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Ontario Offers $300,000 to Combat Islamophobia in Schools

Ontario has announced a funding for educational programs to help fight Islamophobia in the province.

This decision has been welcomed by Muslim groups as a right move to educate and raise awareness of students and parents.

“There is a lot of work that needs to be done to secure a future in this province where young Muslims don’t feel like they have to hide parts of their Muslim identity to feel accepted, included and safe,” Aasiyah Khan, the manager of education programs at the National Council of Canadian Muslims, told The Globe And Mail.

On Tuesday, Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced the province is collaborating with community partners to pay for initiatives that support Muslim students and families, including training for teachers, support for students, and digital resources for parents.

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The Ontario decision comes as Canada grapples with June’s hate crime against a Muslim family in London, Ontario.

Salman Afzaal, 46, his 44-year-old wife, Madiha Salman, their 15-year-old daughter, Yumna, and her 74-year-old grandmother, Talat Afzaal, were killed while out for an evening walk.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the killings a “terrorist attack” and vowed to clamp down on far-right groups and online hate.

“This attack is a lingering reminder that Ontario has work to do in the fight against all forms of racism,” Lecce said.

The government’s goal is to make schools more inclusive and safe, he added.

“In Canada, hate crimes have been on the rise and in 2019, we saw a 9-per-cent increase in anti-Muslim hate compared to the year prior,” Mr. Lecce said.

“This is simply unacceptable and it must stop. There are too many stories of students within our schools targeted because of their faith.”

Create Awareness

Lecce said $225,000 would go to the Muslim Association of Canada to create digital resources for educators, students and parents to raise awareness about Islamophobia.

In addition, $75,000 will go to the National Council of Canadian Muslims to help Muslim newcomers navigate their new country and to help those new students prepare for school in the fall.

“This is an important first step as we recognize that systemic action and commitment is necessary to support the safety and well-being of staff, students and families,” Khan said.

The Muslim Association of Canada said the digital resources it creates will provide students and educators with information about Islamic practices, values and misconceptions.

“The horrific terror attack in London that has left Muslim students across the province feeling vulnerable has made this important initiative even more urgent,” said Sharaf Sharafeldin, the executive director of the Muslim Association of Canada.

He said Islamophobia has been shown to isolate young Muslims “who grow apologetic and fearful to express their Muslim faith.

“For teachers there is a lack of awareness about Islam and Muslims among their peers and a lack of representation of Muslims in teaching and in the curriculum,” he said.

This is not the first move by a Canadian province to combat Islamophobia.

Earlier this month, Alberta’s premier offered grants to pay for security upgrades for Muslim organizations fearing rising hate crimes, calling for more effort to combat racism.