By Ali Ashraf
In the last few years, there has been such nauseating negativity surrounding Muslims in the Western media that it has finally spilled over onto the sights and sounds of the majestic Canada I once knew.
I moved here 13 years ago from Pakistan and in all that time never have I ever even once experienced any form of racism, prejudice or malice based on my ethnicity or religious affiliation - until yesterday.
I normally grab a cup of coffee from Starbucks opposite the bus terminal on my way to work every morning. I take the same bus, same route, same time everyday. 8 am sharp!
Yesterday, while waiting in line to place my order for coffee amid the morning rush, I had the Quran app opened up on my smartphone. I normally recite some verses in the morning to start off my day. It is a spiritual invigoration that I practice with peace and sanctity, just as most people would in reading the morning newspaper whilst in transit.
It was then that I felt someone looking over my shoulder and mumbling something to the person next to him. The next thing I know, he slaps my wrist, sending my phone to the floor. I turn back horrified to find an older gentleman in perhaps his 50s, standing with a woman that appeared to be his wife. He looks at me and literally scolds to my face: “Get your punk a** out of here you devil worshipping Islamic bastard!”.
I was numb with shock! The cashier at the counter was startled at what had just happened and for some reason the people in line infront of me moved away a few steps while staring at me. I felt like a reviled criminal; as if I was being arrested in broad day light by the handcuffs of peoples judgment. Right there in the middle of a public place! A place where I stand in line as a responsible law abiding citizen almost every morning, paying $3.50 from an honest earning for a cup of coffee. An earning I pay taxes on just like everybody else.
I reached for the floor to pick up my phone, but before I could, a blonde girl who appeared to be a college student reached down and beat me to it. She dusted it off and said “It’s not broken, don’t worry”, while looking at the screen clearly displaying my Quran app and the holy verses in Arabic. She then looked at the older man and said “You should be ashamed of yourself! Please take your hate elsewhere sir. This is Canada, not your TV lounge”.
The old man mumbled away while exiting the store and giving us both the middle finger. I was simply speechless. Speechless at the girl’s courage and empathy. Her strength and compassion. Her willingness not to be silenced and her endeavour not to let bigotry dictate what it means to be truly Canadian. I wanted to thank her but before I could, I heard some people behind me start to clap. Clapping turned into cheering. And just like that, within seconds, I was brought back to the magic and enchantment of a Canada I have always known. My Canada. Our Canada!
And it made me realize something for the first time. Our youth; those to whom the future of this great country belongs, are the truest torchbearers of enlightenment, the voice of reason against fear and the light of hope against the apartheid of ignorance. They have almost invariably grown up next to a neighbour or have studied next to a classmate belonging to a different race, creed or culture. The intolerant black and white notions of division and the dehumanizing bombardment of xenophobic rhetoric on the media is not strong enough to break their resolve. A resolve that seeks to build a better Canada, and God willing, a better world.
For every negative incident out there, we must also remember every positive one that takes place. Despite the tragedies dominating our TV screens and news feeds, the world is still a beautiful place. Nobody and nothing can take that away from us as human beings; not ISIS nor Islamophobes! As long as we pledge allegiance to our ‘collective’ fabric as ‘one’ people.
Please actively share this post with your friends and family and help get this story out to as many people as possible. The world needs something to cheer for.