The Other Victims of the Ottawa Shootings

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


This letter was sent to The Cannon by a student at Ottawa University. She has asked to have her name taken out for obvious reasons. The opinions expressed aren't necesarily expressed by The Cannon or its staff.

I have been taught that being a bystander is as bad as committing the crime yourself, so I’m speaking out!

The last few days have been horrific in so many ways.  Not only did an innocent son and father lose his life, but even worst: a country began to fall apart in front of my eyes.

The events of Wednesday Oct. 22 catalyzed a growing problem that has been building in our society. Racism. Unfortunately, this has been done at the hands of our media and our own governments.

Everywhere I turn, I see the following:  "terrorist, terrorist, terrorist." But what do we define as terrorist in this day and age?

I would like to point out that YES, I too believe that Wednesday’s events were an act of terrorism, but what I wonder is why the heinous acts of Justine Bourque (who openly held anti-government views), those of James Roszko (who also committed a planned targeted crime) and so many more were never described as an act of ‘Terrorism’ by the media or the government. Why was it that their place of birth or religion was never taken under question?  Furthermore, how come changing laws were not taken into consideration after these incidences?

The term terrorist has been used so selectively in our media that the general view has become so narrow. Our media is actively promoting Islamophobia! If you do not believe me, simply Google the image of the word “terrorist” and tell me if I am wrong.  

I wonder: why Muslims have not been given the same respect and support as those with mental health problems? Let me explain: As soon as the identity of Wedesday’s perpetrator was reviled, it was also mentioned that he was suffering from mental health disorders. Also he happened to have decided to take up his version of the Muslim faith in the recent past. What happed next surprised me. Immediately, the public and media identified that mental illness is nothing to be scared of. Those who suffering from it cannot and should not be associated with the perpetrator in any way. Unfortunately, his new found religion was not so lucky. Instead, Islam was almost automatically blamed for his actions and a web of shame was cast on any supporters of Islam. This was blatantly visible from the sudden outpour of apologies from the Muslim community trying desperately to distance themselves from this man’s actions.

I would not have made this post if it were not for my friends. Within hours of Wednesday’s incident I have heard stories from friends and strangers who have been targets of atrocious racial slurs and looks of disgust simply because of the colour of their skin, the language that they speak or the religious clothing that they wear. I shake in anger with tears in my eye as I write this, because I, like many of my friends, thought this would never happen in Canada. I myself have not been a victim to these acts, but at this point, I have no doubt that if I too wore a hijab, if my skin was a few shades darker,  if I indicated I was an immigrant, or perhaps  if I wore a shirt that indicated “I was born in Iran”, I would be next.

I will admit it clearly. I am a Muslim, but in the past few years, I have had a hard time saying this in public. Not because I am ashamed, but because I fear what effect it will have in the way others treat me. I have felt that if I was Christian, Catholic, or Jewish I would be more easily accepted. I would feel safer.

The truth is that I cannot speak freely. I cannot fully express myself.

I don’t feel safe after what has happened. And it is not because I am afraid that I will be a victim of a terrorist attack. Instead I am scared that I will have a target on my back – a target labeling me as a terrorist simply because of the country I was born in. The language I speak. The beautiful culture I was raised in. Or the God I believe in.

This is Racism.

My own family has advised me against making this post. Why? Because of the threats that I might receive. The relationships I may break and the jobs I may lose. For what? For speaking out against what is wrong. For standing up for myself and my fellow Canadians. For embracing a religion that has taught me to love my neighbour, to help those in need and to accept and be patient in being accepted.

I aspire to be a doctor. I dream of the day when I take the Hippocratic Oath. The oath that I will help those in need without judgement, without prejudice, without a second thought.
It kills me to know that there are others who will willingly refuse to do the same for me.

I don’t want to see the country that has helped shape my values and my morals fall to pieces. I don’t want to see it divide my neighbours and I don’t want to feel like a stranger in own home.

If this is asking too much, I fear the world that I will have to raise my children in. May your God help us all!

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