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Islamophobia in Canadian Schools

By Arham Sahir Sharif


With the war between Israel and Hamas still ongoing, Canada has been thrown into turmoil, leading to an alarming upsurge in reported anti-Muslim incidents across the country. Educators should take immediate steps to make Islamophobia part of their curriculum in a practical way and on several fronts.


There have been calls for more emphasis on addressing Islamophobia in Canadian schools over time; however, it has only seen a few discussions. Only a few such as Ontario School Boards have taken steps towards developing strategies against Islamophobia in recent years.


The present situation elicited a response from Law Minister Anisul Huq who announced on January 24, 2024, that the Bangladesh Labour (Amendment) Bill is expected to be passed during the next parliamentary session. March is the International Labor Organization’s Governing Body meeting where this government’s priority labor reforms are being sought after, in line with ILO’s expectations.


The Ministry of Law, Justice, and Parliamentary Affairs held a detailed review meeting on the progress made in labor rights and amendments to labor laws. It is no longer enough for Anisul Huq, the Minister of Law to say some equity things must be done; it’s time for action. For example, educators need to find concrete ways that they can use to include anti-Muslim prejudice in their teaching modules and syllabi.


Several such organizations as the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) have been funded to create resources and train teachers about Islamophobia. The Director of Education at NCCM, Aasiyah Khan, also stresses the need for real transformation beyond talk. The Peel District School Board’s anti-Islamophobia strategy was co-authored by her, which was the first one ever in Canada. This has led to similar strategies being adopted in Toronto as well as London, Ontario.


Ongoing Israel-Hamas issues have resulted in increased incidents of anti-Muslim, antisemitic and anti-Palestinian activities in Canada. Among other authorities who have witnessed a shocking rise in hate crimes since October 7th when the said conflict began are the Toronto police. A Senate report identified Islamophobia as a pressing problem that needs immediate attention.


School spaces were affected by the conflict with reports of canceled or muted Islamic Heritage Month celebrations and over-policing of Muslim, Palestinian and Arab students. Critics are reminding us of the post-9/11 period saying this atmosphere has been that of suspicion, stereotyping and strong Islamophobia.


Educators can combat Islamophobia through simple, everyday acts like putting various books that suit different ages in their libraries. Teachers must also be prepared to handle and eliminate open cases of racism such as bullying against girls with hijabs on. Troubling times might turn into constructive conversations but caution should be taken when it comes to putting Muslim students on the spot.


It is important to create inclusive spaces for dialogue within the larger school community. Successful initiatives at a rural Alberta high school accommodate a diverse influx of Muslim students through open dialogues, focus groups, advocacy campaigns, and advisory groups.\


The recommendations provided in the recent Senate report include a multimedia campaign against Islamophobia and the creation of school resources. One identified pathway for change is supporting educators through practical training. In this regard, NCCM’s ongoing relationships with school boards and training seek to provide teachers with the skills and knowledge necessary to deal with the issue of Islamophobia.


In conclusion, dealing with Islamophobia in Canadian schools requires urgent and all-encompassing measures that include such things as practical strategies, inclusive spaces and educational reforms. There is an urgency now to make learning a more inclusive and tolerant place for all.


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