Asian Studies Statement on Islamophobia

June 11, 2021

The Department of Asian Studies at UBC remains shocked and outraged by the hate-motivated mass murder and serious injury of members of the Muslim Afzaal/Salman family in London, Ontario on Sunday June 6, 2021. In a premeditated plan, the murderer targeted the family for their Islamic faith. UBC Asian Studies strongly condemns this act of terrorism, racism, and Islamophobia, and it invites its community members of faculty, staff, students, and alumni to pause and recognize the magnitude of this abhorrent incident; to reflect on racism and Islamophobia experienced and witnessed in Vancouver, British Columbia, and Canada more broadly; and to reach out to those who have been and will be impacted.

Islamophobia is a pervasive, global reality, including in CanadaA survey, conducted in 2017/2018 by the EKOS Research Associates, concluded that “religious discrimination – especially Islamophobia – stands as an ongoing challenge to Canada’s multicultural society.” The same survey, in what reveals hope for a more egalitarian and tolerant Canada, also stated that “many Canadians recognize the problem of religious discrimination and Islamophobia in Canada, stand firmly opposed to it, and expect the government to take measures to address it.” However, as demonstrated by overall statistics regarding the public perceptions of Islam and Muslims in Canada, both in the abovementioned EKOS research and as cited in a recent submission to the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, we still have a long way to go. The latter submission also shows how Islamophobia in Canadian society must also be understood as a multifaceted issue on societal and structural levels.

The Department of Asian Studies emphasizes the necessity for increasing such awareness and for taking action. UBC, and in particular our department, is home to faculty, staff, students and/or alumni who either self-identify as Muslims or come from Muslim backgrounds. We believe that education–at all levels– remains essential to eradicating racism and bigotry of all kinds, including Islamophobia. We must continue to educate ourselves and commit to more active roles in raising awareness of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim racism within our communities to tackle Islamophobia at its roots. (For some resources for teachers in addressing Islamophobia, which are also helpful to the public, see here.)

If as a current UBC-community member or alumnus you are impacted in any way by the above incident, please do keep in contact. Help is available. If you are looking for a way to assist those immediately affected by this incident, see here. As of September we will be hosting drop-in sessions for all Asian Studies faculty, staff, and students who want to share their experiences of anti-Muslim discrimination and discuss concrete steps we can take as a department to improve the situation at UBC, in Vancouver, and across Canada.