By: Mishaa Khan, Peak Associate
Mishaa Khan is a student at SFU and the secretary of the SFU Muslim Student Association.
Recently, two events took place at SFU targeting the Muslim community: a man urinated in the prayer area at SFU Surrey while saying profanities about Muslims, and another individual stole money from the Muslim Student Association’s (MSA) charity box at the Burnaby Mountain campus. Both of these incidents took place during the end of the holy month of Ramadan, a day before the Islamic holiday, Eid. These events and countless others off campus suggest that Islamophobia is still present in liberal cities and institutions like the Lower Mainland and SFU, respectively.
Behaviour like this is unacceptable and the fact that Muslims are still being targeted on campus shows the need for religious organizations like the MSA and the Interfaith Centre. They are able to support Muslim students and address problems they may face, like these two incidents.
Local news channels, SFU, and the Interfaith Centre are working with the SFU MSA to make Muslims on campus feel more secure by raising awareness, increasing security, and trying to provide religious groups a permanent place at the SFU Surrey campus.
However, despite all these attempts, many Muslims feel unsafe, unwanted, and targeted at SFU. This is because in addition to the incidents that occurred on campus, many commenters have responded to the reporting with hate speech and harsh comments online. For example, in the now-removed comment section of the article published by News 1130, one individual wrote, “This sounds like another hijab hoax, really phoney” while someone else responded in a tweet, “Take the word ‘news’ out of your title. Replace it with (Lefty garbage islamist propaganda).”
During my two years in Canada and SFU, I have been fortunate enough to encounter very few Islamophobic attacks. However, one incident that I remember clearly to this day happened when a man approached me on Clubs Day and told me that ISIS enforces Islamic rules, that Islam is a hostile religion, and that women are degraded in Islam. As a practicing Muslim woman, I felt frustrated and upset at his comments and the misconceptions many possess about Islam. It results in division, discrimination, and conflict when there can be peace, acceptance, and harmony, instead.
This isn’t me crying for help or playing the victim card. The larger point is that we need to fight unfounded hatred from all sources. We’re constantly reminded of radical actions by so-called Muslim groups, but the irony is that Islamophobes share the same misguided, dangerous ideology as radical groups because they both misuse religion to target others, especially Muslims.
The SFU MSA tries to combat this discrimination by holding events like Islam Awareness Week every semester, or weekly booths where individuals can come and ask Muslim students questions about what Islam is really about. Yet despite these efforts, as recent events have shown, Muslims are still being targeted at SFU, which means the community needs to take more large-scale steps.
We need people who aren’t Muslims to speak up and support us as well. This means asking questions about Islam from reliable sources (e.g. SFU MSA and scholars) to get rid of misconceptions, befriending Muslims, and speaking out if you witness any Islamophobic incidents.
This can be done by attending MSA events or reaching out to an MSA member through firstname.lastname@example.org or their Facebook page. The MSA invites students to learn what Islam really is about by engaging in discussion at events or information booths.