Agencies battle racism, Islamphobia

Agencies battle racism, Islamphobia
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Coalition of agencies launches ad campaign to challenge Islamophobia & racism

A coalition of national and provincial organizations and agencies has partnered to launch an awareness raising campaign that encourages Ontarians to stand up to Islamophobia and racism.

OCASI – Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, the Canadian Arab Institute (CAI), the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) and the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) have collaborated with media studio Mass Minority on a range of public education strategies, including public service announcements and a social media campaign.

One 30-second PSA features a family enjoying a day at an ice-skating rink. They return home to find the words “Muslims go home” spray-painted on their garage door. Neighbours arrive to assist in the clean-up.

A second 30-second PSA features a classroom where a student is telling racist jokes. A classmate intervenes to stop him from sharing another offensive punch line.

The theme of the public education campaign is “Break the Behaviour.” It includes a website where visitors are encouraged to sign a pledge that they will reject Islamophobia and racism in all its forms, and commit to working to overcome inequality and achieve a shared prosperity for everyone.

Muslims Praying at a Mosque. Wikipedia

“With the arrival of Syrian refugees over the course of the past year, many of us working in the immigration and refugee sectors were concerned about rising Islamophobia,” says Debbie Douglas, Executive Director at OCASI. “It was important that we work with partners to ensure that we encourage Ontarians to stand up to Islamophobia, wherever they see it.”

The most recent data from Statistics Canada indicates that Muslims in Canada have experienced a doubling in hate crimes over a three-year period. No other group has reported such a significant rise. Recent polls by Forum Research and Abacus Data also indicate that Muslims experience bias and discrimination more often than any other group in Canada.

“Canadians have by and large been incredibly welcoming of Syrian refugees and newcomers. However, there is troubling evidence of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiment in our communities which makes such a campaign both timely and necessary,” says Amira Elghawaby, Communications Director at the NCCM.

“Arabs, regardless of their religion, can face discrimination because of their ethnicity or place of origin,” adds Raja Khouri, president of the CAI. “It can go beyond hate messaging to discrimination in job opportunities and barriers to participating in various aspects of public life.”

“Human rights systems play a key role in holding institutions and individuals accountable for discrimination. But to create a culture of human rights, we need to empower individuals to challenge racism and Islamophobia in the moment,” says OHRC Chief Commissioner Renu Mandhane. “This campaign does just that – it encourages us all to see ourselves as human rights accountability agents.”

Expanded versions of the PSAs will be posted on social media. For more information about the campaign, visit

SOURCE Ontario Human Rights Commission

CONTACT: Amy Casipullai, Senior Coordinator, Policy and Communications, OCASI – Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, Phone: 416-524-4950, Email:; Amira Elgahwaby, Communications Director, NCCM – National Council of Canadian Muslims, Phone: 613 254 9704, Email:; Rosemary Bennett, Senior Communications Officer, Ontario Human Rights Commission, Phone: 416-314-4549, Email:; Brett Channer, Founder, Mass Minority, Phone: 416-561-1408, Email:

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Managing Writer at The Arab Daily News
RAY HANANIA — Columnist

Ray Hanania is an award winning political and humor columnist who analyzes American and Middle East politics, and life in general. He is an author of several books.

"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."

Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).

Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at, and at, and at He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper,, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.

The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.

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