Freedom from persecution for Muslim communities in Canada means freedom from the threat of violence

by Dr. Siham Rayale

“you broke the ocean in half to be here. only to meet nothing that wants you. – immigrant” 
― Nayyirah Waheed, salt.

Nayyirah Waheed’s poetry in this time, speaks to me as a Muslim woman, living in Canada, of Somali descent. I am saddened and enraged at the hate-filled agenda of the new U.S. President and other political leaders who support him. While many of us who watched the U.S. Presidential race believed he would put legislation behind his violent thoughts, what happened in Quebec City shook me. The Cultural Centre of Quebec’s Grand Mosque is like every Mosque in Canada. A space where many Muslims can be found bowing in prayer for up to five times each day. Mosques/Masjids also work as community centres now and cater to the psychological, emotional and spiritual development of its congregation. These are spaces that are frequented every, single, day by thousands. The Quebec City terrorist attack shows that the threat of violence is no longer just that – a threat. That in this anti-Muslim narrative propagated by the U.S. President, we should just ‘expect’ violence. My heart grieves for those six Muslim men who lost their lives in today’s attack. Their families are enduring a sadness that I pray many of us never experience.

I feel as I did after 9/11 – the suspicion that comes with openly demonstrating my faith; the implication that Muslim lives are expendable in Western nations and especially abroad. Muslims living in Libya, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen are targeted for being Muslim. This is an injustice that is legally indefensible, morally objectionable and violates the laws of human decency. Since 9/11 Muslim communities globally have had to defend their existence, apologize for their faith or cooperate with occupying military forces in the case of Iraq and Afghanistan under the threat of exposure for said cooperation. The legacy for this U.S. President to do as he did, was laid out by his predecessors and built on the rise of white supremacy in the U.S.

I feel emboldened to act though –encouraged by global demonstrations for equality like the Women’s March and the quick response by civil society, activists, lawyers and judges in the face of the travel ban on Muslims in the U.S. I also feel the need to connect –with justice advocates, truth seekers and decent human being’s who want to see and feel that we live in a country that wants justice for all. Today as with everyday, I see that freedom from persecution for Muslim communities in Canada means freedom from the threat of violence – freedom for those that came before us as we continue to occupy their land, and freedom for Muslim countries that are currently experiencing war, conflict and widespread violence. At the moment when we should be welcoming immigrants/refugees from these seven countries, the bigoted laws now in place enshrine Islamophobia. That’s what happened in Quebec City, hatred emboldened by white supremacy saw an opportunity to act on it. So we should act too – with truth, defiance, demonstrations, and disobedience to reject these laws. I’m asking Canadian lawmakers to boldly and consistently condemn racism, misogyny, and Islamophobia and reject the willful dehumanization of Muslims in Canada and globally. Step up!


Siham Rayale is a researcher specializing in gender, conflict, peace, security and the Horn of Africa. As a consultant, Siham specializes in qualitative research methods, program design and evaluation. Siham has conducted research for UN agencies and INGOs. She has written op-eds for Open Democracy, LSE Africa and Oxfam blogs. Siham received her PhD at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London. Her PhD work focused on the use of Somaliland women’s narratives to impact the way we conceptualize political spaces and subjectivities. She received her M.A., from York University in International Development Studies, and her B.A., in Political Science from the University of Toronto.

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