‘I’ve been exposed to racism before … but it wasn’t this bad.’

Compassion is going viral as a St. John’s man shows that human decency can trump terror and hate.

Martin Jones
Kicker

All it took was a single Facebook post offering help to any Muslim feeling unsafe in the city; within hours, the post had been shared and liked by thousands.

In response to Sunday’s shooting in a Quebec City mosque that left six dead and 19 injured, Mike Manual decided he needed to help. He extended an offer to walk with, drive or provide support to anyone feeling unsafe due to the colour of their skin, cultural background or religion.

Mike Manual made a Facebook post offering help to any Muslim feeling unsafe in St. John’s. His small act of kindness has been shared by thousands. Martin Jones/Kicker

“The constant hate that I see on the news and social media is helping fuel all of theses horrific events,” said Manual. “Maybe small individual acts of kindness and friendship can help contrast that. So if I could help someone in my community feel more comfortable, or improve their day, I am happy to spend a bit of time to do that.”

Manual is an ice engineer by day and a woodworker on the weekends. He has been taken aback with the amount of attention his post has created. Whether he likes it or not, his simple act of kindness has not gone unnoticed.

Despite the recent outpouring of support for the Muslim community in St. John’s, the city is not without its share of religious prejudice.

Sarwa Ali is a university student and a Muslim and was shocked at the prejudice directed towards her since she moved here five years ago.

“I’ve had people throw rocks at my car, make lots of rude comments … acting very aggressively towards me,” said Ali. “I’ve been exposed to racism before in places like Ottawa and Toronto, but it wasn’t this bad. I was so surprised.”

Sarwa Ali and Amina Mahmood have both experienced racism in St. John’s and were so concerned for their safety, they asked that their faces not be shown. They say the intolerance comes from a lack of understanding of cultural differences. Martin Jones/Kicker

Amina Mahmood moved to Newfoundland five years ago from Palestine. She has also seen intolerance, but says understanding is just a question away.

“When people talk to me I encourage them to ask questions,” said Mahmood. “Don’t be afraid. I want you to ask and talk to me and get to know me as a Muslim and as a person. Some people have told me they wouldn’t ask questions because they were afraid of saying something wrong or asking the wrong question.”

Manual agrees and says the intolerance comes from how and where we learn about other cultures.

“In general, Newfoundlanders are really good people but there is a fear of other cultures,” said Manual. “If you only watch Fox News and Facebook, it’s no wonder people feel like that.”