Peel schools can access new education platform to combat Islamophobia
The Muslim of Association of Canada (MAC) has launched an education platform to combat Islamophobia that can be used in Peel schools, and the rest of Ontario.
The association, headquartered in Mississauga, received a $225,000 grant in June from the Ontario Ministry of Education as part of the government’s plan to invest in countering Islamophobia and ensuring classrooms are free from discrimination. The impetus to fund the program also became more apparent after the fatal attacks against a Muslim family in London, Ont.
MAC is a Canadian, independent, faith-based charitable organization that provides spaces, services and programs for Canadian Muslims. The association operates 10 accredited full-time independent day schools, 20 weekend schools, and four child-care centers. In all, MAC serves more than 150,000 community members across the country.
The education platform was spearheaded by Minister of Education Stephen Lecce and Associate Minister of Digital Government Kaleed Rasheed who collaborated with community groups to provide resources and educational modules to train educators and students.
“It is unacceptable that many Muslim students continue to face discrimination in our schools, on our playgrounds and in communities across this country,” Lecce said in a statement. “That is why we are investing and partnering with community leaders — who are leading this effort — to counter racism and better support Ontario’s Muslim students and their families.”
Rasheed also said the platform showcases the importance of utilizing digital technology and creative content that is “accessible to students, parents, and educators in combating hate to foster an environment of tolerance and understanding.”
According to MAC, 46 per cent of Canadians have an unfavourable view of Muslims and Islam in Canada, which has played a role in rising hate crimes, with Canadian Muslims witnessing a nine per cent increase in anti-Muslim attacks in 2019 compared to 2018.
Memona Hossain, one of the creators of the platform, an instructor, as well as a member of national executive council and board of directors for MAC, said the platform is important because it “bridges a gap” in educators’ understanding of the Muslim community.
“It brings a lot of information together in a digestible, usable and engaging format,” she said. “Teachers often say they’re very busy, so this is a way for the information to all be in one place that can be accessed any time.”
The information is divided into three main categories, the first being Islam for educators, which provides a foundational knowledge of the core principles that guide the “mental, spiritual, and physical spheres of a Muslim’s life.”
The second category is dismantling Islamophobia in schools, offering educators information on how to understand the scope of Islamophobia and how systems enable it.
The third category is Islam awareness and anti-Islamophobia resources, which offers workshops on the topic.
Hossain said there are six hours of recorded video which translate to 50 “bite-size” clips with input from scholars, academics, and community groups — it was also a diverse group of people from the Muslim community who contributed.
She noted the platform is important for educators because they can have any level of understanding on the subject to access the material.
The platform offers foundational knowledge by exploring what the difference between Muslim and Islam is, or what Muslim’s believe in. It gradually builds to evaluating how Islamophobia contributes to mental health strain and how Islamophobia has been enabled in society.
The soft launch of the platform took place on Nov. 17 and was attended by Lecce and Rasheed. According to MAC, the platform received a positive reception from governmental and societal stakeholders, educators, and students. The platform officially launched on Dec. 2, with all content available on the website.
Hossain added it’s important the education on the topic starts early. “When you look at implicit biases and structural Islamophobia, if you won’t address it at this level (in education), it will be too late. We are empowering educators and the non-Muslim community.”