Addressing Islamophobia in NL engages the community to respond to Islamophobic, racist and xenophobic discriminations. The project understands Islamophobia as an irrational fear and hatred of Islam and Muslims (and those perceived as Muslim) that translates into everyday individual, ideological, and systemic forms of oppression, including racism and xenophobia.
The project has two phases and aims to build the knowledge and supports of NL service providers, educators, and advocates to address Islamophobia and anti-Muslim discriminations. With support from the Memorial's Office of Public Engagement, we successfully completed Phase I of our project objectives, which consisted of:
1. Contributing to specific, public dialogue regarding Islamophobia and anti-Islamophobia efforts locally and nationally.
2. Mobilizing community members to execute a plan to facilitate learning opportunities regarding anti-Islamophobia efforts.
3. Building greater capacity for our collaborators and relevant community groups through focused networking opportunities and knowledge-sharing.
4. Developing a plan to engage a broader public audience in conversations regarding Islamophobia.
With our Quick Start funding, we conducted community consultations to assess the needs and capacity of our community collaborators regarding Islamophobia in NL. We engaged over 40 community collaborators, representing 27 community and university groups in the fall of 2017 and winter of 2018. Through two formal consultation meetings on October 3 and 19, 2017, an e-survey, and individualized preliminary and follow-up consultations, we determined a need to increase community awareness and community capacities to address Islamophobia. These initial consultations also inspired constructive working relationships across organizations.
The first consultation served as an inventory of shared experiences and resources through guided discussion. We identified many current gaps in education and services. Topics of discussion included: employment-based discrimination; the need to combat xenophobia with education; and a need for proactive, preventative, anti-Islamophobia education, including information on existing resources and safe interactions between Muslims and non-Muslims.
The second consultation focused on identifying strategies to best deliver information to appropriate audiences. Some ideas included: focusing on education, law enforcement, and public sectors; presenting resources to new Canadians and offering resources to victims of anti-Muslim discrimination and violence; proactive workshop(s) for children; developing a website with accessible information and resources. Participants acknowledged that event(s) should be accessible. Developing guidelines and tools that are anti-racist and anti-oppressive for those in leadership and management positions was also suggested.
These community consultations provided sufficient direction for Phase II of the project: namely, a 2-day conference to address Islamophobia in NL September 22-23, 2018. We have identified 5 primary partners who will contribute to the conference and the development of a related website. Phase II of the project will draw on our community engagement processes to develop and deliver a series of anti-Islamophobia workshops. These will focus on anti-Islamophobia advocacy, ally-ship and education in partnership with our Project Collaborators and other NL service-providers. The workshops will be a significant milestone in building community capacity among service-providers in the province to counter Islamophobia, racism and xenophobic discrimination.
In addition to the consultations, the project has also been active in promoting work against Islamophobia on- and off-campus. Activities have included responding to Islamophobic flyers posted on campus in October 2017, participating in declaration signing and counter-poster campaign held by MUNSU and CFS-NL in November 2017; assisting members of our Executive Branch who spoke at the hearings on Islamophobia before the House of Commons’ Heritage Committee; participating in the national campaign to remember the tragic shooting on January 29, 2017; and conducting media interviews. We also participated in a few on-campus anti-racist events, such as the film screening, I’m not racist, but…, and a public lecture, “Gendering Hate Through Religion: Islamophobia and Canadian Muslim women” in March 2018.