Saturday, October 28, 2006

Students Respond to Islamophobia in Canadian Universities

September 27, 2006
Students Respond to Islamophobia in Canadian Universities


The Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), of which TCSA is a local body, announced the launch of a taskforce on the needs of Muslim students on Monday last week. The taskforce is comprised of ten members who will serve as panelists traveling to various campuses in the province to receive statements from students, staff and faculty. These statements will be compiled into a report to be published on March 21, 2007, which is the International Day to End Racism.

The taskforce is in keeping with CFS’s “No Islamophobia, Antisemitism, Racism” campaign and is pertinently being launched the week before the beginning of Ramadan. Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic lunar calendar, where orthodox Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, sexual relations and any sin from dawn to dusk.

Haitham Al-Barwani, a Trent international student from Oman, is greatly encouraged by the formation of the taskforce. “I have had to deal with a number of racist and anti-Muslim sentiments, especially at the local clubs, so I am delighted that the CFS is taking this stance,” he says. Sakib Ahmed, a second-year student from Bangladesh, agrees, saying, “The panels should be open to the city as the issues span out of the university and into the community.”

Trent Muslim Student Association

The Trent Muslim Student Association (TMSA) has been very active on campus in the last few years, ensuring the provision of Halal food at OC Cafeteria as well as petitioning for prayer space on campus, an issue that is still yet to be resolved.

Michael Allcott, the Trent International Program Director, complimented TMSA’s efforts in creating awareness of Islamic issues at Trent and in the community, stating that “the TMSA leadership has played a remarkable role in educating and building understanding in our community. Their courage and reasoned engagement has been a great expression of Trent ideals.”

When informed by Arthur of the upcoming TCSA-led hearing, the Muslim Student Association’s Admin/Finance Officer, Mohamedabbas M. Fazal, refused to comment until the group’s next executive meeting.

Islamophobia

Pope Benedict XVI came under criticism recently for his address at the University of Regensburg on Tuesday where he quoted 14th-century Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus saying ‘Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.’

Such comments are part of the narrative of anti-Islamic rhetoric that fuels the global ‘War on Terror’ as well as the various attacks on Muslims across the globe. Though the Vatican insists that the Pope’s comments were taken out of context – the address uses Emperor Manuel’s words to showcase the lack of reason or logos within the Islamic conceptualization of God – they are hardly the most politically sensitive of statements considering the latest rise in anti-Islamic rhetoric. President Bush’s recent comments on creating peace through war in the Middle East are yet another example of public remarks that are increasingly being perceived as Islamophobia within the Muslim world.

Muslim Response

Muslim students across the country have taken on a number of initiatives to combat Islamophobia. The TMSA’s annual Islam Awareness Week goes a long way toward creating understanding at Trent and Peterborough. The Muslim Student Association of Canada and USA also organizes over a dozen conferences annually.

A recent launch of T-shirts through the online social networking site Facebook has also gained popularity. The HijabMan line consists of T-shirts reading “Don’t hate me because I’m Muslim (and beautiful),” “Good things come in small Pakis,” “This is what a radical Muslim feminist looks like,” “Go ahead. PROFILE ME,” and the ever-popular, “My name causes national security alerts. What does yours do?” These T-shirts are becoming part of culture jamming as well as identifying various members of the Muslim community who want to engage in conversations on issues of culture clash.

The TCSA is working towards a hearing at Trent for the visiting taskforce later in the school year. For further information or if you would like to volunteer, please write to Stephen Lanni at: vpuniversity@trentcsa.ca

SK Hussan

3 Comments:

At 9:21 PM, Blogger JoelDuff said...

Great post. It is extremely vital that we get the word out that there are progressive, positive channels through which students can come together to challenge prejudice, discrimination and other forms of racism. Your Blog is dynamite and your post on the CFS Taskforce on the Needs of Muslim Students is one of the many ways we should be building a movement.

This Taskforce is an important step for the Canadian Student Movement for a variety of reasons. The most of important, to my mind, is that we aren't going to be successful in challenging Islamophobia unless we make sure that it is everyone ... not just Muslim students ... who fight for change. Identifying, naming, and challenging a problem is a vital step for social change.

Keep up the good work.

Peace,
Joel Duff
Canadian Federation of Students

 
At 9:21 PM, Blogger JoelDuff said...

Great post. It is extremely vital that we get the word out that there are progressive, positive channels through which students can come together to challenge prejudice, discrimination and other forms of racism. Your Blog is dynamite and your post on the CFS Taskforce on the Needs of Muslim Students is one of the many ways we should be building a movement.

This Taskforce is an important step for the Canadian Student Movement for a variety of reasons. The most of important, to my mind, is that we aren't going to be successful in challenging Islamophobia unless we make sure that it is everyone ... not just Muslim students ... who fight for change. Identifying, naming, and challenging a problem is a vital step for social change.

Keep up the good work.

Peace,
Joel Duff
Canadian Federation of Students

 
At 9:22 PM, Blogger JoelDuff said...

Great post. It is extremely vital that we get the word out that there are progressive, positive channels through which students can come together to challenge prejudice, discrimination and other forms of racism. Your Blog is dynamite and your post on the CFS Taskforce on the Needs of Muslim Students is one of the many ways we should be building a movement.

This Taskforce is an important step for the Canadian Student Movement for a variety of reasons. The most of important, to my mind, is that we aren't going to be successful in challenging Islamophobia unless we make sure that it is everyone ... not just Muslim students ... who fight for change. Identifying, naming, and challenging a problem is a vital step for social change.

Keep up the good work.

Peace,
Joel Duff
Canadian Federation of Students

 

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