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      Vancouver Stands Against Islamaphobia

      Interview wih Sherry Rashidan, Muslim youth community organizer & university student.

      By Azza Rojbi & Janine Solanki
      Transcribed by Alison Bodine

      On Tuesday, February 10 three Muslim students were murdered in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Deah Barakat, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha were victims of a racist hate crime fuelled by increasing Islamophobia in the United States and all Western countries. Since the day of the killings, people from around the world have joined together for vigils and rallies in solidarity with the victims and to take a stand against Islamophobia. There have been two vigils organized in the Lower Mainland, at Holland Park in Surrey on Friday, February 13, and at the Art Gallery in downtown Vancouver on Saturday, February 14. Following the vigil in Surrey, organized by Muslim Youth in Motion, Fire This Time interviewed Sherry Rashidan, a young Muslim community organizer and emcee of the Surrey vigil.

      Thank you Sherry for agreeing to do this interview with Fire This Time and also for doing a fantastic job of MC’ing today’s vigil for the three Muslim students, victims of the Chapel Hill shooting.

      Fire This Time (FTT): What do you think, was just an isolated incident, or do you think we are witnessing a sharp rise in Islamophobic hate crimes in North America, especially in the United States?

      Sherry Rashidan:
      I think especially recently, Islam and Muslims in general have been a very central thing in the media, in a very, very biased manner, and Islamophobia is on the rise day after day. This is not the first time that we are hearing about a hate crime happening towards Muslims for them being Muslim, it happens world- wide and it often goes completely uncovered in the media. Examples of this would be after the Charlie Hebdo attack in France there were incidences of people being harassed and attacked, mosques being vandalized. There was a murder, a man, a Muslim man coming out of the mosque was stabbed 17 times and killed, yet this goes absolutely uncovered. The media too afraid to use the ‘t’ word, the media is too afraid to call it terrorism, when we all see it for what it is.

      FTT: What is the feeling of the Muslim community about these Islamophobic crimes targeting Muslims?

      Sherry Rashidan:
      It’s scary, and it’s particularly scary when, like myself, you wear the flag of your religion, when you are wearing a hijab and you are a walking representation of a Muslim woman. It’s scary to think that these victims were just like you and I, and that any of us could be next, especially in the West with the rise in Islamophobia, it’s so scary, and we feel sad, and it’s hurtful.

      FTT: What is the response of the Muslim community overall, and specifically the Muslim community in Vancouver, to this racist Islamophobia?

      Sherry Rashidan:
      We express our deepest condolences and solidarity with the victims and their families. I just hope that they are given strength, and patience, I can’t imagine what it is like. They’ve lost two daughters, they’ve lost a son, they’ve lost friends, they’ve lost sisters, they’ve lost brothers, they’ve lost active members of their community. Not only that, their families have lost a part of themselves now, they can’t go on like this, we are so sorry for this, and we will stand in solidarity with all victims of hate crime.

      FTT: What do you think is the best support from the progressive community and other communities, regarding supporting the Muslim community and fighting against Islamophobia?

      Sherry Rashidan:
      I want people to educate themselves. I want them to first and foremost to know what is going on in this world, so when they turn on the news and they see headline attacks saying so-and-so was killed by a Muslim terrorist and they turn on the news and see one man, who probably had mental problems killed a family of Muslims, they are able to differentiate for themselves where this is problematic. So I want them to educate themselves. Secondly, I don’t want to see silence, it’s so disheartening to see that in cases where Muslims are the victims, it doesn’t matter if it happens in the West, or if we are the victims out in the Middle East being slaughtered day-by-day, it’s disheartening to see that it will always be an overwhelming majority of Muslims who speak out. It would be nice to see more support, which we do, and the support that we see, we’re so grateful for, and they know who they are.

      FTT: Overall, what is the cause of the rise of Islamophobia in Western countries, why do you think it is happening more now?

      Sherry Rashidan:
      Honestly, people are so affected by pop culture, by media, by movies, by Hollywood, by the music industry, by CNN, by BBC, they are so affected. Those same people that might come out and say ‘I swear, I’m not racist, but...’ they are the people who are brainwashed by these. Islamophobia, it’s all in the way that stories are headlined in the news. I can give you example after example after example how the media full of double- standards when it comes to broadcasting any stories that have to do with Muslims. So it’s media first of all. Second of all, it’s the fear of using the word ‘terrorism’ for any other acts of violence for political means, that are not done by an Arab or a Muslim. That is problematic because when you restrict that word purely for a person who comes from Muslim or Arab descent, you are creating this bridge between two completely different groups of people. So I think that that needs to be addressed, but most, and foremost, we have to educate ourselves.

      FTT: Thank you very much Sherry for doing this interview with Fire this Time.

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