A B.C. Muslim group is calling for kindness and understanding after being berated by a woman in Vancouver while hosting a Meet a Muslim outreach event on Robson Street earlier this week.
Members of the Bridging Gaps Foundation were at a booth in downtown Vancouver on Dec. 27 when president Adnan Akiel said a woman walked up to his team and started shouting hateful insults and anti-Muslim comments.
The group organizes booths in cities around the Lower Mainland and on university campuses as a way to bridge the gap between Muslims and non-Muslims through education and discussion.
“Our immediate response to aggression is that we let people speak, so that is what was done,” Akiel told Black Press Media.
“Then when we engaged in a conversation, that invitation was refused and returned with more insults.”
That’s when Akiel started recording the incident as a colleague called the Vancouver police.
A video posted to the group’s Facebook page shows the unidentified woman berating the group for at least another five minutes. Akiel said she left before police arrived.
The latest situation is one of several that have been highlighted in a year of reckoning for racism.
“I want to highlight as a group and as an individual that I don’t think this person represents our city and province,” Akiel said, adding that they didn’t post the video to shame her, but instead to show a clear gap in how all faiths and cultures co-exist in the country.
“At the same time, one cannot deny that such individuals and such ideologies and such sentiments – whether it is anti-Muslim or sentiments against other minorities – is in our province.”
Earlier this year, amid the height of the pandemic, Vancouver police announced a spike in anti-Asian hate crimes in the city.
Statistics Canada’s latest data from 2018 shows that Jewish and Muslim people continued to be the most frequently targeted groups for religion-based hate crimes reported to police. Advocates estimate two-thirds of all incidents go unreported.
Due to bans on gatherings and safety risks associated with COVID-19, Akiel and the Bridging Gaps team turned their Meet a Muslim events virtual for much of the year in the form of a website, which provides reading material and one-on-one discussions through video, email and phone calls.
Akiel said he wants to see federal and provincial government make commitments to provide more specific programs addressing racism in schools, university and workplaces.
As for the woman in the video, “If she was was to contact us again, we would be absolutely delighted to explain to her what Islam is.”
Warning: Video contains disturbing, offensive content.
You can watch the video here.
Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.