By Raneem Al-Ozzi
A panel on Islamophobia, migration and refugees was held on Nov. 1, 2016 as part of Ryerson University’s annual social justice week. The panel was co-hosted by the Ryerson Centre for Immigration and Settlement and Ryerson’s International Student Support focused on the effects of Islamophobia and its impact on Canadian Muslims and racialized minorities.
“The religion of Islam has been colourized,” said Kamal Al-Solaylee, an associate journalism professor at Ryerson. Al-Solaylee explained how although followers of this religion have no specific ethnic or geographic background, the image of a young brown Muslim, or a veiled woman has come to signify a source of anxiety to the western world; they are now associated with terror, extremism, and gender discrimination.
According to a survey conducted by the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI), only a third of Ontarians have a positive impression of the religion, and that more than half feel that it’s mainstream doctrines promote violence.
Statistics Canada data from April revealed that the number of police reported hate crimes towards Muslims have more than doubled within the past three years.
Binish Ahmed a researcher and PhD candidate in the policy studies program at Ryerson talked about society’s preconceived notion of Canada’s “race-less” nature saying that people often get uncomfortable when race is brought up in conversations.
Anti-Muslim racism ascribes stereotypical characteristics to people, these could include where they come from, what they believe in, and how they organize or carry themselves as groups, said Ahmed.
“You don’t actually have to be Muslim to experience anti-Muslim racism. If your name sounds like what a traditional Muslim name is, then you could be targeted,” said Ahmed.
During the summer, OCASI launched a public education ad campaign to address xenophobia, Islamophobia, and anti-immigrant sentiments.
The ad campaign which showed a veiled woman saying that her home was North York in response to a man telling her to “Go home” sparked debates on social media.
Debbie Douglas, executive director of the council said that the campaign received multiple criticisms, however the goal was not to get everyone to agree, but to spark conversations, discussions and debates.
“We hope that we can start a shift to an environment that is more tolerant and more accepting and safer for everyone in Toronto, and perhaps to influence people to speak out when they see something that is racist, Islamophobic or xenophobic,” said Douglas.