There’s a lack of Islamic studies on Canadian campuses, according to a Queen’s professor.
Mehmet Karabela, a religious studies adjunct professor, said that while courses on Buddhism, Christianity and Judaism are popular on university campuses, Islamic courses are less so.
“When I first came to Canada in 2000, a friend at a school in New Brunswick mentioned that there were no courses on Islam at that university,” said Karabela, who is originally from Turkey.
The annual four-day Islam Awareness Week aims to educate Queen’s students about the religion.
According to a Jan. 2011, article in the Daily Mail, approximately 700,000 people in Canada are Muslim.
Islam Awareness Week, organized by the Queen’s University Muslim Students Association (QUMSA), is a series of displays and guest lectures on campus.
The theme for this year’s four-day event, which launched on Wednesday, is love.
Karabela said he hears stories of Islamaphobia which stem from ignorance.
“Even some educated people are ignorant,” Karabela said. “In the public context people are more respectful. When it comes to their private life, their ideas are more honest and about what they really think.”
Queen’s currently offers a religious studies course with an introduction to Islam. There are also a limited number of special seminars.
“These courses are very popular with students and we think that accurate scholarly knowledge about Islam is crucial in today’s world,” said Pamela Dickey, head of religious studies, adding that there are currently not enough funds to expand these offerings.
In 2008, the musalla prayer room located in JDUC was broken into and vandalized and money in the room’s donation box was stolen.
Islamophobia remains a problem on campus, QUMSA chair Amr Ewais said.
The lectures arranged by QUMSA, which has 200 members, hope to create a forum for discussion, Ewais, PhD ’13, said.
“Students who don’t know about Islam will hear about it from the movies, and there are misunderstandings that come from these views,” Ewais said.
“We have to create a dialogue with the students and tell them that we are just normal people,” Ewais said. “We try to say that ‘we are Muslims, we are your friends and neighbours.”
QUMSA also runs events and lectures throughout the year as a way to educate and combat prejudice, Ewais said.
He added that even though he has never experienced any prejudice first-hand, starting to raise awareness and educate is now a precaution.
“We don’t want to wait until something has happened to every one of us,” he said. “We can start now and try to eliminate it.”
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