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Attacking the Faithful: A Misplaced Vendetta against Muslim Women Following the Paris Attacks

The world was rocked on Friday, November 13, 2015 by the terrorist attacks in Paris perpetrated by gunmen and suicide bombers who hit a concert hall, a major stadium as well as restaurants and bars simultaneously. The tragedy left 129 people dead and hundreds wounded. Islamic State (IS) quickly took responsibility for the attacks. The Western world and Islamic world were horrified by these attacks. It is indeed extremely unsettling that the violence and ideology perpetuated by IS have expanded their reach.

In the aftermath of such tragedies it has often been the case that the extremist ideology that leads to such violence takes centre stage, as the voice of moderate Islam is drowned in the background. It is argued that adherents to moderate Islam, who make up the majority, must take a stronger stand in the discussion. Nevertheless, it must also be said that more awareness needs to exist about the difference between extremist ideologies and religious practices. Perhaps there is no better time to emphasize this than now in the wake of several anti-Muslim incidents that have occurred in Ontario following the Paris attacks. Some of these attacks have been specifically targeting women, which raises the question on whether a misplaced vendetta has been born following the Paris attacks.

A Misplaced Vendetta

Since the attacks in Paris there has been an increase in hate crimes against Muslims in Ontario. Some of these attacks particularly targeted women. Two men in the Flemington Park area in Toronto attacked a Muslim woman. She was jumped from behind and beaten. The men pulled at her hijab aggressively, stole her cell phone and some money before fleeing. She was reportedly punched in the stomach and face, called a “terrorist” and told to “go back home”. She was reported as being traumatized by the incident. Two other women who were also wearing hijabs were assaulted on the TTC. A woman and two men made racist remarks against them suggesting that they were terrorists and were going to blow up the train. One of the women was also shoved. There was even an incident where a man assaulted a woman because he mistakenly thought she was wearing a hijab. She was in fact wearing a scarf to protect herself against the cold.

Such actions against innocent people are unacceptable. These women were targeted for practicing their religious beliefs peacefully, while expressing their religion through their clothing. This is something completely removed from the violence inflicted by extremists in Paris, which was universally condemned. Authorities have condemned the attacks against these women as they responded swiftly in all the separate cases.

Moving Forward Together

The entire world is angry and shaken by the rise of extremist ideology and related violence that is being perpetuated by IS. Everyone agrees that such tragedies should never occur anywhere in the world. This consensus must be put into practice as people unite to fight extremism and the spread of extremist ideology. It would be a dreadful mistake to convolute extremist ideology with religious practice and turn the anger towards peaceful adherents of the Muslim faith.

Seema Kawar
Seema is currently a trainee Lawyer in Jordan. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Law in the UK and her Masters in Law in International Development Law and Human Rights from the University of Warwick in the UK. She has a deep interest in women’s rights and refugee rights issues and has volunteered a Sisterhood is Global Institute in Jordan, a local women’s rights organization, and as an assistant caseworker helping asylum seekers from various backgrounds in the UK. She is interested in learning more about the legal, social and political issues the hinder women’s rights and progress in the MENA region and contributing to improving the status of women in the MENA Region and other parts of the developing world.