Islamophobia an ongoing issue in Canadian society

‘I want my community safe’ 

The event was held in Mackintosh-Corry Hall on Jan. 30.
To mark the sixth anniversary of the Quebec City Mosque massacre, Queen’s Muslim Societies Global Perspectives held a panel and discussion forum to discuss Islamophobia in Canada.
The panel opened at 6 p.m. at Mackintosh-Corry Hall on Jan 30, with sociology Professor Dr. Fauzia Husain sharing her experiences of Islamophobia at Queen’s and elsewhere. 
“Make sure you don’t make Canada look bad,” Husain said her family told her before she came to the panel. “Make sure you don’t come off as angry. In other words,
make sure you don’t confirm the stereotype.”
“I asked myself, will playing nice keep me safe? Will playing nice keep other Muslims safe?” Husain said.
Husain, who has only been at Queen’s for sixth months, said she experienced Islamophobia when she received her teaching evaluations. The evaluations were a typical distribution of praise and suggestions—besides one comment.  The student’s comment called her “unimpressive” as a professor, and then what she considered a more serious charge, “biased.”
Seven out of the forty readings she assigned for the class in globalization dealt with Muslim topics. According to Husain, the student said she chose readings that show Canada in a negative light. She said since she began teaching in 2010, she’s never been accused of bias for integrating content based on Islam into the curriculum.
Husain said there’s a racism and Islamophobia problem in Canada, referencing hate crimes targeting Muslims have increased by 253 per cent between 2012 and 2015. Muslims who have immigrated to Canada are less likely to say they were discriminated against, Husain said.
“It happened to me, it happened in Canada, and it happened at Queen’s. It was painful, [but] it will not stop me from doing my job. Because playing nice will not keep me safe. I want my community safe,” Husain said. “Helping students to hold on to their rose-tinted glasses is not my job.”
Diversifying Queen’s curricula can bring awareness to Islamophobia, Professor of Religion and History Adnan Husain said at the panel.
“Islamophobia, like many other forms of racial and religious bigotry and discrimination, are a global phenomenon. It requires coordination and solidarity,” Husain said in his opening remarks.
He explained how a recent study uncovered Islamophobia in the workplace. Women wearing niqab or hijab—facial or head coverings—reported the largest amounts of Islamophobia at work, according to the study. This includes difficulties entering the workforce or being held back from advancement. Around 60 per cent of participants in the study did not report incidents.
“Islamophobia is not just a matter of bigoted sentiments or prejudiced ideas. It has material consequences and works its way through actual discrimination,” Husain said.
Husain and Ariel Salzmann, a history professor at Queen’s, formed the Queen’s University Muslim Inclusion Network, an employee resource group to share experiences and advocate for Muslim-specific concerns, in October 2022. It’s open to anyone from staff, faculty, or graduate students serving as TAs and RAs.
“We hope we’ll be able to make some changes on the campus here at Queen’s,” he said.
Salzmann addressed the silence surrounding Islamophobia in Canada. She and Adnan Hussain have been speaking together on Islamophobia since arriving at Queen’s. In 2015 they developed a full-year course on Islamophobia, and it was only taught once thereafter.
“It’s not like it’s just a small minority among the mainstream of Canadians that doesn’t want to talk about Islamophobia. It’s a big chunk of the Canadian elites who don’t want to see that discussion,” Salzmann said. 
She connected Islamophobia to Canada’s larger picture of racism and right-wing insurgency.
“It’s very important to have these events, both to commemorate, but to speak out, and to make sure everyone should feel comfortable in speaking out and defending their rights as citizens of this country—and citizens of the world.”

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