Rally and vigil are organized to remind the community of the importance of diversity

Two days after a national tragedy, Waterloo organized Jan. 31 for the We Are All UWaterloo rally. The event was organized in light of the attacks that took place in Quebec, Ontario, where six men of Islamic faith were murdered at the Grande Mosquée de Quebec.

About 250 students, with signs protesting any form of discrimination and bigotry, showed up to show their support. Attendance also included staff and faculty members. The community stayed in the cold throughout the outdoor rally which was held in the Arts Quad outside of Dana Porter at 12 p.m.

The rally was organized by staff members Aimée Morrison, Frankie Sofia Condon, Heather Smyth and Jennifer Harris. They brought members of the community together to battle Islamophobia, xenophobia and other forms of discrimination that divide communities. Participants of the event included faculty of the university, Aboriginal community leaders, members of the Muslim Students Association (MSA), Muslim peers, and law enforcement.

“My colleagues and I were so upset over [Trump’s policies and the Quebec attacks] and we couldn’t let stories of hate take over,” Morrison added when asked the reason for organizing the rally.

“We hope the rally today shows all of our Muslim brothers and sisters at the University of Waterloo that we care …Waterloo is a community and we will not stand for Islamophobia and acts of violence against members of our community,” Morrison added.

The event started with opening statements from the MC of the afternoon, Condon. Condon is an associate professor in the English department at the University of Waterloo.

Saira Anwar, the public relations officer at the MSA, also spoke at the event. She spoke on how she had been personally affected and encouraged the Waterloo community to come together to fight hate and discrimination.

“Like you, it was [with] great sadness and shock that we heard of the terror attack — students that identify with a religion that is under constant scrutiny and a common target [for] bigotry, we feel great grief and fear … Today we stand here united – independent of skin color, ethnicity, origin, religious beliefs, and private life to say no to hatred and ignorance,” Anwar said.

IMG_8813She expressed gratitude for anyone in the community that has reached out with their words of support to the MSA and she encouraged the community to reach out to them if they need someone to talk to or if they have been affected.

One of the speakers was professor Idrisa Pandit of the University of Waterloo.

“It is time the hate directed at Muslims receives the same attention hate perpetrated by Muslims does” Pandit emphasized. “As members of the academy we have to make honest and deliberate attempts at examining how we may unwittingly become enablers of systematic marginalization and oppression.”

She encouraged the audience to study Bill C-51 and Bill C-7 and encouraged the audience to demand the bills be repealed.

“As law enforcement, we have to do better. We can do better. I need to do better,” said Sargent Ryan Leslie of the Waterloo hate crime branch, as he encouraged reporting hate crimes to the police.

Saira Shafiq, a representative of the coalition for Muslim women was not surprised by the attacks, as thus far two million lives lost around the world to Muslim hate crimes. She encouraged everyone to confront hate by speaking up, reporting hate crimes to police, including the term islamophobia in discussion, and learning more about politics and extraneous bombings that occur.

We Are All UWaterloo 2
Photos by Theresa Shim.

“We are responsible for the actions our country take[s] abroad,” Shafiq said.

Morrision, too, spoke out against Trump’s Muslim immigration ban.

“When we look around our classrooms, our dorms, our board rooms… we see a rainbow of cultures and identities. In our differences we spark connections and we grow stronger,” Morrison said.

Another Waterloo student offered a prayer that is traditionally recited when tragedy occurs and is used to comfort those that have been left behind.

“These people put more weight on my hijab than my humanity,” expressed the student. She pointed out that despite this, she has never felt unsafe in the community.

The rally ended by encouraging everyone to reach out to one another and recognize the importance of diversity.

Another vigil was organized at 7:35 p.m. at the SLC. Attendees included President Feridun Hamdullahpur, who came to show his support for the Waterloo community. At the vigil the prayer that was being recited during the time of the shooting in Quebec was recited again. Thirty people took part in the service that lasted almost an hour.

Ultimately the rally sent a message that Waterloo is a strong, diverse, and supportive community that came together to show support for one another.

Another We Are All UWaterloo event is being organized on Fri. Feb. 10 at 12 p.m. at Dana Porter Library.

Imprint interviewed members of the UW Muslim Student Association, who organized the vigil and prayer.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z1OAl81mIh4?rel=0]