Hira Zulfiqar, fourth-year justice studies student at the University of Guelph-Humber, hopes that raising awareness on the issue of hate crimes will put things into perspective for students.
In January, she organized GH Against Hate, an event to combat the presence of hate crimes against Muslim women along with her professor Ron Stansfield.
Zulfiqar said that some students expressed their concerns about the motive behind the event. “With every single crime, there is always that question of ‘did this really happen?’”
“Just because one fake story was made, doesn’t take away from the visible religious minorities who do experience hate crimes,” said Zulfiqar.
Some researchers have said that the issue of hate crimes is greater than it may seem because many times it goes unreported.
Barbara Perry, author of books on hate crimes and associate dean of social science and humanities at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology said that data on hate crimes is inaccurate and “greatly flawed because they are rarely reported.”
Perry said, “what we’ve seen in the past year is that the Jewish community and Muslim community are especially targeted not only by unorganized hate crimes on the street but also targeted by the far-right wing.”
Zulfiqar held GH Against Hate to show support for Muslim women and mark the one-year anniversary of the attack on the Québec Mosque. “It’s through knowledge and giving people information that you can challenge ignorance,” said Zulfiqar.
Gary Ellis, justice studies program head and former Toronto police superintendent, said that hate crimes committed against visible religious should not be ignored. “This is a large issue…any one incident of hate is a big issue,” said Ellis.
He added that hate crimes against visible religious minorities do exist and the numbers are present, “but as a percentage I believe they’re down.”
He agreed with Perry that the reason is because hate crimes against visible religious minorities are especially underreported.
Ellis said sometimes new immigrants have a lack of trust in police. “They have their own paradigm from the countries where they came from on who the police are and what they believe in,” he explained.
Ellis, who also studies law enforcement, said that all claims should be taken seriously.
“The odd case of a falsely reported hate crime should not drive the agenda as to how these things are investigated,” said Ellis.
As a part of the International Network for Hate Studies, Perry also works for hate crime prevention and said more political leaders need to take a stance in “acknowledging and speaking out against hatred…we need more education on our inclusive values.”
Ellis agreed that “these hate crimes are just another form of bullying and we have to stand-up to bullying.”
He said the best way to diminish hate crimes is to expose them. “To say it’s not happening is not exposing it we need to acknowledge that there is a problem,” said Ellis.
As for the university event, Zulfiqar said that in the coming years they are hoping to extend the school’s campaign to more visible religious minorities such as Sikhs and Jews.