QUMSA banner burned

Students should recognize the ‘reality of Islamophobia’ at Queen’s

Samaa Khan, ArtSci ’08
Samaa Khan, ArtSci ’08

On Monday, Muslims across the world bid farewell to the holy month of Ramadan with the celebration of Eid ul-Fitr, one of the two major Islamic holidays.

Customarily, the eve of Eid is a buzz of preparations, from cooking mouth-watering feasts and delicious desserts, to setting aside one’s best and newly ironed clothing, to cleaning up the household
in anticipation of the following day’s festivities. Unfortunately for some Muslim students here at Queen’s, this cleaning extended beyond a bit of vacuuming and tidying up—they found themselves picking up the ashes of a fire that was lit just outside the club space of the Queen’s University Muslim
Students’ Association (QUMSA), a space used as an on-campus prayer room.

Just beyond the entrance to the prayer space hung a medium-sized banner, wishing those entering
the room and passers-by a happy and blessed month of Ramadan with the phrase Ramadan Kareem. The banner was there throughout Ramadan. Ironically, just as the month came to a close, the sign was set ablaze.

Perhaps it was a random act of drunken stupidity, but what’s more probable and regrettable is this alarming incident, one of numerous acts of vandalism at the prayer room this year alone, embodies yet another example of Islamophobia here at Queen’s.

I used to consider myself incredibly lucky to attend an institution that I feel has made great strides in its efforts to provide for the special needs of Muslim students.

For example, halal meals are provided in the cafeteria, prayer times and Eid celebrations are accommodated in terms of exams and an ablution facility is currently in the works in the JDUC so Muslim students can more comfortably prepare for prayers.

I am nonetheless starting to see just how the beast of intolerance that is Islamophobia takes root on campus in other more blatant forms. Take for example the recent circulation of an extremely hateful and disturbing spam e-mail to a mass amount of Q-Link accounts. The content of the e-mail was incredibly offensive, aggressively promoting intolerance and inciting hatred of the Muslim community here at Queen’s.

The e-mail itself is poorly written, and the attacks made against Islam remain unsubstantiated despite the author’s attempts to draw correlations from verses in the Qur’an. In some instances, he or she
attempts to explain the supposed violent and destructive implications of certain phrases by taking them out of context; unfortunately for the author, he or she failed to remove the actual context of the
phrases when citing the quotations from the Qur’an.

As such, Muslims and non-Muslims alike needn’t feel the least bit threatened by this e-mail, given that any reader with an ounce of intelligence will easily see through the author’s pitiable attempt at a rational contention against Islam. Despite this fact, what is troubling is the mentality and mindset from which such behaviour stems. Indeed the time has come for us here at Queen’s to recognize the reality of Islamophobia, and to address this profoundly dangerous threat.

The AMS has been supportive in addressing this issue, as have other groups within Queen’s like Campus Security, ITS, the JDUC staff and the Human Rights Office. Countless others within the administration and the Queen’s community have also been incredibly helpful and co-operative, extending their support in solidarity, and all of this undoubtedly needs to be recognized and appreciated.

Nonetheless the truth is that Islamophobia didn’t begin with the arrests in Toronto this past summer, nor with the American War on Terror. This mentality isn’t just the reality of a post-9/11 world; it existed long beforehand. In having waited so long to address it, we’ve given this prejudice too much time to comfortably settle into our societies. So what’s the solution?

Unfortunately I don’t have a quick-fix solution. What I do know is that the first step in the process is recognizing the gravity of the issue.

QUMSA along with the Canadian Federation of Students, the TMA and SGPS, will be hosting a forum on Nov. 1 at 6 p.m., to address this topic. Following a brief panel discussion, students and community members will be given an opportunity to come forth and share their own experiences and sentiments with regards to Islamophobia, and all are encouraged to attend.

But the work won’t stop there. Something like this is going to take time to eradicate, and addressing it is just the first step. It will requirecollaborative efforts on the part of all those who cherish the diversity and religious freedom on which Canada prides itself, and who value a social and academic atmosphere of mutual acceptance, understanding and respect here at Queen’s.

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