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Kwantlen Polytechnic University symposium will address impact of Islamophobia on Muslim youths

Islamophobia researcher
Sir Wilfrid Laurier professor and Islamophobia researcher Jasmin Zine will be the keynote speaker.

For the second straight year, a B.C. post-secondary institution will hold a major forum on anti-racism. On March 21, Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s daylong symposium will focus on the impact of Islamophobia on Muslim youths. It will place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the KPU Surrey Conference Centre.

The keynote speaker will be Jasmin Zine, a professor of sociology and Muslim studies at Wilfred Laurier University. Zine will talk about her book, Under Siege: Islamophobia and the 9/11 Generation, which was published by McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Under Siege examines the experiences of millennial Muslim youth at a time where heightened Islamophobia was rampant and became institutionalized,” Zine says in a KPU news release. “The 9/11 generation were coming of age when Muslim youth were considered to be potential radicals, terrorists, and threats to national security.”

The book followed in-depth interviews with more than 130 young people, youth workers, and community leaders. According to the publisher’s website, Under Siege deals with “citizenship, identity and belonging, securitization, radicalization, campus culture in an age of empire, and subaltern Muslim counterpublics and resistance”.

Islamophobia exists in many countries

Zine maintains that Islamophobia is “a global phenomenon”. Moreover, she states that it has “repressive and deadly manifestations” in Palestine, Myanmar, India, Kashmir, and most Western nations.

“Acknowledging these oppressions may be considered difficult conversations, but so were conversations about white privilege, white settler colonialism, anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism in the past. We must examine how these struggles are connected,” she says. “Universities, as institutions of higher learning, are precisely where these conversations must take place and where academic freedom must be supported, protected, and upheld.”

Other speakers at the event will include Mable Elmore, the parliamentary secretary for anti-racism initiatives, and B.C. legislature Speaker Raj Chouhan. In addition, KPU students, staff, and faculty will make presentations.

The event is free and open to everyone. However, KPU is requiring attendees to register in advance on its website.

In 1966, the United Nations declared that International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination would be observed every year on March 21. On that day in 1960, South African police shot and killed 69 peaceful protesters in what became known as the Sharpeville Massacre.

International Day to Combat Islamophobia

Meanwhile, March 15 is the International Day to Combat Islamophobia. It comes three weeks after a London, Ontario judge sentenced a 23-year-old man to five life sentences for using his vehicle to murder four members of the Afzal family and attempting to murder a fifth—a nine-year-old boy who was seriously injured.

“Recently, the courts took an important step in recognizing the terrorist nature of the deadly attack against Our London family in Ontario,” Minister of Diversity, Inclusion and Persons with Disabilities of Canada Kamal Khera and Special Representative on Combatting Islamophobia Amira Elghawaby said in a statement. “Collectively, we must remain vigilant in denouncing the attitudes, ideologies, and narratives that seek to justify Islamophobia, intolerance and hatred in all their forms, whenever and wherever we encounter them.

“By working together, we will continue to build upon the steps already taken by the Government of Canada to combat Islamophobia,” they continued. “These include the creation of the role of the Special Representative on Combatting Islamophobia, historic investments of nearly $200 million towards Canada’s two anti-racism strategies, the Canada’s forthcoming first-ever Action Plan on Combatting Hate, and the Building Community Resilience call to action.”

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We would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. With this acknowledgement, we thank the Indigenous peoples who still live on and care for this land.