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Monica Bassili

Harassment Against Racialized, Muslim Women

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Money, Power, and Violence: Harassment Against Racialized, Muslim Women

                                                                                               Monica Bassili

In the past year, open and direct violence against women has been displayed in communities across Edmonton. For example, disturbing and violent attacks against women wearing hijabs have increasingly occurred in public spaces, malls, and residential neighbourhoods. As well, an increase in anti-Muslim hate has manifested through violence against Muslims, and the victims have been predominantly women. Further, a survey showed that thirty-three percent of BIPOC Canadians feel that racism has increased in the last five years. Issues of violence against women are thus interconnected with race, ethnicity, and religion. 

In Alberta, attacks on racialized women reflect underlying prejudices, such as the belief that women wearing hijabs are terrorists. Furthermore, white supremacist narratives assert that increasing migration has increased crime. Therefore, racialized women are open targets of abuse. These narratives drive violent acts against the city’s most vulnerable residents. Notably, Edmonton has seen that most victims, at least 10 of 14 reported attacks, have been Black, visibly Muslim women wearing the hijab. 

Provincial, municipal, and federal governments have failed to advocate against gender-based violence against religious and ethnic minorities. Missing from national media and feminist organizations are efforts to bring awareness and support to violence against women, including intersections of racial and religious conflict. These intersectional lenses, unfortunately, are not appealing to Albertans and Canadians experiencing post 9/11 impacts. Canada’s no-fly list disrupted and traumatized Arabs across Canada and reflected the country’s intense political will to enforce institutional racism blatantly.

Further, provinces like Alberta have essential context-specific knowledge which impacts residents’ perceptions of racialized and Muslim women. For example, current Premier Jason Kenney had been the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism for five years in Alberta. Among his efforts to positively implement legislation, Kenney made a remarkable statement in which he articulated: 

I believe people taking the public Oath of Citizenship should do so publicly, w/ their faces uncovered. Do you agree?

Without addressing intersectionality and identifying power dynamics, cities like Edmonton and Calgary will continue to witness violence and remain complicit through attacks against minoritized or ‘othered’ women. At face value, increased policing is an institutional and normative frame to address systemic injustice. Remember that racialized communities and communities from minority faiths have complex, often negative interactions with law enforcement and are further disadvantaged by increased policing. Security grants, such as those implemented by Kenney, fail to address the problem: racism, Islamophobia, and white supremacy fuel violence against women. No loans, grants, or subsidies can address entrenched hatred perpetuated across countless governments and political leaders. 

As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau claims, it is “up to all of us” to end gender-based violence. But, unfortunately, solemn statements and condolences are passive and fail to provide any meaningful effort to mitigate future instances of violence. Anxiety, fear, and hopelessness are feelings seldom expressed in heartfelt words. Instead, media and governments continue to pay lip service, failing to address the root causes of violence and gender, religious, racial, or ethnic-based abuse. 

Further, violence against women cannot solely address violence against white women. As long as media and government ignore Islamophobia, racism, and white supremacy situations, it is unlikely to result in meaningful actions to deter violence. Canadian reflections of feminism often prioritize the pay gap and frame gender-based violence through an economic lens. The Canadian Women’s Foundation ought not to resort to reducing gender-based violence to a 7.4 billion dollar tax-payer burden with the goal of meaningful change. Framing violence monetarily leads to monetary solutions, resulting in inadequate public security and safety measures.  

Likewise, Canadian feminist organizations need not solely post a sub-section on intersectional feminism – activities, systems, and programs supporting feminists cannot truly empower all women without including racial, ethnic, and religious minorities. 

White supremacist thought does not characterize feminism, however, focusing solely on struggles experienced by white women reinforces a concept of feminism that is inextricably linked with white supremacy. In this sense, the urgency to address violence against racial, ethnic, and religious women minorities is non-existent because media, governments, and feminist organizations fall silent. What can be understood from this interconnected map of power, authority, and violence is that acts of violence against racial, ethnic and religious women minorities are fine, even okay



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