By now, we all know of the horrendous attacks that hit Paris last week with over 120 dead and countless more injured. We were all horrified by these attacks on innocent civilians. President Meric Gertler has conveyed his deepest sympathies to the victims and any students who may be affected by this tragedy. I echo his sentiments. To our students who may be affected by this tragedy, to our students who have family in France, may have lost loved ones, or who are in a study abroad program — I stand with you. However, I’d also like to take this opportunity to reach out to some of our students who may not be feeling safe on our own campus this week.
Following events in Paris, there has been a string of hate crimes that has hit the Greater Toronto Area. This past weekend, a mosque in Peterborough sustained damaged in an arson attack (thankfully, the amount needed to repair the damage was quickly raised). A family woke up to find “Muslims go home” scribbled on their door. A Muslim woman donning a hijab while walking to her local school to pick up her kids, was viciously attacked by two men. She had her hijab ripped off, was repeatedly punched in the stomach as the assailants yelled “terrorist go home”. A video has also surfaced in Quebec where a man threatens to “kill an Arab a day”.
These horrifying attacks, coupled with the hate that has been circulating on the internet — has some students, especially those students who are Muslim feeling vulnerable and afraid. Seeing hate is one thing, having people you trusted all of a sudden be exposed as islamophobes on Facebook can be quite traumatic. This type of hate has existed before the tragedy in Paris however. Muslim women who don the hijab will tell you of all the stares and quiet whispers they get on the subway, or the comments about a barbaric religion and its followers made in the lecture hall. However, the tragedy in Paris has amplified some of this hate.
To all those students who may be feeling a heightened sense of fear, or are afraid for the well being of their families — I stand with you. I am a student and I am a Muslim. But this has nothing to do with being Muslim. It is about standing in solidarity with our fellow students against the forces of bigotry and hate. This week has been exhausting for many of us. Take care of yourself my friends. The world can, at times, feel like a depressing place with mass murder and acts of bigotry being broadcasted to us daily on the evening news. It’s okay to turn off the news. It’s okay to cry.
But know that our university community is here with you. Universities are supposed to be bastions of human rights — in reality, they do not function as well as they should in that capacity. But we, as students, as faculty members, as staff – can demand better. Just as we came together to say that U of T is a feminist campus when we were under threat, let us come together to say that we are a campus that does not tolerate the forces of hate, bigotry and violence.
The last few days have been tough to deal with. Take care of yourselves friends. If you do not feel safe on campus, you can contact Campus Police or the Community Safety Office. If you need someone to talk to, my ears are open. You can reach me at email@example.com.