After Canadian soldier Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was shot and killed in Ottawa last week by a recent convert to Islam, three young filmmakers decided to perform a “social experiment” in his hometown to see whether people were prejudiced toward Muslims. The resulting 3-minute YouTube video has gone viral, amassing more than 280,000 views.
Filmmaker Omar Albach had two friends, named Zach and Devon, perform a public stunt at a local bus stop in Hamilton, Ontario. Zach was dressed in traditional Muslim clothing. Devon was told to ask Zach to take the next bus because he was not comfortable with what he was wearing.
“You know what? You can’t stereotype or judge people by their clothes,” one bystander in the bus line says. “What happened [in Ottawa] -- it was an incident of fanatics.”
“It was awful and tragic, but I don’t think that’s any reason to persecute someone just because of what they’re wearing,” another says.
As the 3-minute clip continues, a larger crowd converges around the two men. The situation escalates to a point where a passerby punches Devon, the man pretending to be Islamophobic, in the face.
“Social media is very powerful, and it changes people’s perspectives on things,” Albach told Global News. The 18-year-old filmmaker is a student at Toronto’s York University. He was born in Canada and is of Palestinian descent. “I don’t think Canada was this tolerant 10 years ago, or as tolerant as it is today.”
The shooting at Ottawa’s Parliament Hill has been attributed to Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a Canadian of Libyan descent who converted to Islam seven years ago. Muslim communities across Canada have decried the shooting, saying their beliefs should not be linked to the attack.
Muslim Canadians have been "called upon to defend Islam," Yasmine Jiwani, a communication studies professor at Concordia University in Montreal, told Al-Jazeera. "All of the different paths within Islam are collapsed into one monolith.... For the Muslims watching this, one more time, [they] have to say, 'No, they're different from us.'"