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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Toronto Police investigate Islamophobic messaging on mobile advertising truck

The Toronto police hate crimes unit has launched an investigation following the appearance of a mobile advertising truck displaying anti-Muslim digital images and messages. The incident has sparked outrage and concern among community members and advocacy groups, who are calling for immediate action to combat such hate speech.

Details of the Incident

Videos posted to social media show the truck displaying a series of provocative questions: “Is this Lebanon? Is this Yemen? Is this Syria? Is this Iraq?” The truck then presents images of Muslims praying and protesting at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto, with visible Palestinian flags and the square’s iconic concrete arches. The sequence concludes with the message: “No. This is Canada. Wake up Canada. You are under siege,” written in blue lettering on a white background, easily readable from a distance.

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Police Response

The Toronto police have acknowledged the community’s concerns and are urging the public to come forward with any information or footage related to the truck. “We recognize the community’s concern about a truck displaying Islamophobic messaging in Toronto,” police stated in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Wednesday.

Advocacy and Community Reaction

Amira Elghawaby, Canada’s Special Representative on Combatting Islamophobia, expressed her disappointment and condemnation of the truck’s messaging. “This type of messaging really does send quite an unfortunate message of division and hate,” she said in an interview, emphasizing that such sentiments have no place in Canada. Elghawaby highlighted the ongoing issues of Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism, noting their potential to incite violence against these communities.

In a social media post, Elghawaby revealed that she had communicated with Toronto police’s Muslim liaison officers about the community’s “deep concern, fear, and anxiety” over the truck. She pointed out recent incidents of violence, including an arson attack in London, Ontario, and physical assaults on visibly Muslim women in various cities, underscoring the urgent need to address this incitement to hate.

Statements from Advocacy Groups

The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), a prominent non-profit organization advocating for Muslim civic engagement, condemned the truck’s messaging as pure Islamophobia designed to instill fear. “This is extremely dangerous messaging, and should not be condoned,” the NCCM stated on X. They called for leaders to denounce this form of hate and emphasized the deadly consequences of Islamophobic violence in Canada, referencing past tragedies such as the Quebec mosque massacre and the London Family attack.

City of Toronto’s Stance

The City of Toronto has also voiced its opposition to all forms of hate, reiterating its commitment to promoting tolerance and inclusion. “The City of Toronto will not tolerate, ignore, or condone discrimination or harassment,” read a city statement. The city highlighted its ongoing efforts through the Toronto For All public education campaign, which last summer focused on raising awareness about Islamophobia and providing resources for allyship.

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Residents are encouraged to report any instances of hate graffiti or related incidents to the city’s 311 service. The city’s online resource package, available at toronto.ca/StopHate, offers comprehensive information on reporting hate crimes, supporting affected communities, and fostering community safety.