On Creating Environments Where Islamophobia Cannot Grow

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Spaces of light

Today, six humans, six Muslims, were killed in a mosque in Quebec while praying their evening prayers. Many more were injured.

And in learning that news, my heart broke.

It broke thinking of families losing loved ones, thinking of people leaving their home to peacefully pray, and then never coming home again. It broke knowing that for those who lost loved ones tonight, and for Canadian Muslims who heard about these murders tonight,  Islamophobia is a part of their lives. Islamophobia has been a part of my life for as long as I’ve been visibly Muslim. In the seventeen years of wearing a headscarf, there have been countless unwelcome conversations about my background, countless questions laced with gender stereotyping and assumptions of oppression, many incidents of being called a terrorist at random.

I am lucky.

When I was fifteen, our local mosque burned to the ground through an arson attack. Yesterday, a mosque burned down in Southern Texas. Today, lives were cut short in Quebec. In the US, people from predominately Muslim countries are being banned from entering the country, and across the country, people are organizing.

Organizing, because Islamophobia is enabled by everyday environments, by government policy, by unchallenged moments. Islamophobia is emboldened by moments when harassment takes place, and nobody stands up to challenge aggression. Islamophobia is emboldened by organizational environments and workplaces in which faith is tolerated, but no resources are devoted to making the workplace a faith friendly place. Islamophobia festers when Islam is treated as a dirty word and faith is a solely private affair that holds no relation to the overall operations of an organization, neighbourhood or city. Organizational and institutional indifference and/or Islamophobia sends a message that faith, and those who hold faith identities do not matter. In such a context, hate is allowed to grow.

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