Calgary Muslims fear racism on the rise

Calgary Muslims are proud to be Canadian, but half still struggle with discrimination and even violence, says a new poll. The survey conducted by Calgary-based polling firm Insights Matter on behalf of Think for Actions, a local think tank, and the Muslim Council of Calgary found even as the city's 70,000-strong Muslim population strives to integrate in the community, they still face significant challenges.

Think for Actions founder Dr. Mukarram Ali Zaidi said the poll, which saw 564 of Calgary's Muslim community complete the survey, shows there's a strong desire to be contributing members to their city and neighbourhoods, but many are still discriminated against and fear that those attitudes have only grown. "Muslims are taking part in politics, they're voting, they're contributing to charity and are part of their communities," Zaidi said.

"Unfortunately many of the images people see in the media are responsible for Islamophobia." The survey, launched late last year, found 97% of Calgary's Muslims are both proud to be Canadian as well as being proud Muslims, while 85% of those polled said they strive to maintain their cultural practices while adopting Canadian customs and values.

However, despite the efforts to fit in, a small majority still face discrimination in their adopted home. The poll found 51% have personally experienced discrimination related to their race, ethnicity or religion in the last five years. Of those, some 23% were identified as either verbal abuse or physical attacks over the same period.

Even more troubling, 76% of those surveyed believed that discrimination against Canadian Muslims has risen in the last five years. The survey will be at the centre of a conference at the University of Calgary Saturday called Your Muslim Neighbour, which is aiming to break down some of the lingering barriers faced by Muslims. Speakers at the event, which runs from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m., include police Chief Roger Chaffin, Calgary MLA and Human Services Minister Irfan Sabir, and Zarqa Nawaz, creator of the Little Mosque on the Prairie television show.

Some 200 people have already purchased tickets, but more are available at thinkforactions.com/risc2016
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