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The Muslim Narrative in Toronto

Written by: Sheren Kamaei

Published on: September 25th, 2018


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The Muslim story in Toronto is an underrepresented narrative of immigration and the development of a rich multicultural community. It consists of the stories of diverse individuals, from varying backgrounds, coming to Canada and forming a shared Muslim community. Unfortunately, the true history of this community has been inadequately represented due to the prevailing negative stereotypes about the religion and its adherents.

In 1871, a census recorded that only 13 Lebanese Muslims lived in Canada.[1] However in 1931, this number increased to 645 largely due to immigration from Turkey, Syria, Yugoslavia, Lebanon and Albania. By 1971, a large portion of highly educated Muslims immigrated and expanded the population to 33, 370. During this time, workers and political refugees from Iran and Afghanistan came to seek refuge in Canada. Approximately 70% of these immigrants moved to urban areas such as Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver.

In the early 1990s, Ahmad F. Yousif outlined various major factors that attracted Muslim to Canada.[2] These included the freedom of faith and expression that is guaranteed in Canadian Law, economic advantages and educational opportunities. Like other communities, Muslims came to Canada to essentially build a better life. Their narrative involves practicing their faith while being a productive member of society.

In reality, the story of this multicultural community is an expression of my life as a Canadian-Muslim. My religious beliefs have been a central aspect in my life. Since Toronto has a diverse Muslim community, I’ve had the privilege of practicing my faith through the perspective of different cultures. I celebrated Eid, a religious celebration, at a Pakistani mosque. I attend weekly sermons at Imam Ali Mosque, a Persian mosque that promotes community and charity. Furthermore, I’ve been to Halal food conventions that sell halal foods from different nations.

Unfortunately, the real story of Muslims is underrepresented due to various misconceived notions about Islam. After the 9/11 attacks, Torontonian Muslims have been discriminated against and viewed with a sense of mistrust. The media further re-enforces and feeds islamophobia sentiment against the Muslim community.[3] For instance, on February 24, a cartoon in the Globe and Mail depicted a Muslim sitting on a prayer mat reading books on how to create explosives. Unfortunately, these stereotypes tarnish how Islam is perceived by non-Muslims and influences how it’s adherents are treated. For instance, Adil Rehman recounts how a child in his class said he wanted to kill all Muslims.[4] Being a child, this student may not have understood the meaning of his words yet as Rehman states: “It wasn’t that kid talking. It was clear what he was hearing at home.” In reality, his story represents the problematic reality that Muslims face on a daily basis. In 2013, Statistics Canada reported that although hate crimes decreased by 17%, hate crimes against Muslims increased by 20%.

<p”>I have also experienced the negative effects of adhering to a faith that has been underrepresented. In high school, I wore the hijab for two years as a symbol of my religion. This was my personal decision and I wore it because I wanted people to judge me based on my character rather than my appearance. Wearing such an obvious symbol of my faith was met with mixed criticism. Although many people treated me normally, others did criticize my decision and even expressed relief when I decided to take it off.

It is extremely important for the Torontonian Muslim community to become a part of the larger mainstream narrative because of the intolerance we experience. As Canadians, we should have the right to feel safe and accepted in Toronto. Yet, negative stereotypes prevent people from understanding our narratives but more importantly who we are.


[1] Haddad, Y. (2015, October 7). Islam. Retrieved November 5, 2015, from http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/islam/
[2] Haddad, Y. (2015, October 7). Islam. Retrieved November 5, 2015, from http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/islam/.
[3] Canada Calling: Canada’s Nearly 400,000 Muslims Concerned about Media Stereotypes. (1993, October 31). Retrieved November 5, 2015.
[4] Spurr, B. (2015, January 7). What it’s like to be Muslim in the GTA | Toronto Star. Retrieved November 5, 2015.

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