Queen’s professor talks Islamic History Month

Local events provide a safe space for Kingston Muslims for 15th year in a row

The federal government began recognizing October as Islamic History Month in 2007.
Credit: 
Supplied by Adnan Husain

October marks the 15th Islamic History Month in Canada. The recognition of this month creates space for learning about, accepting, and appreciating Islamic culture in the face of pervasive intolerance tainting the Muslim experience.

Since 2007, the federal government has recognized October as Islamic History Month to honor and celebrate different Muslim identities across Canada.

The Journal sat down with Adnan Husain, director of Queen’s School of Religion, to discuss the importance of the month, which, according to him, Kingston was one of the first municipalities to adopt formally.

“There’s a local Islamic history month committee, The Muslim Societies and Global Perspective group, hosting extracurricular talks, guest lecturers, and forums throughout the month to educate the wider community,” Husain said.

These events are intended to showcase the range of Islamic History, from Africa to East Asia. They put an emphasis on the global diaspora of Muslims and the interpretations of the religion in different cultures.

“Islamophobia has deep roots in white supremacist culture in Europe. Its origins are deeply entrenched in the problems of anti-Semitic, anti-Indigenous, and anti-Black violence—all of which are different but connected in the history of white supremacy,” Husain said.

According to Husain, the increase of Islamophobia is a more recent phenomenon, but the roots can be traced far back.

“Muslims were long regarded as the great rivals to Christendom, later becoming Europe, and negative portrayals of Islam were rooted in the threat the Islamic world posed to Christianity.”

Islamophobia is also increasingly prevalent in government.

“Think of Quebec’s Bill 21, banning visible religious symbolism in garments by public servants in authoritative positions where the target is clearly to marginalize hijab wearing Muslims and ostracizes them as outsiders,” Husain said.

Unfortunately, the belief that Islam and Muslims drive terrorism mean that Islamophobia can be justified when it’s called counterterrorism or deradicalization, according to Husain.

The stereotypes associated with Islam effectively diminish the complexities in Islamic identity and practices. Islamic History Month allows Muslims living in Canada to ground themselves in their identity and appreciate the religion’s historical past.

Stereotypes also neglect the many Muslims persecuted both within their own religion and by others. Husain pointed to Ahmadi Muslims in Pakistan as an example, who are persecuted by the state due to extremists’ hostility towards different interpretations of Islam.

“Every person who identifies as a Muslim should have the ability to be regarded as a member of their religion,” Husain said.  

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