Impact of Islamophobia explored at KPU anti-racism symposium

Thu, Mar 14, 2024

The upcoming second annual symposium on anti-racism at Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) will probe the impact of Islamophobia on Muslim youth.

On March 21, KPU Surrey will host the day-long conference to discuss and encourage confronting racism, and to share related research, scholarship and creativity. The event’s keynote speaker is Dr. Jasmin Zine, Professor of Sociology and Muslim Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University.

Zine is the author of Under Siege: Islamophobia and the 9/11 Generation, a book exploring the lives of Canadian Muslim youth dealing with the aftermath and backlash associated with the 9/11 attacks in the U.S. Zine will discuss her book and six-year study that examined how the global war on terror has affected a generation. The book details how these conditions impacted the identity, citizenship and belonging of youth, and also showcases creative ways of resisting racism.

Dr. Jasmin Zine
Dr. Jasmin Zine is the keynote speaker at a March 21 symposium on anti-racism at KPU.

Under Siege examines the experiences of millennial Muslim youth at a time where heightened Islamophobia was rampant and became institutionalized. The 9/11 generation were coming of age when Muslim youth were considered to be potential radicals, terrorists, and threats to national security,” says Zine. 

Zine says the post 9/11 world has paved the way for the ongoing dehumanization and collective punishment of Muslims.

“Islamophobia is a global phenomenon and we are witnessing its repressive and deadly manifestations in places like Palestine, Myanmar, China, India, Kashmir and in most Western nations. These conditions continue to impact generations of Muslims globally whose lives are profoundly affected by these conditions.”

Under Siege book cover
Under Siege, a book by Dr. Jasmin Zine.

Anti-Muslim racism is connected to anti-Palestinian racism, says Zine, adding that has become a prominent feature in society and on university campuses.

“Acknowledging these oppressions may be considered difficult conversations, but so were conversations about white privilege, white settler colonialism, anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism in the past. We must examine how these struggles are connected,” she says. “Universities, as institutions of higher learning, are precisely where these conversations must take place and where academic freedom must be supported, protected, and upheld.”

Hosting the symposium is KPU’s Office of Equity and Inclusive Communities, which leads the development and implementation of key anti-racism, accessibility, gender equity, social sustainability, and broad equity, diversity and inclusion strategies for the university. The event coincides with the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

Dr. Asma Sayed, KPU’s Vice-President for Equity and Inclusive Communities, says the university’s Task Force on Anti-Racism found a clear desire from the university community to learn more and change systems of oppression based on race.

“KPU is committed to ensuring that we move forward towards becoming a more just, anti-racist and inclusive institution. This symposium serves as a way to expand these important institution-wide conversations and opening up space for difficult dialogues.”

Also speaking at the event is MLA Mable Elmore, Parliamentary Secretary for Anti-Racism Initiatives to the Attorney General, and MLA Raj Chouhan, Speaker of the B.C. Legislative Assembly. The afternoon will feature presentations by KPU students, staff and faculty.

The symposium takes place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the KPU Surrey Conference Centre. Admission is free and open to all, though registration in advance is required. Refreshments will be provided.