Sidrah Ahmad is a writer and researcher based in Toronto, Ontario. She co-founded the Rivers of Hope Toolkit for survivors of Islamophobic violence. Her writing for mainstream media and academic research has helped to bring the reality of gendered Islamophobic violence into public discourse in Canada.
Her research on this subject has now been published in the Journal of Gender-Based Violence.
In 2016, Muslim Link was asked to help Ottawa transit user Hailey DeJong find the OC Transpo bus driver who stood up for her when she was verbally attacked for wearing niqab by another passenger while on his bus. She had managed to get a selfie with him, but had not taken his name and she wanted to make sure that OC Transpo knew how much she appreciated his support.
For Sexual Assault Awareness Month (#SAAM), let’s raise awareness about Islamophobically-motivated sexual assault, and all forms of sexual violence Muslim women face.
Muslim women are most often the targets of Islamophobic violence in North America and Europe, with visibly Muslim women – women who wear hijab and/or niqab – being particularly vulnerable. Black Muslim women also face heightened vulnerability to Islamophobic violence, because of the combined effect of anti-Black racism and Islamophobia.
When we think about Islamophobic violence against Muslim women, we often picture a woman being yelled at to “go back to where you came from” or even physically attacked. What’s been missing from the conversation however is the fact that Islamophobic violence can take the form of sexual assault.
Over the past year, I conducted research interviews with 21 Muslim women survivors of Islamophobic violence in Toronto and its surrounding regions. Throughout these interviews, Muslim women of all ages told me about being verbally harassed, threatened, and physically attacked. Importantly, some of them also told me about incidents of Islamophobically-motivated sexual assault.
Toronto-based Somali Canadian poet Naeema Hassan recently posted a video in response to Punish A Muslim Day on April 3rd, offering support to Muslim women who face the threat of Islamophobic violence daily.
Muslim Canadian journalist Muhammad Lila from Toronto crowdfunded for a gift for Jake Taylor, an ordinary Canadian who intervened during the violent Islamophobia-motivated assault of a young Muslim woman, Noor Fadel, on the Skytrain in Vancouver in November.
As Noor Fadel stated on her Instagram, "Out of all the passengers he alone stepped in and protected me. He got off the train and comforted me until police paramedics came by. He means the world to me and more than anything I’m honoured to call him a friend."