A reminder that we're in this together.
I had just gotten off the train and was on the way to my house. It was the middle of day and the sun was out. As I was walking, I noticed someone yelling behind me. I turned around to see a man, who noticed me turn and responded by saying, “oh, not you ma’am, I am not talking to you”.
Not thinking anything of it, I kept walking. He quickly walked up next to me and started to speak about a personal matter that I couldn't fully comprehend. At this point, I felt a bit uncomfortable, but not worried because he kept his distance. There were also people walking behind us, so I felt more assured of my safety.
“I'm sure you’re a great girl, just make sure to never convert to Islam,” he said
I wasn't sure if I heard him correctly at first. But as he continued to say absolutely disgusting, racist remarks towards Islam, I was sure I did.
I couldn't believe this was happening. “Prophet Mohammad was a rapist, a pedophile” he kept repeating. He was yelling and kept getting louder, closer and more aggressive towards me. He started pushing me into the side of the walkway.
I became extremely uncomfortable and started walking faster, looking to see if there were people still around.
I had never experienced someone speak so bluntly and ignorantly about someone’s religion. The fact that he was a white, tall male made me even angrier, but in the moment I could not bring myself to say anything. I was afraid of how he may react. He kept yelling the entire time I was walking until he had to take a turn, at which point he stopped walking but continued yelling until I was out of sight. As soon as I was home, I was angry and frustrated. I thought of what I could have said, but I realized that I could not have said anything to him that would have changed his mind. Had I not been so isolated, I maybe would have called him out. I would have. It was the first time I felt like I wasn't able to be vocal about what I believed. It really bothered me and left me shocked.
It is people like him that fuel my passion for issues with human rights, but I was not able to do anything. The most painful part of this experience was that there were two people behind me who I made eye contact with many times to convey that I am uncomfortable. Despite the fact that I believe they were able to see that I wasn't okay, they watched the entire time without joining me or helping. They allowed this man to feel that he was okay to do what he was did. Although I'm not a Muslim, I'm often mistaken for someone who is. It hurt me just as much, knowing that he could have just as easily been yelling about a Sikh person’s turban instead of a Muslim woman’s hijab. The intolerance is all the same to me.
It reminded me that we, as people of colour, are all in this together. We are all one, and need to always support each other.
Simran Dhami is a second year student at the University of Ottawa, studying conflict studies and human rights. She is a strong believer in the power of community.