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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Canada: Islamophobia alive on campus

Within a week of this new school year, fellow Muslim friends and I had already experienced a couple instances of Islamophobia. Both were derogatory slurs yelled from a moving vehicle, ensuring anonymity and suggesting cowardice....

Many of my Muslim friends can relay stories of name-calling and crude looks—and from fellow members of the Queen’s community too. Yet there is a Muslim ethos of making excuses, so these stories rarely make it out of friend circles. And although most of the cases of Islamophobia on campus have been petty, it’s important these things are acknowledged and discussed, especially if it’s going to persist.

It is thus important that opinions about a religion or religious peoples are addressed head-on so sound discussion can take place. University is not a place for censorship, but rather a place for expression and the healthy exchange of ideas and opinions. As members of this community, we are not required to agree with the customs and beliefs of others; critical thinking is, in fact, encouraged. However, mutual respect is mandatory in order for everyone to have a positive learning experience in an environment that they feel safe in. Yelling something offensive and driving away is too easy an escape. It’s time to own up to prejudices.

And the onus falls upon us, the students. We can pretend discrimination doesn’t exist, especially at an institution of higher learning. Surely everyone knows better than to associate anyone who wears a headscarf with the Taliban. Islamophobia, just like all other types of discrimination, is a thing of the past, at least for the more civilized amongst us. Unfortunate as it is though, these are real views that a minority of people on campus do indeed hold....

And although such incidents are more trivial in nature, the fact remains that there are people who feel it’s necessary to express stronger views. This past weekend, a [Muslim student organization] sign was defaced with comments that called for the death of Muslims. I can only hope incidents like this help to open our collective eyes to the larger problem. [Link]

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