Organizing Against Islamophobia & the US Travel Ban

Protestors march along Yonge Street Saturday, February 4 as part of a national day of action opposing hatred against Muslims.
I attended an event organized by my community, Parkdale’s Legal Services at the local library. The event focused on addressing Islamophobia in Canada, the province, and the community, as well as the impact of the travel ban on refugees and immigrants.
The event could have used more Muslim voices on the panel. There was only one Muslim woman on it, and her story was great to hear. I appreciated the fact that an attendee called this out. The organizers claim they tried to reach out to Muslims community members, and the local Imam, but they weren’t available.
One of the important things in organizing, whether it’s a movement, events, conferences, etc, is that you have a diverse representation of voices, but most importantly, the voices of those who you’re trying to specifically fight for.
The event was great and I’d like to share some of the key points here, so that others benefit. It’s important to note that while many Canadians believe that this ban impacts people in the US, it actually is a fact that this impacts people worldwide. So, as a Canadian citizen, and as a Muslim woman who was born in Iraq, it’s important that people recognize how this impacts me, my family, and millions of others who are dual citizens, refugees and immigrants in the US and Canada.
Some of the demands that were made in the event were:
  • To immediately suspend the Canada-US safe third country agreement, and conduct a review of whether the US still meets the designation of a “safe country” described in the agreement.
  • End the Canada refugee resettlement backlog by immediately landing Legacy Refugee claimants.
  • Lift cap on private sponsorship of Syrian refugees so that Parkdale community members can work together to bring refugees to safety.

Bills like C51 also need to be revisited as it allows Canadian citizens, like myself, to be interrogated on Canadian soil, and even arrested for “not cooperating with interrogation” if you choose to not leave Canada. This is why I am afraid to visit the US now.

We live in a time where we cannot afford to be silent on these issues. The US government is currently implementing and running fascist executive orders that ban people based on their religion and race. The rhetoric that is coming out of the US administration is one that is full of racism, hatred, and bigotry. And this rhetoric, as a result of the manipulation of facts, and the blurring the lines between what’s real and what is not, actually normalizes acts of racism, hate, and bigotry. Therefore, it becomes okay to use. It becomes less vile, and more normal.

I am constantly being disappointed with people’s lack of understanding and empathy, more importantly, solidarity in this matter. The Educon conference happened in Philly the same weekend the Muslim ban happened. I was supposed to present there ironically on racial violence, policing and student agency. I am glad I didn’t go, because what happened would’ve truly put me and my family at risk of being detained. Yet, I am disappointed with the lack of discussion of the political climate, especially the Muslim ban, during the conference. From what I saw and heard, the Muslim ban was hardly covered as a topic during the sessions. We need to speak up. We need to disrupt spaces of status quo and we need to disrupt the normalization of oppression. 

It is not okay to ban people. It is not okay to discriminate based on race, religion, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, economic status. It is not okay.

I have to question “learning spaces” where we can’t question those who are in charge. I have to question learning spaces where we can’t discuss issues that impact some people and don’t impact others. I have to question how safe that space really is. I am not judging anyone who does not speak up in conferences, or sessions, but I do judge those who do nothing. Because we can all do something.

If you have a platform, use it to call out hatred, Islamophobia, and bigotry. This is not the time to think about your brand, and your professional image. This is a moment in history, where your kids or grandkids might ask you: “whose side were you on?”

The other day, my neighbour started a wonderful ribbon movement, where people tie white ribbons around their tree that say welcoming messages. The one that resonated with my husband and I one morning two doors down read “All Faiths Welcome”. This message. This tiny simple message, made a world of difference to me and my family.

We can all do something on our part during these times. Let’s organize and build within our communities, family, and friends. Start conversations. Build lasting friendships with people who are different than you. And get to know them. We really all are just people trying to get by, take care of our families, and make this world a better place.



2 thoughts on “Organizing Against Islamophobia & the US Travel Ban

  1. Rusul, I’m glad you wrote this. Something I’m noticing in the current political moment is how challenging many of us find it to be brave in new yet very real ways. Instead many of us retreat into our “don’t want to offend anybody” stance and stay quiet. Confrontation feels unnatural but damn, in this situation I cannot help but express my concern, anger, distress about all of these awful policies and the normalization of hate that you describe. We can all do something. In fact, we must.


  2. Reblogged this on MrSoClassroom and commented:
    This is an amazing piece that needs to be addressed. It is the reason why I try to put Social Justice at the forefront of my teaching. The funny thing is its never the kids I need to talk to but their parents. Please have a read and stand up for human rights. All of then.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s