There’s a long tradition of activist videos where filmmakers attempt to expose the hidden prejudices of their societies through secretly-staged scenes in public. These often yield depressing, unsavory results.
But a new video that has gone viral offers a small glimpse of Canadian tolerance in action.
The “social experiment” -- as the video’s maker, Omar Albach, an 18-year-old student at York University, calls it — involved an actor dressed head-to-toe in traditional Islamic garb standing at a bus stop as another actor heckled him. The "racist" character kept asking the Muslim man to step away from the bus line out of supposed fear of a terror threat.
As you see, not a single bystander supports the heckler’s view and many angrily object to his racism. One man tells the heckling actor that he’s just as likely to be a terrorist as the Muslim man. Another gets so aggravated that he strikes the heckling actor in the face, bringing Albach’s social experiment to an abrupt end. Who knew Canada’s multiculturalism packed such a punch.
“We wanted to see how Canadians really felt about Muslims,” says Albach in an interview with WorldViews. He posted the video on his YouTube channel on Monday. It already had nearly 200,000 hits by Tuesday afternoon.
The video was shot over the weekend, in the wake of last week’s attacks in Ottawa, where a lone wolf gunman who allegedly converted to Islam killed a Canadian soldier guarding the capital’s National War Memorial and then engaged in a firefight in the Canadian Parliament building before being shot dead by security personnel.
Albach's video is filmed in the city of Hamilton, which happens to be the home town of the slain soldier.
This is not Albach’s first viral video – he put together another one this summer dubbed “Hug a Terrorist,” which you can watch above. Albach is Canadian-born and of Palestinian descent.
He believes what he captured on-camera reflects the wider tolerance and open-mindedness of ordinary Canadians. He also says the conversation in Canada about Muslims and terrorism is more sensible than its equivalent south of the border.
“America has a habit of really blaming it on the Muslims,” he says. “[After the Ottawa attack] media here did not make those connections to Islam and Muslims.”