The main goal of the Addressing Islamophobia in NL project was to increase local knowledge about countering Islamophobia and xenophobic discrimination, and to foster the development of community-wide anti-Islamophobia responses. The Addressing Islamophobia in NL project understands Islamophobia as a fear and/or hatred of Islam and Muslims (and those perceived as Muslim) that translates into everyday individual, ideological, and systemic intersectional forms of xenophobia and racism. We advocate for an understanding of Islamophobia as anti-Muslim racism and discrimination. Islamophobia cannot be understood as operating separately from colonialism, anti-Semitism, religious and cultural discrimination, and other forms of intersectional oppression.
The Office of Public Engagement’s Accelerator Grant, the Memorial University Vice-President Academic and Provost Dr. Noreen Golfman, and the MUN Faculty Association funded the second-phase of Addressing Islamophobia in NL, which focused on developing and delivering anti-Islamophobia workshops through a two-day conference. Building on first-phase community consultations (funded by MUN’s Quick Accelerator Fund), this project furthered our community engagement processes to develop and deliver a series of workshops that focused on anti-Islamophobia advocacy, ally-ship and education. The Addressing Islamophobia in NL Conference was held on September 22-23, 2018 at MUN’s St. John’s campus.
The Project Leads, Dr. Sobia Shaikh and Dr. Jennifer Selby, and the external partner, Ms. Jenne Nolan (and other members) of the Anti-Racism Coalition of NL (ARC-NL), mobilized the support and capacity of more than 40 community/university collaborators throughout the project. In addition to local collaborators, we engaged the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), a Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization and leader in anti-Islamophobia training in Canada to co-design and co-facilitate the conference sessions and workshops. The NCCM provided guidance within the planning stages of the conference and were a crucial part of the success of our project. The conference was a significant milestone in building community capacity among service-providers and community members in the province to counter Islamophobia, racisms and xenophobic discrimination.
Community and university collaborators were engaged in each aspect of the project. An Advisory Team, consisting of community and university collaborators, was formed in April 2018, and supported the Project Leads and External Partner with the development and execution of the project. The Advisory Team brought a wealth of local expertise in human rights, social justice, social service provision, community organization, along with first-hand experiences of Muslims and other racialized groups in NL. They offered in-kind support throughout the planning and implementation of each phase of the project, including as facilitators at the conference.
The conference workshops were jointly planned and facilitated by NCCM, Project Leads, ARC-NL, student assistants and other members of the Advisory Team. The structure of the conference and the content of the break-out workshops were designed with the help of the Advisory Team members. The project’s Graduate Assistant (Mr. Aneesh Sasikumar), with several undergraduate student assistants and volunteers, provided logistical, organizational and administrative support. As well, several project collaborators served as facilitators or offered introductions to each session or workshop. Each of the workshops included at least one facilitator from the NCCM and one or two members of local collaborator organizations. The facilitators developed their presentations in consultation with each other and finalized the content and structure of the sessions in a meeting before the conference.
Over 80 participants, including 8 to 10 participants virtually through teleconference technology (primarily from Grenfell Campus and from Labrador), attended the conference on September 22-23, 2018. The participants included service-providers and members of community organizations, community members and MUN students, staff and faculty. The conference included various general sessions and four breakout workshops (Engaging the Media, Workplace Negotiations and Accommodation, Integrating Anti-Racism & Anti-Islamophobia in Organizational Policy & Practice, and Working Intersectionally with Muslim Communities and Families) co-designed and co-facilitated by thirteen facilitators. The structure of the conference allowed every participant to attend a maximum of two breakout workshops over two-days. The conference included a keynote address on niqab debates in Canada, and a keynote panel on anti-Islamophobia in practice that brought together four anti-Islamophobia practitioners from different parts of the country through teleconferencing. The conference concluded with a roundtable discussion on strategies to address Islamophobia in NL. For a complete schedule of the conference, please see: https://www.mun.ca/relstudies/more/AddressingIslamophobia/workshop2018.php
After the successful completion of the conference, community and university collaborators continue to be engaged in anti-Islamophobia initiatives. On campus, the Addressing Islamophobia Project Leads developed and implemented an Addressing Islamophobia Film Series in the Winter 2019 term (see: https://www.mun.ca/relstudies/more/AddressingIslamophobia/newsandupdates.php). The Addressing Islamophobia in NL team, with ARC-NL, also supported undergraduate social work students at MUN in successfully organizing “A Vigil of Solidarity for the New Zealand Shooting” on March 23rd. Further, at the level of the university, the project has facilitated connections among between the Project Leads and other groups, committees and members of the university community in St. John’s, Grenfell Campus and the Labrador Institute. Dr. Selby has also developed a third-year course currently entitled, “What is Islamophobia?”, to be proposed to the Associate Dean Undergraduate in the Humanities and Social Sciences for inclusion in the Religious Studies curriculum, for the Fall 2020 semester.
As well, throughout the project, the Project Leads and ARC-NL have sustained a community, university and online presence. In addition to the more than 40 community organizations we engaged, the project has also reached countless others through recruitment and advertising of the conference, a well-organized project website, and other knowledge mobilization efforts, including an Addressing Islamophobia in NL Twitter account, and ARC-NL’s Facebook presence. The Project Leads and ARC-NL have given several media interviews (at CBC, VOCM and CHMR) regarding the conference and anti-Islamophobia awareness in general.
As well, the Project Leads and ARC-NL have been involved with other local, university, provincial, and national initiatives organizations, in advancing the project and furthering awareness of Islamophobia. For example, Ms. Nolan and Dr. Shaikh provided a workshop at Municipalities NL in March 2019 that included anti-Islamophobia analysis. In December 2018, two project team members (the project’s Graduate Assistant and Dr. Shaikh) participated in the Ministerial Forum on Anti-Racism for the Atlantic provinces, hosted by the federal government in Halifax. The project’s Advisory Team and other collaborators have been involved in continuing to raise awareness about against Islamophobia, racism and discrimination in the province. In May 2019, ARC-NL and members of the Addressing Islamophobia in NL met with the Mayor of St. John’s to raise awareness about the effects of Islamophobia and other forms of racialized discrimination on community members in St. John’s: as a result of this meeting, we are in early-stage planning for a “Mayor’s Roundtable on Racism.”