Islamophobic incidents deserve attention
Re: “Muslim students targeted in racist incidents” (Journal, Sept. 26, 2008)
We write to report an extremely distressing experience that happened to a Queen’s faculty person on Friday morning, September 26. She was walking at 9 a.m. on Queen Street. At the Goodlife Fitness parking lot, a man attempted to speak to her in Spanish. When she told him that she didn’t understand him, he asked her where she was from, in English. She clarified that she was Indian (South Asian). He wanted more information. Refusing to oblige, she started walking away. He called out, “So you’re a Paki, then?” The man continued to shout, calling her a “towel-head” and a “terrorist.”
We all know this is not an isolated incident. The Journal has recently reported incidents of religious intolerance. Apparently, even six days after those incidents against Muslim students, the University administration has not publicly condemned the acts. We write to the Journal to publicize Friday’s incident, to express our anger and to emphasize that experiences faced by Muslim students on-campus and by the faculty person off-campus should concern the Queen’s community and administration. The power to stop a person of colour or one with visible religious affiliation on the street, ask them where they are from, and then proceed to racially abuse them epitomizes white, Christian supremacy. It relies on an institutional apparatus including university administrations that do too little to condemn or punish perpetrators of such violence. Further, the University Human Rights Office addresses human rights violations on campus, which excludes the event last Friday. Yet, this university is committed in rhetoric to internationalization, to engaging the world and being a world-class institution. Hesitation to make immediate, visible efforts against reactionary responses to the ethnic composition of this university and town reinforces a caricatured reputation of both as bastions of old-guard whiteness. Moreover, as students’ lives have been threatened, the administration’s silence does little to guarantee student safety. Student articles and faculty letters are not enough. The administration should recognize the daily costs of ‘internationalization’ and ‘diversity’ and take steps to address them as acts of violence.
Alex Da Costa
Dia Da Costa
Re: “Muslim students targeted in racist incidents” (Journal, Sept. 26, 2008)
Upon hearing about recent incidents targeting Muslim students, my first thought was that history tends to repeat itself. The “drive-by” insults and death threats against Muslims are reminiscent of my undergraduate days during the first Gulf War. In one case, in a downtown café, an intoxicated man grabbed my friend by her hijab, dragging her off her chair while uttering insults. To my understanding, these types of incidents stimulated the formation of the InterFaith Council, a group which “assists the university in promoting and enhancing an environment of religious tolerance, diversity and freedom.” Its efforts in raising awareness appeared to improve things on campus.
Unfortunately, due to the transient nature of a university population, events tend to repeat themselves. This can be quite frustrating for those of us who witness this “cycling.” It is also distressing for me as a Muslim who has been part of the Queen’s community since birth. The Muslim community in Kingston has quite a close relationship with the university as, up until the construction of the mosque in 1996, most of our activities centred around campus. Many of our “founding members,” including my father, were faculty or students at Queen’s during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Personally speaking, my experience growing up in Kingston and at Queen’s has generally been positive, supportive and accommodating of my faith.
My father once said, “Ignorance leads to distrust, which can lead to fear, prejudice and hatred.” Indeed, one’s perspectives are usually shaped by one’s own experiences and observations, or lack thereof. Thus, we can minimize racist behaviour through gaining familiarity. There is a poignant quote in the Qur’an in which God says, “O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other…” (49:13). Each year, new members of our community come from all over the country and the world, bringing with them their own perspectives and prejudices. In a university setting, we have a unique opportunity to dispel ignorance by training ourselves to open our minds, and making the effort to get to know each other. Acting on prejudice and hatred, as seen in recent weeks, is not acceptable and should not be tolerated.
ArtSci ’93, PhD ’01
QUMSA Chair 1993-1994
InterFaith Council 1994-2000
Powwow coverage ‘irresponsible journalism’
Re: Front page photo (Journal, Sept. 23, 2008)
The Journal’s coverage (or lack thereof) of Queen’s 2nd Annual Powwow is potentially the greatest example of irresponsible journalism since the recent, glorious understatement “Lapse in AMS security.” Including a single, albeit spacious and vividly colourful, photograph of a grass dancer in regalia (the regalia, I might add, of the Western Plains in the United States; there were participants in regalia of this region, but they somehow did not make it into the paper) and a link to an online gallery is emblematic of the Canadian aptitude for reducing Indigenous people to a romanticized, aesthetically pleasing image. I had hoped that the Journal would break from the tradition of downgrading the Indigenous population to a simulacrum and actually give the participants and organizers a voice, but unfortunately that space went to covering, yet again, Homecoming, SONAG and Clark Hall. If the Journal really is, by your own policy’s definition, “Queen’s primary media outlet,” why has this culturally relevant and intellectually stimulating, not to mention well-attended, event been left out? It seems odd to me that an event which privileges and celebrates unity was ostensibly left out.
Homecoming portrayed unfairly
The Globe and Mail article entitled “A homecoming that no one wants,” written by Elizabeth Church and printed September 24, is one that casts a shadow over the reputation of the students at Queen’s University. This article wrongly portrays Queen’s students as disrespectful, drunken hooligans who riot.
Since the events of Homecoming in 2005, there have been progressive actions taken by both the Queen’s administration and student government to keep the Aberdeen Street party safe for students as well as to maintain positive town-gown relations. It is because a car was flipped three years ago that Queen’s students today make a strong effort to ameliorate their relationship with residents in Kingston. Also overlooked are the positive aspects of Homecoming Weekend at Queen’s. This weekend allows current students the unique opportunity to interact and experience Queen’s through the eyes of our many alumni. One event that allows students the chance to see the history and spirit of Queen’s is the Homecoming football game.
Are Queen’s students going to be blamed for the so called “onslaught of enthusiastic Mustang fans” who choose to party on Aberdeen Street? They are not students in Kingston, yet if they are involved in the so-called “booze-up,” Queen’s students are sure to face the brunt of defamation from any negative actions that occur on Saturday night.
Homecoming is a tradition that Queen’s students are proud of and we will show Ms. Church that Queen’s is not an institution full of hooligans, but rather capable and responsible adults.
Kathryn Trojan Stelmaszynski
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