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BEPPLE – Let’s make Kamloops a safe, welcoming place for Muslims

(Image: Afik Eleck, Pixabay.com)

I SIT ON MY PORCH most days and watch the world stroll by. There are people walking by themselves, in pairs and in families. They enjoy the flowers, watch the birds, chat to each other, and wave hello to others like me.

Taking a walk is more than going from A to B, it is enjoying the journey along the way. Taking a walk seems like such a safe, innocent activity.

No more.  No more for so many, especially for our Muslim neighbours.  This week, the deaths of three generations of a Muslim family in London, Ontario destroyed whatever feelings there were that Canada was a safe place.

Three generations of a family mowed down by a driver in an apparent deliberate act of murder simply because of their faith, simply because of who they were.

No more should we think that it couldn’t happen here in Kamloops too.

However much we want to think it wouldn’t happen here, we need to acknowledge terror and fear has been inflicted on Muslims living in Kamloops.

The Muslim community in Kamloops has worked hard to build bridges with others.  They’ve opened their mosque for community days.  They welcome others to Eid celebrations.  They are part of multi-faith workshops and discussions.  They host political panels during elections.  They are our doctors, lawyers, teachers and business people.

They go for walks.

So we might think terror and violence couldn’t happen here.

But the Muslims in London, Ontario must have worked just as hard to build bridges too.  And the Muslims in Quebec City as well, where four years ago a gunman killed six and seriously injured 5 worshippers at a mosque.

The Muslims in those cities must also have built bridges to others.  And yet there were grievous acts of violence and death against their communities.

The size of the visible minority communities in London, Quebec City and Kamloops are not that different.  It is not enough for people in Kamloops to say that violence against Muslims, or violence visible minorities or minority religions such as Sikh or Jewish people won’t happen here as well.

When the Quebec City killings happened, police were stationed outside the Kamloops mosque because of fears for the mosque’s worshippers here.  That fear is front and centre again.  No doubt, the police  will again be stationed at the mosque.

But this time it isn’t the mosque that is the target.  It is families going for walks in their neighborhoods.  How terrible it must be to not feel safe in one’s own neighborhood, going for a walk.

The Muslim community in Kamloops has worked hard to build bridges.  Now is the time for others to build bridges to our Muslim community members, to help reduce the fear and terror they feel, to build a sense of safety.

Local governments should specifically send invitations to Muslim organizations inviting their input on community issues, from parks to land use to policing.  Media should seek out Muslim voices not just during terrorist attacks, but for general news.  Their voices need to be seen as part of our community.

Community groups should ask Muslims to join their boards and volunteer groups.  Sports, music, and other activities are for everyone.  When anti-Muslim hate surfaces, we all need to speak up and denounce it.

It’s been a hard week for Muslims living in Kamloops.  Reach out to one or two and ask them how they are.  Check in on each other.  Go for a walk with your neighbors.  Speak out against hate.

Nancy Bepple is a former City councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.

About Mel Rothenburger (8419 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

3 Comments on BEPPLE – Let’s make Kamloops a safe, welcoming place for Muslims

  1. However silly it may seem, Justin Trudeau’s speech suggestion that “the next time you see a woman in a hijab or a family out for a stroll, give them a smile,” is actually a very healthy (yet relatively effortless) response by caring individuals toward ALL acts of targeted hate. I had decided to do just that as a rebellious response to the anticipated acts of anti-Muslim hate that soon followed Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential election victory. Anti-Trump demonstrators’ catchy slogan was “Love Trumps Hate”. Though I’m not much for the ‘love’ part, I would do the next best thing by offering a smile.

    But when offering a smile, one should do so promptly. In my first attempt, with a passing woman wearing a Muslim head scarf, I hesitated long enough (likely for fear of possibly offending her modesty) for her to catch my blank stare and quickly look away. Bitterly ironic, the opposite of my intended friendly gesture was therefor likely perceived by her.

    I made sure to not repeat the mistake, however, as I passed a middle-aged Black woman along the sidewalk. To me, she had a lined expression of one who’d endured a hard life. I gave her a smile, and her seemingly tired face lit up with her own smile, as though mine was the last thing she’d expected to receive. Since then, we always greet one another and even converse while awaiting the bus.

    I strongly feel that in the current climate of intolerance, it is not enough to just not think/act intolerant; we all also need to display kindness, perhaps through a sincere smile.

  2. Nancy I am not sure I agree with what you say about local governments specifically sending invitations to Muslim organizations for their input on community issues. That is segregating people into groups for their religions. What about invitations for agnostic groups, and groups from the many religions that exist. No one group should be specifically invited and catered to above others, nor should people be invited to join boards because they are of a specific religion. If we are to ever meld as Canadians of all races and religions, we have to stop this political correctness and treat everyone the same regardless of what group or organizations they belong to.

  3. Ian MacKenzie // June 9, 2021 at 9:14 AM // Reply

    AMEN!

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