Amid rising waves of Islamophobia, educators now have a new digital platform to help them fight hate.
The Muslim Association of Canada officially launched islamawareness.ca Thursday, which was funded in part by a $ 225,000 grant from the Department of Education, announced in June after five members of the Afzaal family were killed by a motorist in London, Ont. in what police described as a hate-motivated attack.
The courses cover high level topics such as the definition of Islamophobia, implicit prejudices and how Islamophobia exists in structures and in the media. There are sections on hate crimes, the history of the problem, and the overlaps with anti-black racism. And the first of three courses gives an introduction to Islam explaining customs and values, such as dietary restrictions, holidays, and the history of religion.
“I think this (platform) really empowers all three: Muslim students, non-Muslim students, and educators to tackle something that is statistically on the rise. And in the space that is most important, which I think is education, ”said educator Memona Hossain who has worked with several others to create the content for the platform.
With approximately six hours of video spread across 50 clips, infographics, and resources, the platform gives teachers easy tools to use in the classroom or to inform their lesson plans.
Ayaan Abdulle recalls growing up at the York Region District School Board and sometimes having to answer classmates’ questions about his religion, and doing his best to answer, “But keep in mind – you are a child, you are not a scholar, “she said.
“I think a resource like this would be very helpful in easing this burden on students,” Abdulle said.
But she wonders if this type of education will be compulsory for teachers in the near future. And beyond that, how will the resource reach people who may already have a negative view of Muslims?
“The community members – the Muslim community, the allies, they already understand the harm that Islamophobia does,” she said.
“… The threat does not come from within our communities, it comes from people who do not know Islam very well. So how are we going to connect with these people? ” she thinks.
The Ministry of Education said it is currently not a mandatory part of the Ontario curriculum. Minister Stephen Lecce said in an emailed statement: “Our government is committed to working with community organizations like the Muslim Association of Canada to create a school climate where students, school staff and parents feel safe, included and accepted. ”
Yet community leaders like Mustafa Farooq, founder of the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), would like to see more consistent internal engagement from governments.
While acknowledging that a resource like this is an important initiative, Farooq said to keep in mind, “We’re not going to achieve complete change through the platforms of one organization… We also need to see systemic change from governments. “
The movement to see action against Islamophobia has grown in recent years as tragedies multiply. Before London, Ont. attack in June, there was the Quebec mosque shooting where six were killed and 19 were injured in 2017, which sparked research and a government response.
Following the June tragedy, in addition to funding for islamawareness.ca, $ 75,000 was donated to the NCCM to help educate Muslim parents and families.
A national summit on Islamophobia was quickly planned and held in July. He was greeted with skepticism by some in the community as to whether this would lead to tangible change.
And between 2017 and now, motions to condemn Islamophobia have been brought forward by Ontario Liberal MPs and the CNMC has received support from the NDP last week on a bill to combat Islamophobia and white supremacy.
In his speech, Farooq said challenging hate cannot be “a platform promise” – it has to happen now.
Speaking to The Star, Farooq reiterated, “We really need to see (the whole) government change.”