Toronto says #StandWithMuslimsTO after anti-Muslim backlash

Snapshot of Toronto's subway. Credit: Steve Harris/Flickr.

The anti-Muslim backlash following the recent Paris atrocities is creating its own acts of solidarity.

In Toronto, Canada, four high profile anti-Muslim incidents have made headline news. A Muslim woman was assaulted as she went to collect her children from school on Monday. According to police, two males pulled at her hijab and stole her mobile phone. The brother of the victim said she was punched in the stomach and face, called a “terrorist” and told to “go back home” during the assault.

Metrolinx staff found anti-Muslim graffiti inside a bathroom of a busy train station. On November 19, a Muslim student at the University of Toronto, named Osama Omar, 21, was spat at as he waited for a streetcar in downtown Toronto. Omar wears a topi, or Muslim prayer cap. The perpetrator told Omar to take his “turban” off and attempted to punch him twice. In a Facebook post, he described how an elderly woman who saw the incident from across the street came over to ‘apologise on behalf of the man’. She told Omar not to see him as a ‘generalized representation’ of what society has become.

At around 6pm on Wednesday, two Muslim women faced verbal abuse on Toronto’s subway. Two men and a woman had made racial slurs and towards them, accusing them of being terrorists. The woman allegedly pushed one of the women.

A witness then pulled the emergency alarm and Toronto police arrived at the scene. The offenders fled.

A spokesman for Toronto’s transport network (TTC) later confirmed the incident.

In response, non-Muslims took to Twitter to offer solidarity under the hashtag #Illridewithyou. That act of solidarity first emerged after the Sydney siege in late 2014.

Twitter user @Kelly_Boaz tweeted “If you’re feeling unsafe and want someone with #WhitePrivilege to ride with, #IllRideWithYou #TTC”. Others soon followed with offers across the city and Greater Toronto Area.

Others tweeted under another hashtag #StandWithMuslimsTO. This included Toronto Star columnist and radio host Desmond Cole. That hashtag soon became a trending topic.

And soon narratives of hope and solidarity punctured, perhaps briefly, the tide of bigotry. A solidarity march will happen this weekend.