4 ways to combat Islamophobia

When taking an evening stroll becomes a life threatening activity—we have a serious problem. This is the reality for many Canadians caused by Islamophobia. So, how can charitable help put an end to this?

A Muslim family sitting in their home
Haweya Fadal
Haweya Fadal is an Alumni Relations Officer at Ryerson University, specializing in content creation.

How can philanthropy be used to combat Islamophobia? What can we, as a society, do to eradicate this issue? This is what our panel of leaders discuss in the latest installment of the Generous Futures series.

Anver Saloojee, a professor in the Department of Politics and Public Administration at Ryerson University, moderated the conversation. Experts Nabeela Ixtabalan, EVP, Chief People & Corporate Affairs Officer at Walmart Canada and Chris Blauvelt, Founder & CEO of LaunchGood, provide insight into the vital role charitable giving can play in confronting anti-Muslim hate.

In recent years, the rise of anti-Muslim sentiment in Canada and around the world calls for immediate action, not only from politicians and organizations but also at an individual level. So how do we create a safe and supportive environment for all? 

Here are four takeaways from the conversation about how we can fight Islamophobia together.

1. Recognize and acknowledge the issue

Nabeela Ixtabalan says it is essential to understand how pervasive Islamophobia is in Canada. Some statistics cited include:

  • 47% of Canadians support banning headscarves in public 
  • 56% of Canadians believe that Islam suppresses women
  • 51% of Canadians promote and support government surveillance of mosques

These numbers indicate that half of Canadians have negative thoughts and feelings about Islam. The way to challenge these negative perceptions is to put the same effort behind racial equity and religious inclusion as we have with other dimensions of diversity. We need to have uncomfortable conversations in our workplaces, communities, universities to help combat Islamophobia. However, Nabeela also shared that we need to go beyond simply talking about the issue and making pledges. Organizations need to track their results and hold themselves accountable.

2. Counter the narrative through collaboration 

Chris Blauvelt is the founder and CEO of LaunchGood, a worldwide crowdfunding platform focused on the Muslim community. He shares that the first campaigns on the platform were not for Muslim causes. One of the first viral campaigns on LaunchGood was started by a Muslim woman fundraising for Black churches that were burned down in the United States. This trend continued on the platform, with Muslims raising money for people affected by anti-Semitic incidents such as damaged gravestones and the Pittsburgh Synagogue shooting. When a shooting happened at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, the same Pittsburgh synagogue raised funds for the victims. Chris points out this kind of collaboration and allyship is vital among all communities facing discrimination. Additionally, Nabeela says that corporations and organizations should contribute funds to help those on the ground actively fighting systemic racism.

3. Education is the way forward

As the aforementioned statistics show, negative stereotypes about Muslims and Islam are held in Canada. So, how do we confront these negative stereotypes? According to Nabeela, by focusing on actively dispelling them through education. Advocates are calling for changes to the education system to teach young people about Islamophobia and prevent the spread of harmful stereotypes. Islamophobia is present in politics, media, films, and TV shows, so educating ourselves is the best way to counter the narrative. It’s not enough to believe you’re not Islamophobic. Nabeela says we all have to be actively anti-Islamophobic.

4. Zero tolerance policy from the top down

The policies and attitudes of people in positions of power have a significant impact on society. For example, Chris shared that shortly after Donald Trump was elected president in the U.S., there was a rise in anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant and Islamophobic acts across the country. Experts connected these incidents to the rhetoric of Trump’s campaign. Tackling an issue as pervasive as Islamophobia will require more than what is currently being done. There needs to be a zero-tolerance policy towards hate and discrimination of all forms, including Islamophobia. One way governments can do this, as Nabeela points out, is to apply different ways of thinking in their efforts to combat Islamophobia. Nabeela asks what if governments produced public education and awareness campaigns for racism and religious discrimination, similar to ones created for public health crises? For example, the government recognized the harmful effects of smoking cigarettes, and a tremendous amount of effort was put into educating the public about the issue. Could a similar approach be taken for Islamophobia? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

To hear more from this discussion, you can check out the Combating Islamophobia event on our Youtube channel or watch it below.

Don’t miss out on any of the upcoming events shedding light on equity and belonging in Canada. Register today!

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