News / Toronto

Overall hate crime down, but anti-Muslim attacks on the rise in Toronto

A report from Toronto police says incidents of anti-Muslim attacks and vandalism peaked in November following the terror attacks in Paris.

A small group of people from various backgrounds and faiths gathered at the Christmas Tree in Nathan Phillips Square to

Torstar News Service file

A small group of people from various backgrounds and faiths gathered at the Christmas Tree in Nathan Phillips Square to "spread joy" during this Christmas season. The event was organized by a Muslim woman, Farheem Khan as a way of battling the anti-Muslim narrative unfolding in some Western countries.

A new Toronto police report draws a link between anti-Muslim attacks, the attacks in Paris and the arrival of Syrian refugees.

Verbal and physical attacks tied to Islamophobia spiked in November, the report says. Overall, 22 hate crimes were reported that month, almost double the number reported a year earlier.

A variety of incidents grabbed headlines at the time, including that of a Muslim women who was assaulted in front of a school and others who were harassed while riding the TTC.

“There was a particularly tense few weeks where Muslim women were trying to avoid walking alone or taking transit alone or even going out in public alone,” said Safwan Choudhry, a spokesman for the Ahmadiyya Muslim community in Toronto and one of the organizers of the Je Suis Hijabi campaign.

The mood shifted, she said, after Toronto showed its “true character,” banding together in support of Muslims. There were marches against Islamophobia, thousands attended “try on the hijab” events, and, in one case, a local couple cancelled their wedding and used the money to sponsor a Syrian family.

“Getting such huge support from people in the community really helped repel that fear,” Choudhry said.

Choudhry hopes the city can continue to show that support in the wake of a violent Monday stabbing at a Canadian Forces centre in North York. The suspect, 27-year-old Ayanle Hassan Ali, allegedly called out “Allah told me to” during the attack.

“Fortunately there haven’t been any serious reprecussions,” Choudhry said. “But one thing we learn from our history is that we can move past these incidents much faster by standing united.”

Overall, hate crime reports were down in the city last year. According to police, 134 incidents were categorized as hate crimes, down more than eight per cent from the previous year.

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