Shaheen Ashraf says she’s very worried about the escalation of violence in Montreal and warns that tensions related to the Israel-Hamas conflict need to be tempered.
“Oh my god,” she exclaimed. “You know, provocations and then retaliation and then re-provocations and re-retaliations. It’s not good.”
On Thursday, bullet holes were found in doors at two Montreal Jewish schools, the day before there was an altercation between two groups at Concordia University and Muslims groups have reported several attacks on individuals.
“We keep statistics on hate crimes,” said Montreal police’s assistant director Vincent Richer during a press conference on Thursday. “There has been an increase in the last couple of weeks.”
All this has Jewish, Muslim and Arab Montrealers on edge. Some say they are even afraid to identify themselves visibly, for fear of being attacked.
“Emotions are very raw,” Ashraf pointed out. “Emotions are very raw and they need to be contained.”
She insists that people need to start acknowledging the pain and frustration the other is feeling, and listen. Ashraf argues that one reason for anger is that often Muslim and Arab voices aren’t heard, and the communities are sometimes unfairly blamed.
Corey Balsam of Independent Jewish Voices Canada agrees and points to the shooting at the Jewish schools and the assumptions some people are making.
“I don’t think we know who committed the acts against the schools, for instance, and again I think it’s assumed that this person is Muslim but we don’t know that,” he reasoned.
Police say it’s too soon to know if the shootings were sparked by the tensions.
Both Balsam and Ashraf say elected officials have a role to play in bringing communities together. On Thursday, Montreal mayor Valérie Plante said she was in touch with different communities outlining the importance of coming together.
“I was telling the Imams and the Rabbis as well because they are really well connected to the communities,” she said, “and we’re trying to see like how we can support each other.”
Balsam says he is encouraged by what he is seeing.
“In this province and elsewhere in this city there are examples of people coming together,” he noted.
He points to a Canada-wide protest this coming Sunday by a coalition of faith, humanitarian and union groups, to call for a ceasefire as on example. The event in Montreal starts at 2 p.m.