My name is Gül Çalışkan. I am an immigrant, I am a Muslim, I am Canadian, and Fredericton is where I call home, where my heart is.
Three feelings fill my heart today: a feeling of sorrow, a feeling of love, and a feeling of hope.
I am grieving for the victims of hate, racism and discrimination from the Quebec shooting and beyond. I am grieving for all the victims who have ever suffered from displacement and deportation. I am disheartened that the Quebec attack has reminded us of how persistent xenophobia and hate are in pockets of our nation’s cities. I am shaken that hate crimes have increased since the attack last weekend. In Montreal alone, 29 reports of hate crimes were received since the attack, as of last count on Feb. 1st, according to The Globe and Mail. I am disheartened that sentiments and acts of islamophobia, discrimination, and racism are ever more open and out there. This is my sorrow and worry.
But I also feel love. I am here as part of this circle of peace. Last week has also witnessed countless acts of reassurance for Muslim friends and neighbours all over Canada, and in our city. Canadians are sending a very strong message to haters, that we won’t allow their hatred get near to any Muslim, or any immigrant. On Feb. 3rd, at seven mosques in Toronto, people of all faiths formed human chains to protect worshipers during Friday prayers. On January 28th, people of my city, Fredericton, left a note at the door of our only mosque. It read, “Dear Muslim friends and neighbours, you are loved. You are respected. You belong. You are us,” with a little red heart ending it. Now, Fredericton residents are raising money for the city’s mosque to have a safer and larger space. These acts of love, empathy and recognition send a very strong message to the haters. It is this love that fills my heart.
I have hope. That is the strongest feeling I have here today. I have hope that we are creating a very open space for dialogue in our city, for open discussion of racism, discrimination, and Islamophobia. I have hope that no one should or will remain in silence when they face any of these things. I have hope that I can count on us. All of our friends and neighbours, whether they are Muslims, refugees, or people of colour, will always know that we can build human shields. They know they will be surrounded by circles of peace. They will know that we will not tolerate hatred.
This is my message, I am heartbroken. Nonetheless, my hope for dialogue and solidarity is much bigger than my sadness. The love and peace demonstrated all week is bigger than hate. And it always will be.
Editor’s Note: This speech was delivered by Gül Çalışkan, a member of No One Is Illegal Fredericton on February 4, 2017, at the Fredericton March Against Islamophobia and Deportations, attended by 200 people.