Mohammed Abu Marzouk, 39, was backing out of a parking space after a picnic with his family when he almost hit another car coming up behind him. He got out of the car, and two men, Janis and Adem Corhamzic, age 19 and 27, are accused of beating him unconscious in front of Abu Marzouk’s wife, Diana Attar and their two young daughters.
Diana Attar’s plea was heard across Canada, “Hate is alive here,” she said.
There are different reports as to whether the gruesome attack was sparked by road rage, or was the result of a hate crime. While both are suspected, police have labelled the beating as a hate crime. The Corhamzic brothers have been arrested and charged with one count of aggravated assault and two counts of assault.
Context spoke with Christian Stackaruk of Neighbourly faith; his organization uses interfaith dialogue to break down barriers of difference with the hope of bringing communities closer together, and putting an end to terrible realities like, “Islamophobia.”
We spoke with Stackaruk, who’s in Spain, about this attack in a Q&A by email.
Anson Liski: What have you heard from members of your community about the attack in Mississauga?
Christian Stackaruk: Many, did not realize that Islamophobia exists in the GTA, and are shocked by such an extreme example in the news. Others, especially Muslims around the city, who are aware that Islamophobia exists, are sad that such hatred exists, and afraid that this kind of violence could ever become commonplace.
I do think that this tragic hate-fuelled attack is a stinging reminder of the very significant degree of Islamophobia in Canada. Recent studies by the Angus Reid Institute have found that 44% of Canadians have a negative view of Muslims (2015) and that 46% believe Islam damages Canadian society (2017). It is no wonder many Muslims feel marginalized in our society.
According to the CBC who quoted an eyewitness of the attack, the Corhamzic brothers shouted, “f–king Arab people. Terrorists,” while brutally attacking Abu Marzouk who is still in hospital and has had to undergo several surgeries.
AL: Your organization specializes in inter-faith dialogue, how does this help people understand each other and work to end this type of hate?
CS: Interfaith dialogue helps Christians put a face to what so many of us know only vaguely as “Islam.” Most Christians I meet who take part in interfaith dialogue come away delighted by the wonderful people they meet.
Interfaith dialogue has a bad reputation for watering down our beliefs to promote a false “unity” with other religions. This is definitely a major issue that we at Neighborly Faith are frustrated by as well because dialogue shouldn’t be this. Instead, we teach Christians how to learn, share, and build friendships with people of other religions with our differences of belief in full view. In my experience, few Muslims are excited to water down their beliefs either.
In a statement released by the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), the Executive Director, Ihsaan Gardee said, “Such hateful and cowardly acts are abhorrent to all Canadians who stand united in condemning all crimes motivated by xenophobia and hatred.”
The statement also said over 2016 to 2017, “Peel Police saw a 91% increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes. While we do not believe this attack represents the sentiments of the vast majority of Canadians, incidents like these remind us that there is much work to be done,” added NCCM Communications Coordinator Leila Nasr.
Ibrahim Hindy is the Abu Marzouk family’s Imam, he told the CBC, “I’ve lived in this country for 39 years, I’ve never faced this. There’s absolutely no doubt that this is a hate crime… Islamophobia? It does exist.”
AL: In Canada, almost 50 percent of hate crimes are motivated by hatred of religion – how would you rate Canada’s inter-faith relations?
CS: This is certainly a concern for our organization. I don’t think individual believers and churches are doing enough to ensure that all faiths are respected and protected. What will make a significant difference for hate crimes is to get more believers fired up to love their neighbours of other religions in meaningful ways by helping to build more inclusive schools, neighbourhoods, and cities. That’s why Neighbourly Faith is equipping believers and churches to demonstrate Jesus’ love.
AL: What is the best thing you can suggest to people who would like to live in better community with each other?
CS: We can ensure that we, and the believers in our churches and networks, understand that because Jesus loves everyone, no matter their religion, we should too. This begins with acknowledging that Islamophobia is a problem in Canada and realizing that many of our religious neighbours quietly live on the margins.
I think believers can take the first step in reaching out to Muslims and mosques in our cities to ask how they are doing right now. Grab a coffee with someone and listen—and maybe you’ll sense the Holy Spirit leading you to do something more to share his abounding love and build a more understanding community.
The CBC reports that Abu Marzouk was the sole breadwinner for his family and that his recovery could keep him away from work for the next few months. If you would like to donate to Mr. Abu Marzouk’s financial situation, please consider giving to Launchgood page.
Context tried to reach Ibrahim Hindy on several occasions, but as of press time, he had not yet got back to us. We hope to feature an interview with Imam Hindy later this week.
With files from Susan Ponting