watching the news, and I've seen a lot of things appear to be anti-Muslim," said Shaun Loney, one of the organizers.
He said anti-Muslim views were ramped up after the niqab became an election issue, and when the Conservatives pledged to establish a tip line for reports of barbaric cultural practices.
As the rally reached the mosque, Omar Siddiqui welcomed people into the building, saying he has experienced first-hand the increase in anti-Muslim sentiments.
"A racial epithet was hurled at me on the street a few days ago. I was called a sand [N-word], and told to go back to where I came from," he said, adding he was glad for today's turnout.
"I think it's amazing, it looks like the whole of Wpg is here. It's heartwarming that at a moment like this, we can stand in solidarity as Winnipeggers and citizens, to show our support for the values of inclusion and togetherness and peace and love. It's really powerful."
Nancy Pinnell, one of the participants in the rally, rejected the anti-Muslim rhetoric against Muslims.
"I'm infuriated about the kinds of things our government is saying and doing, in regards, particularly, to Muslims," said Pinnell.
"We're now seeing the kinds of things that happened in Germany to the Jews before the Second World War."
The rally was praised by members of Winnipeg's Muslim community as a first move towards finding solution.
"One of the problems is we do need to open up and get to know each other," said Idris Knapp, manager of Winnipeg Central Mosque.
"This is a rally not just for Muslims; it's primarily for Canadian inclusion, and it's something that all of us as Canadians need to embrace."
Knapp's mosque has received hate emails recently, he said, with messages like, "Go back home, go back to where you come from, if you don't want to conform to Canada than you should never have come here."
"With all the fear-mongering going on at the higher levels of government, this past summer has been hugely stressful for all Canadians," said Rahman.
"We're not used to such a stressful political climate. This type of show of compassion is so important."
Muslims make around 1.9 percent of Canada's some 32.8 million population.
Their number has increased dramatically over the last decade and Islam has become the number one non-Christian faith in Canada.
A recent survey showed that the overwhelming majority of Muslims are proud to be Canadian, and that they are more educated than the general population.
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