Western students stand up for those targeted for being visibly Muslim | CBC News

Five months after four members of a London Muslim family were run down while out for an evening walk, students at Western University took a few steps on Friday to push back. 

A few hundred students and supporters took part in the Shalwar Kameez walk against Islamophobia and Racism.

Shalwar kameez refers to the traditional loose-fitting clothing worn by many Muslim men and women. Some of the speakers at Friday’s walk said the June 6 attack highlighted something they’ve long known: That being visibly Muslim can turn any follower of Islam into a target. 

“We are tired of living in fear,” said Rubina Malik, a graduate student of Pakistani descent and one of the organizer’s of Friday’s walk. “Going out for a walk in your shalwar, your turban, your hijab or your skin should never incite looks of disgust, nods of dismissal, words of hate and least of all, death.” 

Dr. Fatimah Jackson-Best, a course director at York University and public health researcher, was the guest speaker at Friday’s cultural walk against Islamophobia and racism. (Andrew Lupton/CBC)

Dr. Fatimah Jackson-Best, a public health researcher who focuses on communities in Canada and the Caribbean, said Muslim women are particularly vulnerable.

“We wear our faith on our bodies, so we become prime targets,” she said.

Opiyo Oloya, Western’s associate vice-president of equity, diversity and inclusion, spoke at Friday’s walk and said the racism many Muslim students experience is not their fault. (Andrew Lupton/CBC)

Opiyo Oloya, Western’s newly hired associate vice-president of equity, diversity and inclusion, offered support from the campus community for students who’ve become targets of racism and anti-Islamic hate. 

“The hate and fear directed towards you must end now,” he said. “I also say to you: This is not your problem. You did not create Islamophobia. You did not create hate. To the contrary, you have contributed to the beautiful fabric of our communities.” 

After hearing from the speakers, a group of a few hundred students, many carrying signs, walked around campus. Organizers hope to make the walk an annual event. 

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